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As much as we all lament it’s existence, email is still a primary tool for communicating in the workplace. At least once a day I get asked for my email address by someone wanting to send me information. It is the one tab that is open the most on my web browser. Even though I have other outlets to communicate with my clients, it is still the most used (although text is a close second).

It is the double edged sword we can not live without….yet anyway.

If there were ever a place where you think email could be used less, it would be in small businesses. A small group of people could surely get by communicating face to face, in text or via a social channel like Slack right?

While I do find these other channels being used more and more by my smaller clients versus my larger ones (and large in my world means 200+ employees), email is still King when it comes to employee communication. Because of that, and because I am often copied on said emails, I have a few employee email pitfalls I see leaders falling into every day. See if any of these ring true in your workplace.

Not Knowing How to Use Email
One of the most common pitfalls I see is leaders not knowing which conversations are appropriate for email and which would be better suited for face to face (or at least phone) conversation. This often stems from leaders feeling uncomfortable having difficult conversations verbally. Some of the time however, it was just that email was convenient at the time or the leader wanted to get communication out right away and wasn’t able to do it face to face at that moment.

Important communication, direct feedback and changes to how someone does their work should always be communicated in person. If documentation is necessary, communicate in person first and then follow up in email.

Too Many Emails
We all have that one person in our career who relies on email a little too much. We wake up in the morning to have numerous notes from them only to proceed through our day receiving many more. Most of these emails were unnecessary – when I email thanks, you do not have to respond with you’re welcome, you just don’t. Some should have been conversations (see point one above) and others are infuriatingly micromanaging, which is exactly the type of leader I see falling into this pitfall the most.

Too many emails that spell out what you want an employee to do, how to do it and then following up on whether they did it is not only frustrating from an inbox standpoint but from a work environment one as well. Check the number of emails you are sending employees in a day and see if you might be guilty of too many messages. You either trust your people to do the work, or you don’t. And if you don’t, more email will not solve the problem.

Not Checking Your Tone
I have this habit of receiving a text or email from my husband and immediately responding with “are you being shitty?” I’m happy to report that 90% of the time he responds with no. We’ve been married for nearly 15 years, sometimes it is a definite yes, but I digress. The point is that even after 15 years of marriage I still can’t discern his tone 100% of the time if he is communicating electronically.

If I can’t always tell my husband’s tone, your employees can’t tell yours. Re-reading emails is crucial to seeing if there are words that could be misconstrued or a tone that you may have not meant when writing it. Of course, if there is a chance that no matter how you change it up it could still be misunderstood, then again I point you to the first pitfall above.

We are all guilty of replying and hitting send before we ever actually think about what we want to say and how we want to say it and that creates a lot of unnecessary miscommunication.

Letting Email Conversations Go On Too Long
This one is my pet peeve. I have said for years and years that is an email conversation takes more than 3-5 emails to resolve, it’s time to get everyone in a room and have a face to face. Going back and forth in email is ripe for miscommunication and someone dropping the ball. People are going to check out of the conversation, agreements or next steps may never be fully addressed and eventually, people just get so fed up with the process they react angrily to whatever is being said.

As a leader if you see an email conversation going on too long, it is on you to get everyone together face to face or on a call to resolve the issue.

Email isn’t going away. It will be a high traffic mode of communication for many years to come. It doesn’t have to be a painful process or a thorn in everyone’s side if we all become a little more mindful of how to use it properly.

What is your biggest email pet peeve?

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