In this world of information overload, it's easy to see why people sometimes neglect their e-mail. Although this electronic form of communication has proven to be quite helpful, it can also be a hindrance, which may prompt some to refrain from responding to e-mail inquiries at all.
Failure to respond has caused some concern within the Wittenberg community, and it can translate into poor customer service. A non-response disrupts the flow of the recipient's work, makes the person feel ignored and unimportant, and requires wasteful follow-up. The analogy is that you speak to someone at a gathering and they act as if you aren't even there.
To help with this situation, here are some commonly accepted guidelines to assist you in maneuvering through and managing e-mail.
Etiquette (i.e. How not to irritate your colleagues)
- Even if you can't respond to a question or request right away, send an e-mail back saying that you have received it and that you will get back to the person. Conversely, if an e-mail doesn't require a response, you shouldn't feel compelled to send one.
- If you need a response right away, tell the person. Better yet, ask for it in person or via a phone call.
- DON'T TYPE IN ALL CAPS.THIS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF SCREAMING.
- When forwarding messages, strip all the extraneous information and characters from it beforehand. It makes it much easier to read.
- Write a subject line that clearly identifies the topic. A descriptive subject line is especially important when sending mail to groups of people.
- Don't copy people unless necessary. Otherwise, you'll get the reputation of being a source of junk e-mail.
- Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.
Tips for Managing it
Knowing how to effectively manage e-mail is a skill worth learning because it will make your life easier and will enhance the way we work together toward common goals. More assistance is available if the following explanations are not sufficient. Eudora's help function explains the ins and outs of the system and the Computing Center periodically holds training sessions. If you are interested in attending a session, getting additional assistance or have general questions, you may either call the solutions center at 525-3801, contact them electronically via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the appropriate link on the Computing Center's home page at http://www4.wittenberg.edu/administration/cctr/index.html.
- Delete mail, unread. There's no requirement that you have to read every e-mail in your inbox. Look at the subject line and the sender, and determine if you need to read the mail. Addresses that look long and strange almost always are junk mail.
- Don't waste time retyping e-mail addresses every time you send something - use the address book to keep information about individuals or groups that you correspond with regularly.
- File your messages into appropriate folders as soon as you read your mail.
- If you are on one or more list-serves, you might want to filter your messages. A filter is like a personal organizer that takes your mail and does certain things to it such as filing certain kinds of messages in a particular file, creating a color label for other kinds of mail, etc.
To Use Or Not To Use. That Is An Important Question
E-mail is great method for communicating certain types of information and a really lousy method for other types. E-mail is best used to send key information, confirm appointments, document decisions, and reach a decision-maker directly. Quoted in Psychology Today, Dr. Morris says, "When a topic is sensitive or awkward, and people dread facing each other, they often use e-mail instead." This course of action is easier in the short term, he says, but it's the worst time to use e-mail. You need to see the person's facial expressions, and maybe do some damage control.
Confidential, complex, or sensitive issues call for the more personal touch you get from a meeting, a phone call, or a private memo. Don't use e-mail to deliver bad news. It's difficult to demonstrate your concern or compassion about bad news. Sometimes it's better to deliver this kind of information personally.
Don't challenge a co-worker's idea in an e-mail. Criticism delivered via e-mail can be deadly to any relationship. If you've got ideas on how a co-worker can improve a project, talk it out in person. He or she will be less likely to put a negative interpretation on your offers to help.
Don't hash out conflicts through e-mail. If you have a conflict with a co-worker or boss, it's always best to work things out in person. This allows for conversational give and take as well as an easier way to respond to one another.