Most professionals could not function efficiently without the use of the Internet, email in particular. According to a recent panel survey by Pew Research, 61 percent of working internet users believe email is "very important" for their jobs; numbers were even higher for office-based employees. Forty-six percent said digital tools made them more productive, compared with seven percent who said their productivity fell. Sending and responding to emails can either set the stage for efficiency or frustration.
Here are five email etiquette faux pas to avoid when exchanging email communication:
- Not giving the person adequate time to respond. It would be nice if we all received an immediate reply, but the reality is our message is probably one of several that have not been opened. The person may be out of the office, in a meeting or simply prioritizing their responses.
- Forgoing direct communication. Include a phone call in the process when feedback is urgent. If your contact is out of the office, ask the administrative assistant to pass along a message. He or she normally has their schedule and knows how to contact them for serious issues.
- Expecting a reply after business hours or on weekends. If it can wait until the following work day, avoid emailing a question that makes the other person "feel" as if they are obligated to respond immediately. At the least, put in the subject line "Conversation for Monday." I am often guilty of this offense because I send my thoughts to my office when they are fresh in my mind. However, I have also made it clear that the correspondence is merely for my benefit. My assistant is not expected to read or respond unless the subject line says "URGENT" in all caps -- and, even then I would follow up with a call.
- Checking emails during a meeting, a meal or in the restroom. It goes without saying that it is rude to look away from the person you are having a conversation with at the table. Using the restroom as your virtual office not only appears unprofessional to the person in the next stall, but is distasteful to those who may view the behavior as unsanitary. I am forever tainted by the memory of a woman who worked in our building. She would spend an inordinate amount of time in the restroom and once commented that she got her best work accomplished "on the go."
- Sending a sarcastic reminder. A follow-up email such as, "Are you there?" "Still waiting!" or "Hello???" will justifiably irritate the very person you are anticipating a timely response from. Your communication will unlikely be given the same thoughtful attention. Instead, send something with a different subject line, such as "Following up to my previous email." This second attempt to connect is less offensive than the aggressive alternative.