Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Simple rules for when not to send an e-mail

E-mail, despised and scorned as it may be, is still pretty awesome. I think it's safe to say that it has had a transformative (and largely positive) effect on how we do work. Seriously, try to imagine living without e-mail for a while. Yes, there are people who have gone just to Twitter or have found other ways to manage their life without e-mail. I don't know how they do it.

That said, there are of course situations in which e-mail just doesn't work, and it makes much more sense to pick up the phone, like if previous e-mails have been confusing or talking about something sensitive in which you need to gauge the other person's feelings. How do you know? Here are some signs I watch out for:

  1. If it's taking you more than 10 minutes to write the e-mail, call.
  2. If you rewrite a particular sentence 5 times, call.
  3. If the thought runs through your mind about how someone will interpret your words, call.
  4. If there is any likelihood that your e-mail will make someone angry, call.
  5. If you are angry, call.
Basically, e-mail works great if the message is unambiguous and not inflammatory. If it's not, chances are it's a bad idea. You can spend eons crafting the perfect message and still piss someone off, or just call and maybe smooth everything over in 5 minutes. Which reminds me that I should get a cell phone.

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