E-Mail Etiquette

Do you remember the last email you read in which you just cringed at the words and the tone? It was either so poorly written or it was over the top harsh and rude that you couldn’t imagine what went through the senders mind as they finished the sentences.

Everyone has a story about email etiquette and it seems as the years go on and our short hand writing grows with technology, we find a way to appear ruder as a society and our care for the person reading those words means nothing. While I admit it is easy to fire off a nasty note in the heat of the moment when you are battling with someone internally, I offer up my best advice which is to put down the phone, take a deep breath and not hit send before you re-read what you just wrote. I promise you will be happy with this decision.

Email etiquette is something that every company should spend an hour training session on right after their mandatory sexual harassment training and when they finish annual reviews. It is just as important as any training HR can give you because it can make the difference between keeping and losing a customer and tying the bond that is internal employee relations.

Emails that are sent internal with a condescending tone are unacceptable. The email makes the sender look like a jerk and immediately puts the reader on the defensive. It becomes a broken cycle of responses that will lead to a lack of productivity. Trust me, I’ve been involved with these email battles and they always lead to internal bullshit that goes nowhere.

Consider setting up an email etiquette training with your staff and focus on these three key areas:

1. Read, Re-Read, and Have A Peer Read

Before you hit send on an email in which you know is going to cause some issues, as a peer to read it and double check the tone and the wording. Chances are if they think you are going to sound like a total jerk, then you are. There is nothing wrong with a double checker to your work and this will only save you either internally or externally from appearing like a prick. Clearly this requires some self awareness which many people don’t have, but if you have been reprimanded for your emails in the past then thing twice before hitting send and call over your cube mate to read it over.

2. Address The Person By Name

There is something powerful to starting an email with “Dear Tom” as opposed to “Why the hell have you not returned my phone call?”

Immediately you put someone on the defense without a nice greeting or opening. Try it the next time you get an email. By reading an intro that greets you, the tone is set back a few notches and appears more formal as opposed to attacking. Would you walk into a bar and immediately start speaking without a greeting to a friend? Odds are no, so start an email off as if you are greeting someone in person.

3. Don’t Copy Everyone

If you must send an email that will have a harsh tone or that you know will have an effect on your office or with a customer, don’t copy everyone and their mother. It’s like getting reprimanded in front of the entire school, everyone knows about it and you make someone feel two feet tall. If you need others to know about the pending issue then BCC or forward the email on to others. Nothing makes me crazier than when someone writes me a nasty note and copies my boss, my boss’s boss, and President Obama. I mean its completely unnecessary and it always causes a chain of events that need to be unraveled because everyone is now chiming in.

Follow these steps for a better start to email etiquette and consider setting a training for your staff this month.

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