By Will Schwalbe — Many people who are nice in person do things with their emails that they wouldn’t think of doing face to face. Here are five ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
1. Remember chain of command.
When you email people several rungs above or below you and forget to cc: one or two of those in between, you can create an environment where paranoia thrives. Unless your workplace is totally apolitical, try to remember to include on your emails one or two key people between you and the person you are emailing.
2. Thank appropriately, not indiscriminately.
If one person worked really hard on a project, and six others just worked on it a bit, don’t write one thank-you email where they are all in the “To:” line. That just shows the one person who worked the hardest that you either don’t know or don’t care how much he or she did. Either delineate the contributions, or write separate emails.
3. Be specific what you want.
And name the time period in which you hope to have it done. Many people have noted the damage done by bosses who muse on email, “I wonder what teenagers think of our product,” and then find out that a whole division of the organization has diverted itself from the tasks at hand to engage in months of teen focus groups.
4. Managers should respect the impact an email can have on an employee.
When an employee sees an email from their boss, their blood pressure actually goes up, no matter what the content of the mail is. But, understandably, blood pressure went up even more when employees got angry emails from the boss, or emails from a boss they perceived to be unfair. If you get in the habit of sending little bombs throughout the day, you will create a truly deadly workplace.
5. Be consistent.
People read a lot into emails because the emails are devoid of the nonverbal cues we use to judge a message delivered in person. If you usually send very cordial ones, and then send a cold one, people who depend on you will spend hours analyzing it. The more consistent you are, the more people will focus on your content and stop wasting time trying to figure out subtext.
Will Schwalbe is the co-author with David Shipley of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home.