Business people know that most things they put in writing can be relied on as proof of what happened. Email is often relied on for legal matters, to demonstrate a promise made, or information that was misguided. It’s a good idea for all organizations to remind employees and stakeholders:
Email is great, especially to request or confirm information—however, a conversation is often faster and more easily understood. Conversation can inspire great ideas, it can enhance business relationships and help solve problems quickly. With email, it can become easy to avoid interactions, and may lead to the dreaded send-wait-reply, and send again. When possible, talk in person or pick up the phone to finalize the matter.
If content is private, re-think how it should be delivered. If you choose to send confidential information via email, find out who else may read the message and how it’s being stored. An email you may think is confidential may not be to the recipient—it can easily be forwarded.
Email is not an ideal method to address a concern or serious problem. It’s a great tool to use when following-up, as long as there has been prior communication. For example, H.R. may want to remind an employee of a performance discussion (“this is to confirm our conversation about…” but they may not want to use email as means to reprimand for the first time with no understanding of the context. In the same vein, if a disgruntled customer expresses concern via email, it’s ideal to call them and address their issues over the phone. Sometimes people have “keyboard courage” (the tendency to vent excessively behind a keyboard) but are much more polite or rational when having a verbal discussion.
You don’t have to share your email address with every person who asks for it. You can give an old email address that you don’t use, or say “I prefer not to give out my email.” The goal is to avoid getting spam emails and unwanted ads at work. You can set-up a free, disposable email to help with this—try mailinator.com or 10minutemail.com.