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Office Communication: Email Etiquette

Question:

I LOVE email but it can get out of hand.  Many times in our office when a message goes out to the team, everyone “responds to all” causing massive amounts of email that aren’t always necessary.  How can I help my staff understand a bit of ‘email etiquette’ and is it really necessary to train them on something so basic?  What should I do?

Answer:

Email communication can be very helpful in organizations but it can also be very detrimental if it isn’t used appropriately.  Everyone has used email to ask and respond to questions, give their opinion, and to just generally communicate a message but that doesn’t mean everyone uses it well.  Although it seems fairly intuitive – type a message and send it – it’s not always that easy, as you have found out.

As with all communication, your team members need to learn what is appropriate to send in an email. Some things are just better left to a personal conversation between two or a few people. Maybe it’s an issue that needs to be addressed in a team meeting, where everyone can weigh in, versus email. Maybe it’s a more personal issue that doesn’t need to be aired to the whole group. In either case setting guidelines for what should be communicated and to who can help.

Another issue that almost everyone is familiar with is the inability of email to convey feelings. It is easy for someone to misconstrue the nature or intent of an email because the voice inflections, facial cues and emotional intonations are not present. Therefore it’s very difficult to send an email that contains bad news or even good news as the intent might get lost in translation. A suggestion that emails of this nature not be sent is a good way to avoid bruised feelings and escalation of issues in the workplace. And be sure to remind employees that typing in ALL CAPS is taboo – it connotes “yelling” (yes, it still happens).

It may be time to have a short (30 minute or less) email training session. Call it a Communication Review and talk with your team about how communication needs to be handled. Set up a game plan – a communications plan that outlines what items need to be handled in an open forum, versus what things can be discussed via email. And if you don’t already have one, it might be a good time to create a social media policy as well.

Do you need help with communications? Do you need policies and procedures or job descriptions written? Thinking about starting a company newsletter or needing to create recruitment materials? Strategic HR, inc. can help. Visit our Communications page to learn more.