Off Topic? Emails and Professionalism

So this might turn out to be a rant because I’m a little fed up today. I’m fed up with people handing out their email addresses, as if they are planning on actually being able to be communicated with via said email address, and then blowing me off.

Case in point: I have an individual – okay there are several individuals – who work on the same campus as I do who routinely ignore emails. I’m actually thinking that Vegas might need to start running numbers on the likelihood of these people responding to emails, because it isn’t that they NEVER respond – they respond, but there is absolutely no pattern or reasoning that would enable me to figure out which of my emails will get a response.

I’ve tried setting certain ones as high priority. I’ve tried using catchy subject lines. I’ve tried using boring, but urgent subject lines. I’ve tried keeping the email to the bare minium issue so that a very quick yes or no response is all that is needed. I never know whether my emails are going to be read, let alone acted upon.

Now, I understand that not everyone has embraced the world of email communications (although I cannot imagine why). But my beef is with people who continually pretend to use email communications and then rudely disregard the bulk of what is sent them.

Isn’t there etiquette as it pertains to email? Surely we’ve all heard the DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS OR THEY’LL THINK YOU’RE YELLING AT THEM mantra (oops, sorry, didn’t mean to yell), but what about professionalism? What follows are my suggestions for professionalism in email communications. Add your own by commenting to this post:

1. Do not use text jargon in professional emails. I learn a lot about an individual as soon as I read a professional email with 2day, 4 u, or tamarrow (I never understood that one) in it.

2. Respond to emails promptly. I realize that everyone is busy. I’m busy, too. How many seconds does it take to hit “Reply” then type “I’m a little busy right now, but I’ll get a response to you as soon as possible.”? Try it – I bet you have the time. Last week, I called someone about an email I’d sent to them two weeks ago. I got her voicemail (which she answers less frequently than her email). When I stopped her in the hall later that week, she said “oh, I was in and out of meetings all day.” Okay, so why haven’t you responded to my email or voicemail? I’m in and out of meetings all day every day, yet I still maintain professionalism in my communications.

3. When you receive an email that has multiple recipients, PLEASE do not hit Reply to All and respond.

4. If someone else hits Reply to All and responds, PLEASE do not hit Reply to All and ask them not to hit Reply to All.

5. If someone hits Reply to All and asks people not to hit Reply to All, PLEASE . . . well, you get the picture.

6. Watch what you forward. Most defaults on email applications are set to include the entire text of what is being forwarded, including every email address that it has been previously forwarded to, any text that was sent by a previous forwarder, etc. If you don’t want your boss (or your students, or your children) to see this email someday, do not forward it, because you do not know who might have it forwarded to them on down the line.

7. Think of email as a telephone call or even a face-to-face encounter. If I were standing in front of you asking you a question, would you refuse to respond entirely? If I asked you again, would you just continue about your day without even looking at me? No, that would be rude. Not responding to email communications that include a question or require a response is simply rude.

8. Check your junk email folder often. Many businesses and school districts automatically send legitimate emails directly to junk mail. If you make it a practice to check your junk mail folder at least once a day, you won’t miss an opportunity to communicate with a parent or a client because of this automated system.

Add your rules! Let’s get a standard going!


6 responses to “Off Topic? Emails and Professionalism

  1. If you asked me to do something, I will send you a quick ‘done’ or ‘ok’ e-mail when I’ve completed the task. PLEASE don’t feel the need to ‘Reply’ to that… It just needlessly fills up my e-mail box, wastes my time, and yours (though you probably have nothing better to do if you’re reaching that level of responding! LOL)

    Unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, please delete the text when you hit the ‘Reply’ button. This is especially true if your e-mail goes into a Google Group or listserv. Yes, I DO SO enjoy scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…..

    Keep the Subject line and the content aligned. If you start a new topic when you hit ‘Reply’ then PLEASE ‘Edit’ the Subject line.

    Unless I’m a VERY close friend or you checked with me, PLEASE don’t forward me any jokes, tasteless images, or urban legends. I’d much rather spend the time plucking hairs out of my nose (no, really! LOL….’joking!!!’).

    And if you didn’t already realize it, you better make note of this somewhere…If you send me an e-mail and you ‘bcc’ someone else, IF I do a ‘Reply to All’, guess what? We’ll ALL be able to see who the ‘bcc’er is! Your best bet is to NOT ‘bcc’ anyone, but do a separate e-mail to that individual.

    Hmmmm….geez, I could have done a whole blog post on this as well. Thanks, Cel!

  2. Lots of good suggestions here. Sorry you are having trouble getting your co workers to use email communications. I have had similar rants myself.

  3. You struck a nerve with me because if there’s one thing I can’t tolerate is being ignored if I’ve requested a response. It’s the worst type of passive aggression. I don’t buy it when people say they get too many emails each day to respond because then they are doing something wrong: they either need to do a better job at what they do so there aren’t so many email requests for help, or they need to request assistance or something, but if someone emails you, and you claim to be a professional, you MUST respond, even if its very brief.

    Can you tell I’ve experienced the same thing, repeatedly with the same people?

    I hope you find some resolution and if you do, would you share your success?


  4. Seriously, I can totally empathize with your rage. I am presenting working on a several ongoing projects that require collaboration on the part of several colleagues. I sometimes wait upwards of a week to get a response on something that is actionable. I tried to make this process easier by starting using Google Docs, but they never sign into their Docs and, when I brought this up, I was advised to “send them an e-mail to remind them that I have updated the document.” ARG! It’s not so hard to simply respond with a short, “I received your e-mail, but don’t have time to respond right now. I’ll get back to you [insert date here].”

  5. Please publish these rules and send them out to every single school district. I apparently work with people who think it’s “professional” to send out mass e-mails about incidents that happened with one or two people, instead of just speaking to those people individually.

    Call me crazy, or Anony Mous, but speaking is another form of communication. I agree e-mail is faster, however, sometimes the personal touch is lost in an e-mail.

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