This research aims to make a change in our current work environment, specifically, to the policy of using e-mails as the primary method of communication in the workplace. Research from multiple sources shows that email messages no longer achieve the goals they once did. All research points at four key indicators that ruin messaging: a) excessive usage of emails, b) excessive wording in the email, c) unclear purposes for emailing and, d)improper tagging or labeling.(Bradley, Hendricks, 2014)
These reasons make it imperative that we find a different method for ongoing communication. The best suggestion is a backchannel, or an ongoing “parking lot” where employees can post in “live” mode any questions or suggestions they may have instead of emailing everyone. As people read these postings, we can help one another with information. This report does not mean that we suspend emails altogether, but that we repurpose them and use them for truly important, last minute things that need to be addressed to the masses. Here are the most important things to look into, according to my research.
The issue with e-mail wording
Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work contributed an article to Forbes magazine titled “5 Ways Email Makes Your Employees Miserable.” According to his article, some administrators send so many emails per day, that they inadvertently make employees divide up their day to be able toread all emails at once. For example, some employees may wait until lunch time to catch the morning email batch, while others wait until the end of the day to get all that was sent. According to Morgan, problem with this practice is that it takes away the sense of urgency that emails are originally meant to convey.This also entails that employees are reading emails at different times of the day, which means that some will find out information before others. A third implication is that so many emails will lead people to simply forget information they read due to excessive input. (Morgan, 2017)
The solution provided in the article is similar to the proposal of my final report: To let the administrator decide what information needs to be emailed and what information can be saved for another back channel of communication. Another mentioned solution that works best is that the workplace has an ongoing, interactive channel of communication that can be ongoing and instantaneous, such as a community “parking lot” or a community-type “bulletin board” to leavequestions or comments on post-it notes.
In an article of a very similar nature,Kevin Hurt(2016) writes about the top 5 reasons why e-mails do not work. The reasons listed in the article are the driving force behind the need to make changes in e-mail systems everywhere. One of them is the excessive use of words to state a simple message. Hurt says that not everybody has the verbiage to write regular letters, much less send a memorandum or convey important information via e-mail. He also says that, in other cases, many people write absolutely everything they think of and over crowd a message that can be delivered more effectively with a clear and concise sentence or two. Another reason posted in the article is that there are not clear purposes for emailing. For example, everyone uses e-mail for everything, including personal information. This includes birthday parties, wedding announcements, even school functions and other information that can be posted elsewhere. The author concludes with a suggestion to make e-mail usage more formal and rigorous at work so that emailing is seen more of a best practice and less than a venting and sharing resource.
The Harvard Business Review agrees with the previous article, particularly in the use of proper verbiage to convey effective messages. In fact, Sehgal (2016) compares email writing to military writing, reminding us that one badly-written detail in a military memo could signify war or peace. Sehgal emphasizes that administrators and business managers should choose their tone, vocabulary, and content wisely. It must be well-understood and not embellished at all. It must convey a clear, transparent message within a set number of words and sentences; it should not read like a speech. Therefore, any organization that uses mass emails to communicate must be trained on how to write effective emails. (Sehgal, 2016). Additionally, the authorsuggests that, if e-mails must be used in the workplace, they should follow a specific format so that employees get the gist of the message faster. Still, according to the author’s conclusion, this practice hardly takes place in the average business setting, and the opportunity to polish and re-design better email practices remains untapped.
According to CBS Business correspondent Dave Johnson (2013), bad use of emails, or the use of emails as a sole method of communication, renders the messages “ineffective, and even insulting. (p.171)” He especially refers to people who use e-mails as a venting channel through which they express themselves either too dramatically, or emotionally. This article goes hand in hand with Hurt (2016) and Sehgal (2016), whose articles both zoned in the importance of good wording for effective communication. Like Johnson, Hurt (2016) also points out the tendency of some people to vent on e-mails and use them as personal communication channels.
Just like in the previous articles, Johnson (2013) had already made mention of using e-mails for things not related to work, even though this article was written 3 years before Hurt and Sehgal (2016). He also agrees and concludes that the use of e-mails as a personal information and communication conduit takes away the objectivity and credibility of the writing, not to mention that it aggravates other people and, in other cases, makes people feel like they are wasting their time reading.
The conclusion is that, as part of a good policy for email usage, there should be rules as to what is to be emailed and when is it OK to send mass messages. Also, a policy should be in place to remove mass email privileges to those who do not follow. In other words, general population emails should be avoided altogether, and one person only should be responsible for handling those emails. This way, everyone in the workplace will know whether the email is important or not when they consider the source.
Another big issue with e-mails is that people make mistakes with them and, in other cases, often use them unethically. Distribution lists can make people make mistakes when selecting the intended recipient. Sometimes people send messages to the wrong people only because the beginning letters of their names are the same;they mindlessly click on whatever comes on when the automatic suggestions pop up.
In the article “E-mail and Ethical Issues,” Brandley and Hendricks (2014) analyze the lack of ethical regulation that exists with e-mail usage across the board. This article goes hand in hand with the previously mentioned articles, because it shows that an overall ignorance toward the proper use of e-mails is evident in all industries. Emails are important vehicles of information and all things should be considered prior to sending them: language usage to purpose of using, to the proper tagging of individuals are all part of the proper use of mail. Then, the authors mention yet another problem, and it is the issue of people forwarding emails sent exclusively to them, so that other people can read them. (Brandley, Hendricks, 2014) In an era when digital products are blurring the ethical boundaries once reserved for paper products, people are not universally aware of what information contained in e-mails is to remain privileged and what information is safe to share. (Bradley, Hendricks, 2014) Therefore, we may be already running the risk within our organization of having people conducting unethical practices, such as forwarding e-mails that are meant to be private, blind copying emails and making strangers part of a conversation that they have nothing to do with, and much more.
According to all the articles cited, e-mails are not vehicles of personal communication. They are not an interactive place where employees can post minor issues, ask questions, give notes of encouragement, post invitations, or share any other thing that has previously been sent via e-mail.All authors agree that all work places should have a separate place to vent; a community bulletin board, or even an interactive one using sites such as Padlet.com would work. There is also a mutual agreement that people should be trained on how to use e-mails, on what to write on them, how to write on them, and how to properly send them to the right people. Still, e-mails are important to have; just not abuse. A separate place for personal communication may even help re-establish and solidify bonds at work, but also saves a lot of wasted email reading. It is important that all employees in any organization learn what are the most ethical and best practices for written communication in this digital era.
Brandley, L., Hendricks, B. (2014) “E-mail and Ethical Issues”The Family Journal
(17), 3, pp. 267 – 271
Hurt, K. (2016) “5 Reasons Your Emails Don’t Work”Execunet
Retrieved from: on
June 2, 2017
Johnson, D. (2013) “What Makes Email Ineffective, and even Insulting” CBS Business
Retrieved from: http://nsulting/on June 2, 2017
Morgan, J. (2017) “5 Ways Email Makes Your Employees Miserable.”Forbes Magazine
Retrieved from: https://mployees-miserable/#426f2e1f1caaon June 2, 2017
Seghal. K. (2016) “How to Write an Email with Military Precision”
Harvard Business Review.
Retrieved from: on June 2, 2017
University of Pittsburg Information Technology Department “Using the Blind Carbon Copy
(BCC) Feature to protect the privacy of email addresses”
Retrieved from: June 02 2017