Email is an extremely efficient written communication tool. It has many advantages, which explains why everyone’s inbox seems to be constantly overflowing and inundated daily with large volumes of emails. As a project manager, email is a great vehicle to keep the communication flow organized. It keeps you in touch and on task for projects with co-workers and clients. However, with all the benefits come some negative consequences to watch out for. These can easily arise if you aren’t careful and mindful in your use. Mishaps can hamper the effectiveness of your emails and be quite detrimental. Outlined below are 10 key rules to keep in mind when you send your next email:
1. Keep your emotions out of it. Think first, then react. Never send an email when you’re angry. It’s easy to get upset and vent your frustration, but that could easily turn against you in the future. You don’t want to regret your impulsiveness later on. It is a good idea to assume that your boss, his boss, and your company lawyers will all read your emails one day!
2. If you get a bad or unpleasant email, and you absolutely have to write something down, write it down but have the discipline not to press ‘Send’ for at least 6 hours. It is better to cool down and take stock of the situation before firing off your reply. With a fresh perspective, re-read your email and make the necessary changes so it is a more diplomatic version. Remember that your facial expression, vocal inflection or body language can’t be conveyed in an email, so messages can be easily misconstrued as too harsh or critical. It’s important your email contains a neutral, business-like tone.
3. Do not copy people that are not absolutely needed on the email. Most co-workers (especially managers and executives) hate it when you copy them without a valid reason that would require some ‘Action’ on their part. It also reduces your leverage when you really need it.
4. Be careful of its content. Once a dispute reaches the courts of law, all email correspondence can be accessible by opposing parties. Email communications carry the same weight as other written letters and documents. You could be held accountable for what you said or forwarded on.
5. Stick to the facts, and keep guesstimates out of it. If you have to provide an estimate based on incomplete data, mention it clearly in the email. Or, provide your contact with the information you have and tell them that you are working on the other data and will follow-up with it as soon as it is available. Being clear and honest is the best policy and it goes a long way in building trust.
6. Even if you mark an email ‘Confidential’ or ‘Privileged’ it will not necessarily protect you against other parties accessing the information. Use phone calls and face-to-face meetings as much as possible, especially for sensitive or private information that you don’t want leaked or have a paper trail of. Even when an email is deleted, it can still be accessed and retrieved from the hard drive or server.
7. Don’t overuse the ‘Urgent’ or ‘High Priority’ feature too often. Use it sparingly and only for those very important emails that require urgent or immediate attention. Using it too often will decrease its effectiveness when the time comes that it really is crucial and of high priority.
8. Keep the subject to the point and straightforward. Longwinded responses and discussions are better for meetings than emails. Most people will not take the time to read the entire email. They will quickly skim through it. It is best to be concise, to the point and on topic. Quickly summarize and highlight your key points, then suggest a meeting or phone call to further discuss.
9. Carefully reread and proof your emails before clicking the ‘Send’ button. Be sure to use spell check. Avoid costly mistakes and improper grammar and punctuation. Make the emails professional looking and ensure they contain what you really want them to say. You want to make a good impression and not come across as too casual or unprofessional.
10. Avoid using legal terms in your emails to your client or suppliers as such terms might automatically initiate certain reactions on the part of the receiving party or create certain obligations for your own organization. Terms like ‘Force Majeure’, ‘contractual’, ‘breach of contract’, ‘violation’ or ‘damages’ are typical terms used by legal personnel and should be avoided in regular project communications unless absolutely necessary. Talk to a lawyer to learn more.
By following these 10 tips you can start building the baseline for effective email communications and avoid costly mistakes, unwanted hassles and misunderstandings moving forward!
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:
- Managing Effective Meetings: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Managing-Effective-Meetings.shtml
- Emotional Intelligence at Work: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Emotional-Intelligence-at-Work.shtml
- Advanced Interpersonal Skills: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Advanced-Interpersonal-Skills.shtml
- Effective Leadership Skills: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Effective-Leadership-Skills.shtml
- Obtaining Results Without Authority: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Obtaining-Results-without-Authority.shtml
- Effective Delegation: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Effective-Delegation.shtml