Dealing with Email
The 300 Baud Modem Days
I remember back in the 80’s when I had exclusive access to some very important reporters as only about 50 of us were on MCI Mail and it was sort of a club that we had. We didn’t say it, but we didn’t share our secret as they got pounds of press releases by snail mail daily. If they got an email over a 300 baud modem, they knew it meant something. We only contacted each other when it was important, so no one abused it.
Remember, this was the days of the office memo that got typed on a typewriter and sent around. CC’s were made with carbon paper so it was to tough to abuse it due to the trouble
The Evolution, Email is the new Snail Mail, and Spam King
Later, Outlook, Lotus Notes, Pegasus and a ton of other email clients have come and gone. Email could now even be regarded as the new snail mail, and certainly it’s the king of Spam. Being CC’d or BCC’d on thousands of notes fills up inboxes globally. Many have gone to multiple email addresses to divert off the spam for personal use, but if you work for a company, you’re stuck with that address that is all to easy to find.
So what are the up’s and down’s to email? It can be the only way to reach someone (in a company, a text message or tweet DM is likely faster) if they are in a different timezone or are miles up the corporate ladder for you. So that is good.
Slogging through endless emails that have little impact are a time suck now and you must fight the urge to respond, stopping the chain. There are other downsides which I’ll discuss below.
Email Road Rage
Ranting behind the false curtain of email rather than face to face or calling the person directly. I dubbed this tactic Email Road Rage. All have been the recipient of it or have seen someone go off the deep end, many times later to regret it. Bosses seem to think they have immunity on this, but it inhibits employee behavior and openness via email exchange.
The best executive I’ve worked directly for, Buell Duncan once told me to answer these kind of emails once, and then let it roll off your back like water off a duck. Don’t spend nights letting it keep you up. Deal with it and be done.
While it may be tempting to get into the fray, especially when one is feisty is to defend your position, attack back or go behind the offender’s back describing in unflattering terms what kind of a person would send these emails, the best answer is…..
Don’t Respond Unless Required.
Most email stops when you stop the chain. I get you have to answer the boss, but not joining the fray is the best medicine. I have found this hard to do, but being a Ph.D. in the School of hard knocks, I’ve learned to not answer when at all possible. Don’t explain or defend yourself, just use the del key, the appropriate response. This is true for tweets. I’ve gotten into endless tweetbacks that I wish had never happened. Now I just ignore and I’ve forgotten the next day or someone else is naive enough to get caught into the trap.
Along with don’t answer is don’t send. You can avoid a lot of useless email if you don’t feel the obligation to fire off emails at every whim. I’m learning that lesson also. My inbox thanks me.
The most important time to start going dark is….
I purposely don’t start anything that could bite me while I’m trying to not work. IBM is the poster child for people working on vacation, something I try hard not to do. I got emails from bosses on anniversary vacations, which I’m sure made their spouses happy. The way I see it, the doors to the company will stay open while I’m away. Americans are notorious for not being good vacationers. Not me. I put on that I won’t be checking email until I return.
The key to this is to start slowing down a few days before you leave. This slows the wheels of motion and gets the anonymity going.
While email can be helpful and it certainly is still our main method of communicating, it follows Sturgeon’s law. Life has enough of that anyway, so why add to it?