A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled Avoid These Email Blunders To Prevent Career Derailment talks about three things you should not do with email. I know something about this – I once won a national contest for the worst email blunder. Let’s just say it involved a well-meaning colleague, not checking carefully all the settings in the software, and discussing personal issues and a third party.
Email works well for communicating data, setting appointments, and the like. But subtle nuances, tone of voice, facial expression, and body language are all missing, so it’s easy to misread the intent of a message. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of sending a message to everyone who might possibly be interested, instead of just those who need to know. When teaching first aid to boy scouts, we tell them to point to a specific person and say “YOU! Call 911!”, instead of just yelling “Someone call 911!” By picking one person, you put the responsibility on them to either do it, or make sure it gets done. If you just yell to the group, everyone will think someone else did it, and no one actually will. The same thing happens with email – if you send a request to a group of people, and say “someone do this”, most likely everyone will let someone else take care of it, and no one actually will.
So next time you’re about to “reply to all” or CC multiple people, take a second to think if they all really need to be copied. If it helps, think about all the email you get copied on that you don’t really need. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone would think before they pressed SEND!