Over the years, I’ve witnessed two disturbing email trends, avoiding and assaulting. While I believe email plays an important role in business, I fear its isolating and impersonal nature is having an adverse affect on how we interact professionally.
Avoiding is used to eschew conversations and commitments. Email is a crutch to bypass speaking directly with others. How frequently do you hear, “I don’t know, I sent them an email”? This passive behavior leads to a lack of accountability and laziness.
Assaulting is used to assert dominance over another. Email is a weapon to intimidate in order to get a desired result. This aggressive stance typically involves a torrent of language that is both inappropriate and unnecessary in a professional environment. It’s particularly offensive when others are copied on the email.
I’ve witnessed both and the outcomes are the same, lack of effectiveness, weak relationships and a slew of miscommunications. Before email, issues were resolved in person. There was no place to hide. To be effective in business one had to master the basic skills of persuasion, negotiation and decorum.
To remedy these offensive email behaviors, leaders and teams need to instill a culture that promotes direct communication. Here are a few tips to deal with avoiding and assaulting.
To handle the issue of avoiding, set rules around when and how email will be used such as: recap agreements, pass along information, etc. Everything else must be done in person.
For those assaulting, call them out. Pick up the phone or better yet pay them a visit. Make them look you straight in the eye and face up to their bad behavior. Their rant will sound petty and insignificant. In the future, they will think twice before sending an assaulting email.
Thriving organizations and relationships are grounded in mutual respect and effective communication. The next time you sit down to pen an email, step away and speak to the person directly.