I adore e-mail and couldn’t live without it, but at least once a week I hear a terrible story about a generally good person and employee who turned the weapon of Microsoft Outlook on himself – and fired.
Just the other day, an HR manager told me about a junior level employee who decided to use e-mail to disseminate widespread criticism about a new brand name a senior executive had picked out and announced himself. Our impulsive friend even cc’d the president for good measure. As you can imagine, this was the last e-mail he sent at that company.
Though I know you would never do anything like this, I feel compelled to post some smart e-mail usage tips:
- Realize that e-mail is not private. Not only can your company’s IT department access it, but you never know who your messages might be forwarded to – accidentally or intentionally.
- Craft friendly, polite and grammatically correct messages. Since you can’t rely on voice or nonverbal cues, always re-read your e-mails to make sure the message you are sending is idiot proof.
- E-mails should be kept short and to the point. Make sure to include an informative and specific subject line. Put your key message up front, and if the information you must communicate is longer than 2-3 paragraphs, attach a word document with the relevant details.
- Don’t use e-mail as a forum to express displeasure or criticize. Do these things in-person rather than taking the easy way out. If you must highlight a problem in e-mail, be positive and solution-oriented.
- Carbon copy (cc) your boss only on messages that clearly demonstrate that you are doing your job. Avoid sending him thousands of e-mails unless you want him to stop reading them.
- Before hitting reply, carefully read an e-mail in its entirety, and if it’s preceded by a series of messages, read and understand the whole string first.
- If you want to send personal e-mails at work, set up a separate account. Don’t send those annoying forwards to your colleagues.