Fifteen years ago I remember my Dad saying he refused to set up an email account for his business and staff because he said if he needed to reach someone then he would call them. His fear was his employees would lose touch with customers by not picking up the phone and that they would hide behind it when conflict arose. At the time, I thought he was crazy. Everyone was grabbing email accounts and starting to send electronic mail to each other.
Fast forward fifteen years and I finally understand it. You were right Dad.
I can’t begin to tell you how many of my customers, business partners, peers, etc. the list goes on as to how many of us hide behind email. It happened to me again today. Conflict happens, I place a phone call, leave a voice mail, and a follow up email comes in to explain to me that they will not be speaking on this matter and this email will serve as their communication piece.
It makes me wonder how much personal communication and relationship building we have lost due to email. On the other side I realize the importance of email and how quickly it allows us to communicate with one another, increasing efficiency and often building relationships faster.
Hiding behind email is the saddest and most disappointing tactic that one can take. If you want to avoid conflict, then don’t screw up, and since screwing up is rarely not an option you can forever avoid, face the problems head on and resolve the problems in person or via the phone. If you hide behind email you showcase a weakness that will be exposed time and time again, thus hurting your business relationships and yourself in the end.
Every time one of my staff members tells me about an issue they are dealing with my first response is, “get on the phone.” Nine times out of ten, the conflict has risen via email due to a tone or verbiage miscommunication. Usually when they pick up the phone and explain what’s happening the conflict is solved. Simple solution to a simple problem. Hiding behind the email only drives the problem further and solves nothing.
Have you ever dealt with conflict via email with someone that you could only describe as a mean and nasty person due to the words they choose to write, only to meet them over lunch months later and find that they are the sweetest individuals? This happens to me several times a year. It showcases a weakness, and it deletes any credibility I previously gave this person because their nasty emails they try to hide behind are seen as words, not threats or true actions.
Hiding behind email is for weak individuals. Don’t hide. Resolve conflict like a professional.