I love email and use it regularly but I have become a little concerned lately that it has inspired a generational sensation of pansies in the workplace. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those people who prefer to hide behind a confrontational email rather than simply picking up the phone or having a face to face meeting with the recipient. It seems so much easier for people to simply fire off a fiery email rather than simply trying to work out any differences the way we were designed to…. face to face.
Here are some simple rules to consider when you are debating on whether to send something via email or pick up the phone and have a discussion:
1. If it is more than 4 lines, pick up the phone. Let’s face it, anyone can misread the intent of any publication, statement, or email because believe it or not, we still instinctively analyze more to a message than simply the content. When someone is communicating with you over the phone, you are analyzing not just what they are saying but how they are saying it as well. If the meeting is face to face, you have the added benefit of analyzing their body language to ensure it matches up with how you are interpreting the message. This is basic Communications 101 from college.
2. When you need to have the email as proof of a conversation, use a follow up email instead. Simply put, use an email to clear up the message after a conversation. An example of this is when I would have coaching discussions or one on one’s with my team, I would have the meeting and then follow up with an email to ensure we both understood the same message. Also, from an HR standpoint, it provided documentation of the conversation if and when I ever needed it. You shouldn’t always lead with an email as proof. Having the discussion is always good in any situation because it shows a good faith effort on your part to be…. well human! (It’s an old concept I know.)
3. When in doubt, err on the side of personal communication. If you have any doubt in your mind as to whether an email is appropriate, go with the personal touch always.
Hopefully, if more people start taking the route of being more personal and more proactive, we can eliminate the culture of pansies in the workplace.