Everyone wants to communicate in their own way. For some that's Facebook messenger. For some it's text message. For a handful it's still telephone. But the most voluminous method is email. Good old email.
So, lesson #1 is: This is how we communicate. Internal business communication is not by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. And with few exceptions, it's not by text message.
Email can be easily filtered, so I know all employee and outsourced staff email ends up in a specific folder. I can manage that folder.
Next, when it comes to email, don't waste my time!!!
Lesson #2: Don't cc: me on every little thing. Correlate: Don't thank me for every little thing. I hire people so I don't have to do all the work myself. In fact I wrote a blog post about this many years ago called Please Don't CC The Boss.
That applies to gratuitous "Thanks" emails. I wish I could figure out a rule to determine whether the only communication in a reply email is "Thanks" and just move all those to the deleted items folder.
Many people are in this habit. It's a bit like that friend who absolutely must have the last word no matter what. Instead, read the sometimes-lengthy email thread. When the conversation is over, let it go.
I sometimes joke with employees that, if they insist on doing this, I am going to assign them the task of opening my in-box, searching for their own emails, and deleting everyone that contains no communication beyond Thanks or Thank You.
Lesson #3: Keep the subject line relevant. When you've moved from one subject to another, update the subject line or start a new thread. I hate being asked about next Tuesday's networking event under the subject line "Zoom Cloud Recording is Now Available."
Email is about communication. Use the tool to achieve that simple goal. That means keeping the subject line relevant.
Lesson #4: One item per email, whenever possible. (This is actually the reason I'm writing this post.) Let's assume the busy person you're emailing glances at the email subject and first sentence before they decide to open the email. Don't bury the lead, as they say in the news business.
Example One. I often receive emails from readers, followers, and people who just found me while cruising the Internet. By often I mean every single day. Generally, their email falls into two categories. One is a quick email with a quick question. They usually get a quick answer.
The other is a long email with lots of reading to do and several questions. This is something that will take my time. I have to do all that reading, try to figure out how best to help them, and then answer a series of questions. Emails like this almost never get a quick response. In fact, they get moved to a folder called "Reply when you can." I often answer these within a year or so.
Example Two - The reason I started writing this post. DO NOT reuse an old subject line, have a first sentence that looks like it will take some analysis, and then bring up a totally unrelated and important subject at the end of the email
A few days ago, I received an email from a part-time employee who was having trouble with a simple assignment. She was replying to an email I'd sent with a request. The fact that she was having trouble was clear from the first sentence. So I didn't open the email for three days since I knew she was coming in that day.
And there in the middle of the email was a note to the effect of: Oh, and by the way, I found another job.
The fact that she resigned in the middle of an unrelated reply email is a good indicator that she wasn't a good fit in the first place.
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I know we all like to complain about so-called common sense and we wish everyone had our version of it. But there really are some basic guidelines for communicating with people at work.
Your guidelines for email may be different from mine. But you should have some guidelines. After all, you can't control other people. You can only control your own processes. So you should have processes.