10 June 2016
Whether you realize it or not, your ability to be successful in the workplace is inextricably linked to how you communicate through email. In fact, knowing how to properly navigate the ins and outs of professional correspondence not only helps you stay up-to-date on projects and major initiatives, but can also reveal a lot about your communication skills in general. With the typical corporate user sending and receiving an average of 110 emails a day, there is a lot of room for error! To ensure you are communicating as effectively as possible, you’ll want to avoid these email habits that ultimately send the wrong message: Not prioritizing messages or organizing your inbox If you’ve ever found yourself unable to respond to emails as they arrive, you’re not alone. In fact, reacting to all incoming messages can distract even the most senior managers from their current responsibilities. However, failing to respond within an appropriate amount of time can be just as bad as letting important tasks fall to the way side. To ensure you can balance your incoming emails with your ongoing projects, keeping an organized inbox is key. To do this, first try designating some time each day to sort through and prioritize your emails. If you’re finding that important messages from your supervisor or key colleagues keep getting lost in the shuffle, it can also be helpful to have their emails auto-forwarded to a specific folder. This way, you’ll be able to quickly locate their messages and reply accordingly. Replying to all (or only one) Many professionals utilize the ‘cc’ function or a team alias when communicating with a group of colleagues. While these are great tools for providing important updates, asking questions, and ensuring everyone is on the same page, they can quickly becoming overwhelming if the thread goes off on a tangent. As a result, use “reply all” with caution, ensuring your response is important to the conversation at large. On the other hand, keeping the right people in the loop is integral to clear and effective communication. For example, replying to one person in an email chain about an important initiative can lead to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Bottom line: if there are others who need to be privy to information or would be an asset to the conversation, include them. Abusing the caps lock function While the caps lock function can imply a sense of urgency, using this format in a professional setting can make you seem overly aggressive. Before you send an email with capitalized words or phrases, ask yourself if an email is truly the best way for you to get your point across. If you’re tempted to use all caps, chances are, your correspondence may be significant enough to warrant a phone call or meeting. Using email to negotiate deals or make important requests On a related note, email may not be the best forum for negotiations or important conversations related to your career. While digital messaging technology has certainly made it easier to connect with others, it also makes it easy for us to forget how certain verbal and nonverbal cues can affect how our messages are interpreted. That being said, it’s best to use your judgement when deciding whether to send an email request or to schedule an in-person meeting. For example, if you ask your supervisor for a more flexible work from home schedule over email, it can be easy for them to reply with a simple no. However, if you ask to meet in lieu of sending an email, you’ll have a better opportunity to fully explain the reasoning for your request. At the same time, your supervisor will be able to address any concerns or conditions they may have—hopefully increasing your chances of reaching a solution that works for the two of you. Bad grammar, sloppy abbreviations, and obvious typos In today’s digital age, you’re still expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism when communicating with colleagues, clients, and customers. While certain lapses of judgement – grammatical errors, typos, excessive punctuation, etc. – might not seem like the end of the world, they can certainly raise some red flags about your writing skills, level of professionalism, and attention to detail. As a result, you’ll want to ensure your emails are professional and to-the-point before pressing send. Watch out for any language, grammar, strange formatting, or emojis that could distract readers from your actual message.