For those of you that achieve inbox zero on a daily basis and enjoy a stress-free work environment, consider yourself lucky. The rest of us have jobs with emails constantly bombarding us during the day, distracting us from our work. Thanks to a huge plate of tasks to attend to, email creates overwhelm at times and leads to the wrong kind of stress. Sometimes this stress spills over into making wrong decisions with our email. These wrong decisions can eventually create more work for us and sometimes get us in trouble. Here are three ways to approach email that your IT support person may not have shown you.
Assume you’re writing to everyone
You’re writing a cheeky response to a co-worker about the status of those weekly TPS reports. Within minutes after hitting send, you receive an email from your boss’s boss requesting to meet with you about the TPS reports… and the questionable tone in which you’re referring to them. Unbeknownst to you, your co-worker thought it was funny enough to forward to a couple other co-workers, who forwarded it to some more co-workers, who forwarded your message to the head honcho. Now you definitely have a case of the Mondays. As you are composing an email, write it as if your message would be read by the CEO of your company, your mother, your spouse, your children, and your entire town once the local newspaper links to it on their website.
Leverage the BCC: field
The term Megathread is not a villainous ball of yarn set to take over the knitting world, but a way to describe an excessive number of replies to an original post. By including all recipients of your email in the Blind Carbon Copy section, you can avoid megathreads.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
You just received an email that embarrasses you in front of other co-workers, adds more work to your overwhelmed task list, or is just plain rude. Naturally, you craft a snarky, sarcastic, angry email response to return volley. Hold up, tiger. Don’t push send yet.
Save that email in your Drafts folder and take a walk. Go get some fresh air. Get another cup of coffee. Wait an hour, four hours, or a day, depending on how angry you are. Sending that email may wreck get you in trouble with management. It may wreck an important working relationship. And your supervisor may have to do damage control to answer to their superiors for your immature response.
Want an Email Ninja tip? Put your personal non-work email account in the To: field and mail it to yourself. You get the endorphin rush of pushing that Send button. You get the wadding-up-paper satisfaction of deleting an email. Plus, you save a potential firestorm of awkward in the workplace.
Always keep in mind that your email may be viewed by many more than you’re expecting. By controlling how your email is sent, and how you phrase your email, you can set yourself up for success at work and outside of work.
Chris Powell is an Instructional Technologist from Bellingham, Washington. You can sign up for his personal newsletter, Quiet Conversations, here.