Our CEO was at the auditorium’s podium for the monthly leadership team meeting. In his wrap up portion, he would routinely comment to the 100 leaders who were present about what was covered. This time, he added something that was off the agenda. I don’t recall each word, but his message was,

Please stop copying me in on your e-mails as a method of communication. If you think I will read it and you have covered yourself by letting me know, you are wrong. I won’t have read it. If you believe it’s significant and I need to be aware, make an appointment to see me and let me know.But please stop copying me in on e-mails.”

E-mail is the #1 method of communication in business settings. Yes, chat tools and project management tools are gaining, but they haven’t yet caught e-mail. It can be an excellent tool for communicating, especially with the increase in staff working remotely. Yet it can also be misused.

Be a good communicator and avoid these with e-mail.

CC to everyone – You haven’t “covered yourself” by copying in your leader and others on an e-mail. You’ve done the opposite. You’ve highlighted to a group of people you don’t recognize what is truly significant and what isn’t, as well as how to communicate. You are also disrespectful of other people’s time, giving them something additional to read. There’s a subliminal message to, “I’m insecure” in my own abilities and want everyone to validate what I’m thinking.

There’s another side to copying others. Yes, there are leaders who want to or demand to be CC’d on many e-mails. If you, I think you may be trying too hard to be in control. It’s not healthy for anyone. Don’t do it.

It doesn’t complete a task – If you’ve been asked to follow up on something, don’t let your answer be, “I sent them an e-mail”. Wrong. Following up means talking with someone, in person or electronically, i.e., phone, Zoom, Teams, etc.

Reply “all” – A leader sends out an e-mail to everyone in the department praising the work of a staff member on a special project. Then, someone in the department hits “reply all” and adds their congratulations, which of course everyone reads and thinks to themselves, “maybe I need to do it too”. The next thing you know there are 20 additional e-mails to read. Stop it. If you want to say congratulations, send it only to the person, call them, or visit them. Hitting “reply all” is saying “look at me and what I’m doing.” It’s wasteful.

You never know where it will go – I’ve witnessed countless problems caused by an e-mail written in haste or in anger. Why? Because it’s a digital record that can be forwarded to anyone. Your words and the tone will never die. There is no such thing as “it was confidential between us.” If you put it in an e-mail, it’s not confidential. Take time to write what you believe needs to be communicated and before you hit “send”, proofread to make certain you would be comfortable with anyone reading it.

Untimely response or no response– Be courteous to everyone and respond in a timely manner. That means, stay on top of your e-mail. For most of the world, timely is by the next day or at most two days. When you don’t respond at all, you might get what you want least, another e-mail because the other person doesn’t know if you received it or not. Prioritize your e-mail responses and focus first those where a response is requested or required. Not responding says two things to me: 1) I’m so disorganized that I can’t keep up with my e-mail or 2) I think I’m more important than you, so I’ll respond if or when I want. Is that what you want me to think?

Communication is important, do it in a respectful way.

Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful. Proverbs 16:24

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