The Evil of Email

We love our e-mail. We can’t wait for the “bing” that tells us another message has arrived. It is quick and efficient; it allows us to communicate instantaneously over time zones and rooftops. We wake up to it in the morning and check it before we go to bed at night…some even sleep with it. It is fabulous…or is it??

We at Ignite have trained thousands of people in the art of effective communication. It is the foundation of many other development sessions we deliver and at each session there comes the time when we address email. Almost universally, organizations we are in will say that it is their primary source of communicating, and almost universally, they will say it creates the most chaos. How come? Well, let’s review:

Message, not dialogue…

First, remember this is a tool for a one-way conversation, not a full-fledged dialogue. Often this slick, fast tool becomes slow and cumbersome, because we decide to carry on full-blown conversations over e-mail. This often causes confusion, which quickly escalates into misunderstanding, that often ends in having to have a call or a meeting anyway. That certainly saved you time! If the e-mail comes back to you more than once after you’ve sent it, pick up the phone or go see the person.

CYA emails…

We all love these. I deliberately send you an email, so I can have a record of what I said, so that I can get you later if need be. Not the best way to establish trust is it? Don’t do it.

“Avoid conflict at all cost” emails…

I don’t actually want to talk to you when I have something to say that might feel risky, so I email it; then I don’t actually have to face your answer or rebuttal. Of course, in the end, it has to be handled face to face anyway and by that time the recipient is so upset it is twice as hard to address. Learn to deal with conflict, not to avoid it. Go to to learn more about how.

The discipline email…

Your supervisor decides to give you critical feedback via e-mail. This is wrong on so many levels; I can’t imagine it still happens. The loyalty and respect for that supervisor has just hit a new low. Oh yeah, and he also copied his boss on the e-mail, just to twist the knife a little more. Brilliant! Never give criticism over email; there is too much room for miscommunication.

So this suggests just a few of the reasons that email can be evil and a tool that promotes miscommunication, as opposed to effective communication. So what can you do in your organization to minimize these pitfalls?

1) Establish an email etiquette policy:

This is important for professionalism, efficiency and protection. Having a written policy conveys a professional image, keeps e-mail succinct, and limits risks that can otherwise end up in costly lawsuits

2) Give feedback on emails you receive from your employees:

It is helpful to give consistent feedback, so employees know if their emails are appropriate. You should also monitor emails sent from your company to others and occasionally conduct an email audit.

*Keep the following tips handy:

1. Be concise and to the point.
2. Internally, use email for one way communication.
3. Answer all questions, and preempt further questions.
4. Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation.
5. Watch your tone.
6. Answer swiftly.
7. Use proper structure & layout.
8. Do not overuse the high priority option.
9. Do not write in CAPITALS.
10. Don't leave out the message thread.
11. Read the email before you send it.
12. Do not overuse Reply to All.
13. Be careful with formatting.
14. Do not forward chain letters.
15. Do not request delivery and read receipts.
16. Do not ask to recall a message.
17. Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
18. Do not use email to discuss confidential information.
19. Use a meaningful subject.
20. Use active instead of passive voice.
21. Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT.
22. Don't send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive,
racist or obscene remarks.
23. Don't forward virus hoaxes and chain letters.
24. Keep your language gender neutral.
25. Don't reply to spam.

*Some tips taken from

That should help keep the evil out of email and return it to a tool of high efficiency and increased productivity.

What email evils have you experienced? Email us and let us know!
To find out more on how to be a master communicator, visit

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Ignite Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @ 8:14 AM   0 Comments


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Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals. To learn more please contact us.