Businesspeople receive an average of 80 e-mails a day, recent statistics show. These and other forms of electronic messaging can hurt production. But if they’re well-managed, they can help. A training specialist offers advice on how.
“The barrage of e-mails actually slows down productivity. as they can be distracting and interfering,” says training specialist and personal-development coach Peggy Noe Stevens (www.peggynoestevens.com). As text messaging and e-mails have replaced telephone and face-to-face meetings, technology can become something of a “crutch,” she says.
But “All technology tools are essential to conducting business,” she says. “Just stop and think when and what is appropriate to your business environment and your professional image. Let technology be your aid…but let others know you.”
“YOUR SCHEDULE IS NOT WORKING FOR OUR MEETING,” shouted the executive on an e-mail sent to his employee…or was he shouting? Not really, just using all caps and bold because it was easier to type, Stevens says. But who knew?
“R U going to LOL when U C his email J,” an e-mail sent from a ’20-something’ to a ’50-something’ who had to decode the message, but became lost at the LOL part. (That meant laugh out loud.)
Stevens says that in all the image coaching she does with employees, the No. 1 issue usually revolves around relationships in the office and how image is perceived. Relationships go beyond a Facebook diary page letting everyone know where you are having coffee or vacation. When building relationships with employees, or those in an office, checking in person – stopping by someone’s desk to actually have a conversation can truly pay off. Why? Because the next time the person receive an e-mail, it will support the impression made by the visit.
Stevens believes that many have lost the human touch in dealing with others in the office. She says some employees would rather drop 40 one-line emails than take a face-to-face 15-minute meeting that knocks out an issue.
Especially distracting, Stevens says, are “band wagon” e-mails, that involve almost everyone in the office through countless ccs, bccs and forwards.
Stevens says businesspeople should not be using electronic communication tools to discuss:
- Heated issues, or conflicts in the office that need to be resolved.
- Personal-performance reviews of employees and sensitive situations that could be forwarded to others.
- Issues that would require a lengthy e-mail to explain, but which could be handled quickly with a phone call or in person.
- Tough, difficult messages that could be misconstrued in the e-mail behind which the sender might be tempted to hide, but which could be much more effectively dealt with in an oral dialogue, which also would save time in the long run.
Stevens says it’s also important to be mindful of the generations of those being communicated with. She offers the following tips to consider around electronic communication:
- Text jargon does not always translate to business e-mails.
- Some people prefer not to send business text messages on their text because they consider texting personal space.
- Do iPhones and BlackBerries stay in silent mode during meetings, or are people checking messages “under the table,” as if no one notices?
- Many companies have dress-code policies to guide their employees as to the culture of the company. Where are the “Netiquette” policies, and should there be any?
- “Netiquette” items might include: Salutation and closure – What are the correct address, closure and graphic icons to be used along with contact information? Every employee who sends a message from the company is a reflection of the company brand.
- What is the policy for using bcc, send receipts, etc.?
- When is it appropriate to use text in business vs. e-mail, vs. face-to face meetings?
- When scheduling meetings, does the company have a software tool that allows employees to respond to meeting requests?
- When is it appropriate to use Skype?