If you were to invent some amazing new technology, get in as a ground floor investor in the next Facebook or Tesla, or finally have your decades of tossing away cash on Powerball tickets finally pay off, what would you say would be the greatest benefit of your sudden and massive newfound wealth?
Most people would first tick off the obvious things—quit your day job, buy a new house, a new car or two (or whatever type of toys interest you), travel the world, provide for your kids, etc. But what about the not-so-obvious aspects of modern, everyday life would you change or be able to change with your nouveau-riche status?
I would never read nor write another email ever again.
I’d be out. No more email. And here’s why.
(Note, here is the part of the post that if I were smarter or cared about SEO or catchy titles I would call “Three Email Habits That Are Costing You Zillions of Dollars in Profits and Alienating Your Customers/Prospects/Candidates/Employees).
1. Email on the weekend. You send email on the weekend for one reason only—you are attempting to capture someone’s attention when they are not actually working, and thus already occupied by the dozens of other items, messages, and people that are competing for their time and energy. If you catch them checking their email on a Saturday, the thinking goes, you might just get a quick response, much faster than if your message is sent on a Monday or Tuesday when it gets folded into hundreds of others. And that, in fact, might be correct. But where you fail is that your email-on-the-weekend strategy is completely, 100% about what you need, and does not take into account at all what the recipient may want or expect. There is nothing more satisfying to many professionals than to achieve “Inbox Zero” on Friday afternoon just before checking out for the weekend. It feels good. Almost like a real accomplishment. Your Saturday-morning-sent email shatters that tranquility before they even had a chance to truly enjoy it.
I am not saying don’t work/hustle/create/innovate on the weekends. Heck, I am writing this post on the weekend. But lay off the email. Work on your own stuff, just keep me out of it. Side note (and this is just my hang up): Email I receive on the weekend does not go to the front of the line on Monday morning, (I think the reason most people send email on the weekend, by the way). It tends to disappear actually, as I try to block out the fact that I keep getting email all weekend.
2. The “Just making sure you saw this” email re-send. You sent someone an email that likely contained some kind of an ask. Three or four days later when you have not received a reply, you then forward to them the same message and top it off with a little “Hi, just wanted to check that you saw this email” comment, thinking that you can somehow guilt them into responding. Again, this is making the exchange all about you and not about what the recipients want or need. There are lots of reasons an email does not get a response, (it was unsolicited, it was not interesting, it requires more time to think about prior to responding, etc.), but “not seeing it” is usually not the problem. If you find yourself doing too much of this, it is probably time to re-think your email strategy. If the issue is truly that important, then find another medium to try and get through to your target. Re-sending the same email that I ignored is not a winning approach.
3. Passive aggressive use of the CC line. When you copy someone’s boss/manager on a message that is clearly intended just for them, or includes a request for that person alone to take some action, you are basically telling them that “I don’t trust that you are going to respond/do the thing I want you to do, so I am preemptively ratting you out to your boss.” This is a terrible thing to do. If someone is not responding to you in the way that you feel is adequate, then that is primarily a ‘You’ problem. The original email requests, even if sent only to the recipient, will suffice to prove any lack of responsiveness should their actually come a time when you need to cover your own butt. Don’t get in the habit of CC’ing people up the food chain to try and make yourself look like some kind of hero or star or martyr.
That’s it! Better stop here, although I probably could riff on another half-dozen ways why email is the scourge of first-world existence.
What would you change or kill about email and other workplace communications if you could?