Given our massive usage of email (according to latest research 63 billion genuine emails are sent daily!) you would imagine that we are all now experts are making the best use of it. Unfortunately I come across problems every day caused through the misuse of email. Some of these are technical but many are actually related to human nature and are very easily remedied.
Here’s my list of the top 7 issues and annoyances when using email:
1. Sending an email when you are annoyed or upset about a situation.
If something has particularly annoyed or upset you then the last thing you should do is send an email to the person you believe to be responsible. An email can never be unwritten and no matter how carefully you think you have worded it there is a high possibility it will be misinterpreted or that you will simply regret it.
If after sleeping on it you still feel that the subject needs to be raised then either call the person on the phone or even better, arrange a face to face meeting.
E-Mail will never be a tool to resolve issues!
2. Not including your contact details in your email.
Obviously the person you send your email to can reply via email, but there are many times when they may prefer to discuss the email with you and those other contact details are very useful.
Ideally you should set up your email Signature to include these details automatically.
3. Sending vague instructions via email
E-mail has become a bit of an excuse for bad management with work being abdicated rather than delegated. If you want to instruct someone using email then I would suggest the following guidelines:
- Ensure you send clear instructions that include who, what and when.
- Ask them to confirm receipt and that they are happy they understand the requirements.
- Make a note to follow up
4. Assuming that the emails are private and secure.
Unless you specifically choose to encrypt your emails then they are not secure and could potentially be read by people you don’t intend. This means you should NEVER send passwords, bank account details or any sensitive information via email.
An even more common and simple mistake that is made is to assume that the recipient you send your email to is the only person that will receive or read it. For example, senior managers and Directors will often ask for their emails to be copied to their secretary.
5. Believing that chain emails are innocent.
It never ceases to amaze me how many intelligent people follow the ubiquitous instructions on spam chain emails “send this email on to at least 10 people to receive good luck”.
As you might expect this is nonsense and these emails are specifically aimed at blocking email servers by causing them to be inundated with too many emails at the same time.
If you receive a chain email just delete it.
6. Opening up attachments from unknown sources.
Billions of spam emails are sent every day (over 100 billion!) and many cause damage by persuading you to open an attached file.
The first rule is never open up any attachment from an unknown source. Just delete the email.
The other thing to look out for are emails from people you know but with a vague message like “Take a look at this, it’s great”. Emails can easily be made to appear as if they are from someone they are not (known as spoofing) so if you’re not expecting an email and it’s vague (i.e. not personal enough to be obviously from that person) then contact them before you open the attachment.
7. Misinterpreting emails.
The fact that email is a written form of communication can cause major problems because the same phrases can be read in different ways. Consider the sentence “I thought I told you to call Jane?” – first say this questioning, almost apologetic manner, as if you think you’ve made a mistake, and then say it in a more aggressive, accusatory manner. When reading this how does the recipient know what you mean?
Generally speaking you should consider the following:
- People often read emails in the same tone as the last conversation you had – so if you had a heated discussion the last time you met but have subsequently forgotten about, beware!
- If the recipient is feeling under pressure then they are more likely to interpret phrases in a negative way
- If in doubt, clearly state how you mean something or just pick up the phone