I got yet another reminder from Outlook today that my email box was full and I need to clean-up my old emails. Which got me thinking…..
Many years back, I worked for a CFO, who was probably one of the best when it came to emails; his response to emails were very selective, and to the point; most of his emails were short, like, ‘yes’, ‘no’, and when it came to anything controversial, or needed explanation, it would read ‘call me’. He was one of the smartest and most politically savvy person I worked for, and not surprisingly, he has done very well for himself.
Which brings me to the topic of email and whether it does more bad than good. Emails tend to fly around an organization like a unguided missile, causing destruction, getting bigger and bigger with comments being added as they go around, forwarded, replied, and re-forwarded. Most of the times, emails do not convey your message very accurately anyway- because written (and sometimes even spoken) words are subject to interpretation by the reader- and unless you are there to clarify what they mean, the reader(s) is going to take whatever message they interpret- leading to even more confusion.
Then there are individuals who have this irresistible urge to respond to every email they get (or are copied on); they want to be the first to respond to all and every emails, irrespective of whether their response has any real value or content.
And, the most annoying, there are those who hit ‘reply all’ (yes, I too have been guilty of these..). Especially irritable are the ones who hit reply all to mass or general emails like farewells, announcements, etc. I really don’t care that you think the newborn has great blue eyes, because my eyes are getting bleary having to read all these emails.
People tend to be more aggressive and indiscreet in the virtual world than in person- so aggressions in emails tend to escalate fast and soon it becomes a virtual fist-fight; even worse, it is now on record and can and will be used against you @ the most inappropriate moment. When emails were limited to laptops and desktops, you had the time to think before responding to emails. With the capability of writing and responding to emails from everywhere with your hand-held, it has become even more reactionary and incendiary – many are the cryptic email arguments that have started from a hand-held device.
Worse, emails written by you could be used by the recipient inappropriately or inaccurately; suddenly you are in the middle of a controversy that you never intended to start and you do not find out about it until you get your own email back @ the bottom of a hundred responses from various individuals….. it is like a bomb getting bigger and bigger as it flies around the organization, gathering size and intensity.
Hence my blog that emails tend to cause more bad than good…..
Going back to my CFO, after I sent out an accusatory email that was soon flying around causing destruction, he called me into his office and gently told me, ‘maybe you should think the effect of your emails before sending them’. While not always successful, I sometimes write an email, re-read it, and even as my fingers are itching to hit the ‘send’ button, I hit the ‘delete’ button instead.
If I ever have a company of my own (chances of which are slim, since I am spending all my time writing these blogs), here are some rules (and technologies) I would impose:
- Responding ‘reply all’ to generic emails is an automatic 1000 fine (yes, this is big- like a solo driver using the carpool lane)
- You are limited to sending no more than 20 emails a day – similar to the # of red flags a coach can throw in the NFL – you save your emails for the real ones
- To send an email, you have to press 3 keys simultaneously (or you have to access the send button via a complex menu – Microsoft, are you listening…)
- Email responses (via all devices) have an automatic wait period before they get send – similar to the delay they build into broadcasting, to edit inappropriate language- so the sender has a chance to cancel the send
And now to off to go read the 100 or so emails I probably received while I was writing this blog…….