Whether you like it or not, you are being judged every day by the people you work with, be it your colleagues, managers, clients or stakeholders. They've all formed or are forming an opinion of you and it's largely based on what you do and how you do it.
With the way business has evolved over the years through the use of technology, the need to meet in person has become less and less important and therefore it's no surprise that the majority of our interactions happen via email.
Your email interactions say more about you than you may realize, and it's worth understanding the impact of your written communications, since how you're perceived based on these communications can either kill or boost your reputation.
During my former corporate career of 15 years, I'd seen some pretty abysmal emails that would have me question the sender's credibility, and if that's the impact it had on me, I can guarantee it had the same impact on many others which would have eventually dented the person's reputation.
On the flip side, I'd also seen some pretty phenomenal emails where the impact had been one of praise and admiration and the sender was automatically held in high esteem by his/her recipients, and this type of perception goes a long way for enhancing one's career.
Unless people get the chance to interact with you regularly and see you in action, such that it overrides any perceptions they may have had initially based on your email communications, it pays dividends to take extra care when crafting and sending your emails.
In my own interactions it is not an exaggeration when I say that I spend three times as long editing my written communications as I do writing them. This has served me very well in my career.
Here are 6 mistakes to avoid with possible impact of each and the corrections you can make:
MISTAKE 1 -- Basic spelling mistakes
PERCEPTION -- Of course some typos here and there are generally accepted but if the mistakes are consistent then it can impact perception of your education, and you may be viewed as someone who has no attention to detail, is careless, doesn't take care or pride in your work and someone who doesn't take the time to use spell check.
CORRECTION -- Always proof read your emails before hitting the send button. Use spell check too. Note -- some words won't be picked up in spell check as grammatically incorrect, therefore if you have any blind spots get a colleague to check your work and avoid making the same mistakes again.
MISTAKE 2 -- Lack of structure
PERCEPTION -- "This person has no clear thought process. What is this email about? I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it? It's a complete waste of my time as now I have decipher it or go back and clarify."
CORRECTION -- Have a clear subject heading. I always say if someone can understand what the email is going to be about simply by reading the subject line, then that's a good heading. Create structure in you emails by first clearly defining what you are writing about. Then state any issues/queries, and follow up with next steps before signing off. Include as many facts/figures as you can for clarity.
MISTAKE 3 -- Too much information and long-winded sentences.
PERCEPTION -- "So much of this is irrelevant to me. I don't have time to read this! What's your point? What do I specifically need to know and do regarding this email?"
CORRECTION -- Use KISS philosophy: Keep It Short and Simple. Time is money and with 205 billion emails being sent every day as estimated by the Radicati Group from Feburary 2015, no one has the patience to read an email that could be understood with half the words. If the matter is urgent or complex in nature, perhaps email is not the best step to take. Maybe a phone call or a face to face meeting would make more sense?
MISTAKE 4 -- Vagueness and not enough information
PERCEPTION -- "Where are you getting your information from? What are you basing your views on? Who needs to do what? I'm not a mind reader!" And in the case of using text acronyms - that's just simply unprofessional.
CORRECTION -- Be explicit and clearly state relevant information such as date of events, names of people involved, names of products, version numbers, document names/versions, date and time specifics etc and do NOT use text chat.
MISTAKE 5 -- Hitting REPLY ALL or copying in the world & their cat
PERCEPTION -- "Use your common sense and stop clogging my inbox with stuff that's not relevant to me!"
CORRECTION -- Don't create negative attention. Only ever copy in people who a) need to know the information you share in your email and/or b) subsequently need to take some form of action
MISTAKE 6 -- Wrong tone
PERCEPTION -- "Uncalled for, offensive, arrogant, unnecessary, lack of manners, unprofessional, someone to avoid."
CORRECTION -- Be mindful of what you write and how you write it as your intentions can be easily misunderstood, since body language and facial cues are not part of the equation. Pick your words very carefully and choose only those that convey exactly what you mean. The use of uppercase and bold should be limited and used only to emphasize an important piece of information or data point and not an emotion. If emotion is involved, pick up the phone instead or meet with the person. Diplomacy is critical in the workplace as the written word, once sent can never be erased!
The next time you fire off an email, do take the time to understand how your email and YOU as a professional could be perceived.
Shivani Bhagi is an International Career Success Strategist with a sole mission to help smart, committed professionals take charge of their careers by increasing their self worth and net worth.
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