Tuesday, September 29, 2009

E-mail: A Critical Communication Tool if Used Correctly

Over the weekend, I had some repairs that had to be done at home. I pulled out the trusty toolbox, and as I moved from project to project, I had to think about which tool would be most effective.

Midway through my project, I had an epiphany: How similar is what I’m doing at home to what happens at work – picking the right tool for the right activity?

Let’s say I have feedback to give a colleague or direct report. Should I see him or her, if possible; or is it OK to e-mail the person? If I have data to report, should I call the person, put it in writing, or send a quick e-mail?

If I want to thank someone for something he or she did to help me -- a much more personal type of communication – do I send a handwritten note or an e-mail?

Just because we have incredible communication tools – like e-mail – doesn’t mean we always should use them … or possibly abuse them.

E-mail shouldn’t be used for sending long messages, discussing confidential information, or distributing negative news, or sending complicated policy changes.

E-mail also shouldn’t be used in lieu of having face-to-face time.

Even if you do choose the right tool, you need to use it properly. Over the weekend, my husband was slicing potatoes using a mandolin -- a great kitchen tool.

Unfortunately, he didn’t anchor it properly, and ended up slicing his finger. Not good for a dentist!

The same is true with e-mail. It is so easy to use, that we frequently throw caution to the wind when using it.

Be sure to pay attention to both the tone and accuracy of all e-mail messages. You don’t want to appear to be abrupt or sloppy.

The cost of e-mail mistakes, abuse, and misuse, can be great.

So, just think of e-mail as one tool in your communication toolbox, and use it carefully and selectively.

No comments: