Would you blow your nose on the tablecloth? Of course you wouldn't! But what if I told you that your conduct on email is just as bad?! Many people are committing email faux pas and have no idea! Here are a few tips that will help you avoid those mistakes and use email in a way that gives people a positive impression:
Be careful what you put in an email. Even if it's not your intention, when you put something in an email, you are creating a written record. Your email can be forwarded to hundreds of people in seconds. Never send an email when you are angry and never send confidential information by email. Once you hit send, you no longer have any control over who sees it.
Respond within a reasonable time. People hate it when they send you a message and you don't respond. It makes you look unprofessional. Generally people will expect to hear back from you within two days. If the email is a request that you aren't able to complete at this time, at least acknowledge the email and give them an idea of when you will be able to meet the request.
Use BCC and CC appropriately. Nobody appreciates unnecessary email; it's a waste of time and sometimes it causes you to miss messages that you actually need to read. Before you CC someone on an email, stop to consider if they actually require this information. Be particularly careful if you are sending your co-worker an email with a CC to their supervisor. In some cases this is appropriate but it may (understandably) make your co-worker feel threatened. Generally BCC is used when you are sending an email to a group of people who don't know each other. It is considerate because you are keeping their email address private. There may be an occasion when you need to send someone an email with a BCC to a supervisor or a co-worker but be careful with this as it could be perceived as a sneaky move.
Consider if an email is appropriate. Some conversations are better to have in person or over the phone. If you are trying to communicate something that is long and complicated, your meaning may get lost over email. If the topic is emotionally charged, it might be better to have a conversation. Don't always default to sending an email; take a moment to consider whether or not it is the right way to communicate your message.
Take pride in your email. Your email is a reflection of you. When you consider that a lot of your workplace communication takes place over email, it makes sense that your email messages impact the way that people perceive you. Proofread your email to ensure that there are no problems with your spelling or grammar. Also, make sure that your emails are both professional and warm.
Email communication can be tricky because it's easy to forget that there is a person on the other end of the computer screen. However, if you always behave professionally, you shouldn't get into too much trouble. Whenever you feel like email isn't working for you, pick up the phone or talk to your colleague in person; there is no better way to build a relationship with your co-workers.
(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)