[Elizabeth C. Castro] wants to ask everyone what are their communications pet peeves at the office. Things like:
- Getting copied on too many “reply all” emails;
- Getting an email about something that should have been said in person;
- Using office email for humor — is this appropriate?
- Formal versus informal discussions.I’m working on a presentation, and as usual, look to my friends to help me gather scientific research.
[People who always hit] Reply All are the most irritating – especially when it is a broad question topic and results in multiple threads of answers over-lapping each other, and everyone loses track of where the conversation went. The third is the CYA email where subordinates cc me on a email of importance and consider that sufficient notification. If its important, you better come and talk with me about it!
FYI [My Employer] actually has disabled the ‘reply all’ function in our Outlook for all 1500-ish staff. NOT kidding!
I also hate when someone forwards a chain of emails because you need to do something but you have to read the entire chain to figure out what it is. Just tell me in two sentences what you need me to do.
Using e-mail as if it’s snail mail (book-length, formal letters that take forever to write and even longer to read, and end with an action-item that’s indistinct: “So when you get a chance, get back to me on this.”)
Massive Attachments. Not a big deal when I’m in the office, but if I’m a road warrior, I have to deal with downloads at slow hotel speeds or worse. But then most companies don’t have or don’t know how to use good file sharing systems.
Expected replies within minutes. People should not be expected to be glued to email. Use the phone or IM, if it’s time sensitive.
People who lose email in their inbox (as in “too much email”)The Inbox is not a to do list.
- They respond in batches (you get responses to a bunch of e-mails at once.)
- They respond in batches on weekends, vacation, or at 3am. (In other words, they are using “down” time to catch up.)
- They respond late to time-critical email.
- They respond late to time-critical email with a request to “remind me again what this was about.”
- They respond late to a time-critical e-mail without having seen the one from a week later that says, to whit: “Thanks, took care of this, no need to respond.”
The comments to Elizabeth’s post weren’t all negative, and they offered some good advice. We like this one:
- Show people how to make best use of email.
- Discourage people from CYA emails. This means building a culture where your A doesn’t need to be covered!
- Encourage people to think BEFORE emailing.
- Set appropriate expectations on response time.
- Send fewer emails
- CC only those who can contribute or act.
- Use groupware for most things.
All this stuff works, and – you know what – it’s also not perfect. So if you’re tempted to write a comment that sez: “Hey, there was that one time with that one e-mail…” Yeah, fair enough. You got us. (Likely, truth be told, you got ME…)
But here’s the thing: We drop balls, miss e-mails, show some of these same bad habits we call out here, and all that. But we’re trying to change. The CYA culture, described above? (Cover Yer Ass…) Well, that’s a management structure we’re moving away from, also.
Basically, here at PEMBA we’re not going to manage problems. Instead, we’re going to provide solutions. Problems happen because we’re all human and we all make mistakes. When problems come up they need to be solved. We can’t prevent every problem from happening, but we can effectively solve them – quickly – when they come up.
That’s our goal, that’s our way. More soon. Stay tuned…