By J Wilberg
It’s news to no one that people are emboldened to say things in writing that they would never say in person. The scorching email is a case in point. But most of us are beyond the flame thrown message. Now the email game is much more sophisticated and nuanced. Even if you’re straightforward, to the point, and non-manipulative via email, it doesn’t mean your colleagues are.
My list of what I consider really bad email manners grows every day. Some new offenses:
Having a personal gripe with an individual and cc’ing their supervisor without first giving the individual the opportunity for dialogue and clarification;
Getting a personal email from someone and replying in a hostile way with cc’s to colleagues and supervisors;
Forwarding a person’s email without his/her permission to people he/she never intended to send it to;
Intentionally including marginally involved but powerful people on an email list as a way to posture and position oneself; and
Treating email as a communication process conducted totally divorced from face to face communication so that email becomes a separate but parallel universe much like Facebook is for most professional folks.
If you’ve spent any time working in a large organization (and were successful), you probably know how to play office politics. The next generation of email warfare is a couple of steps above that. Words are powerful; incendiary. Email empowers people who are good with words and know how to maneuver.
What are my solutions? It’s pretty simple. I give the same advice I gave my kids when one would mercilessly taunt the other. Don’t take the bait. But, also, don’t be the lone sheep in a wolf den. Be smart but above it all. Don’t allow people to use your words against you. This means, in the end, you should be as careful about what you say and how you say it via email as you would in a meeting sitting across the table from someone.
It’s tough, I know, but it can be done. You’ll be ahead of the game because you don’t play the game, if you get my drift.
Here’s a good resource on email etiquette: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/email-etiquette.html