Let’s say an office is like, I don’t know, how about an engine (someone’s probably said that before, people say a lot of stupid things). If we go ahead and run with that, email would be the fuel. Or possibly the oil. Definitely something petroleum based. It’s important, that’s where I’m going with this.
With a little care, it can keep everything running smoothly. But get a little careless, and you can be left with a lone tire rolling away from an inferno. The metaphor actually falls apart at this point, but it still leaves us with some exciting imagery. That’s always nice.
Anyway, here are four habits that turn email from an efficient communication tool into a weapon of mass confusion. You should probably not do them.
- The Blank Forward: Like dumping a box from IKEA on someone’s floor minus the instructions. Forwarding an 8-page email without comment while assuming the recipient will figure it out for themselves may sound like a good idea but … actually no, no it does not. Hitting them in the face with a balled-up printout of it would be just as productive, and far less annoying.
- Reply vs Reply All: Much like what the word “literally” actually means, proper use of the Reply All button is something the modern human brain can’t seem to grasp. Which is odd, considering how simple the decision between Reply and Reply All should be:
- Are you replying with information that everyone originally copied wants/needs/should be forced to accept even if it’s against their will? That’s a Reply All, and simply hitting Reply instead is going to result in a mess of forwards and multiple threads. This is how parallel universes are born.
- Are you fessing up to being the person who clogged the sink with their oatmeal this time? That’s just a Reply. Because I literally couldn’t care less.
- CC Sniping: Let’s say I send you a message, and it includes something less than complimentary about Sally (because Sally is the worst). A few messages later, a question comes up where you think Sally might be able to help. You briefly consider just CC’ing Sally into the thread, but then you remember that this would mean she would see my initial comment, and so you either cut that part out first or email her separately instead. Congratulations, you are an intelligent, thoughtful person. Many people are not. People such as Sally.
- Hoarding: While I respect the idea of setting aside one block of time each day to respond to email, I cannot defend it in practice. Email is the perfect mix of real time communication and “I’ll deal with that later when I’m ready for my day to be ruined.” Don’t mess that up for everyone else by sending out a day’s worth of answers at 4:55. You monster.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to email? Share with us in the comments!