[This is a repost from my tech blog, Technically Speaking]
If you're like me, and you can't stand the sight of ol' SMTP being abused, I've included some tips on how to teach the abuser a lesson :). This is just my list of email habits, feel free to add more by posting comments.
- Misusing the CC field - Type 1
Some people think that if they CC somebody's boss on every email message requesting action, they can get a quicker response. For something that's really critical or important, this is good. But CCing the boss on every diminutive email request is just too much. Too many such "CC" e-mails to the sender's manager is annoying for the manager too, and the manager might eventually stop reading emails from you (or even worse, administer a quick issue of the DEL key) every time you send a message. Your email eventually loses importance might get ignored even when it really is urgent. In the IT world, we can even see users doing this for things as trivial as getting access to a shared folder on the file server.
What can I do?
If you are the recipient, do not give the sender an impression that you are expediting on the sender's low-priority request just because your boss is CC'd on it. Give priority to those other low-priority requests that have been directly sent to you by others and action them first (even if they came after the abuser's email). If you can afford to do it, action this particular email request at the end of the day. When you reply to this sender, do not CC your boss.
- Misusing the CC field - Type 2
And there are some other senders, who mark a CC to every son of Adam whenever they send an email message. If the motive of the email is to advertise about an achievement of the sender (often in a subtle way), this is perhaps done to show the world that the sender is worth his salary. If the motive of the email is to point out a fault concerning one of the recipients, then this most likely shows arrogance on part of the sender.
What can I do?
If the motive of the email is to communicate something which does not directly concern you - it is best to ignore it - if you can't take it any longer, pick up the phone, and ask the sender nicely to stop marking you on such emails. If several of the recipients do the same thing, the sender will gradually come to terms with the idea. If the motive of the email is genuine and if you need to respond to it, make sure you remove all the unnecessary recipients after hitting 'Reply to all'. This will reduce the number of recipients in the remaining part of the thread, and most likely prove a point to the sender.
The BCC field is a mistake. It shouldn't have been there in the first place.
Users, be aware that your email administrator can and will be able to see whom you are marking on BCC.
- Responding when you are angry/frustrated
This can make things very ugly. There is no worse feeling than wishing that you had never sent an email - two hours later. Think twice before typing an email. This is going to be a permanent record in the pages of history. Think of email like a gun. Once you pull the trigger (hit Send), there is no turning back.
What can I do?
Do not hit 'Reply' as soon as you finish reading a provocative e-mail. Sit back, relax, take a deep breath and reply later when you are 'yourself' again.
- Using email instead of the phone
Using the phone for minor things can be faster than sending an email. Some people tend to think that sending an email increases the priority of the matter. However, in the real world, people are not always glued to their Outlook and may not (or choose not to) see your message till you call them :).
What can I do?
Accept the fact that email is not a replacement for the telephone. Period.
- Read receipts
A read receipt is a cool feature designed with a purpose - it tells the sender when and if you have read the message. So, use it! Some people (usually managers) do not like to send read receipts when they receive email. The justification might be "who is this guy to ask me if read my email?!". On the other hand, some people configure Outlook to always ask for a read receipt on every email they send. That's a terrible waste of a good email feature.
What can I do?
Respond positively to all read receipts. Avoid configuring Outlook to automatically request read receipts for every email you send. It is annoying!
- Overdoing the Out-of-Office reply
Out-of-Office reply messages are really cool too. They let the sender know that you're not in town so they need not expect an immediate reply. It can also be used to direct the sender to contact someone else. However, some people use the Out-of-Office to write essays to explain at great lengths what they are up to and what's missing in the organization because they are gone. I guess this is done by some users to show the boss (and everyone else) that they are taking care of a lot of responsibilities - the work of four men, etc. Oh please!
Example of a good Out-of-Office message:
I will be out of office from May 27th, 2008 to June 26, 2008 and I will be having limited access to my email during this period. For any urgent matters, please contact Mr. Humpty Dumpty on 050-123-456 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
Example of a bad Out-of-Office message:
I will be on vacation at a beach resort in Hawaii from May 27th, 2008 to June 26, 2008. I will be having limited access to my email during this period.
Please contact the following people during my absence:
For matters concerning cabbage and cauliflower, please contact Jack Thompson.
For reporting rotten cauliflower, please contact Charlie Brown.
For issues related to onions and garlic, please contact John Smith.
For issues related to onions without leaves, please contact Charlie Brown.
For issues related to onion skin, please contact Jack Thompson.
For anything related to vegetables, please contact John Smith.
For queries related to legumes, please contact Charlie Brown.
Anything else related to food that grows on plants, please contact Jack Thompson
What is this? An IVR system? The sender could have also added one more line - "If you are confused, wait till I come back, because I'm THE MAN".
- Empty Meeting Requests
If you send a meeting request, you are requesting time from other people - which is valuable. Make sure you have a darn good reason for throwing a meeting and mention it in your request. Write a brief note on the meeting - use the OARRs rule: Objective, Agenda, Roles and Responsibilities. There's nothing more ridiculous than receiving an empty meeting request and you end up reaching the venue wondering what the whole meeting is about. And when you reach there, you find other attendees in your very same, clueless, sorry situation.
- Using crazy shortcuts and too many smileys
Using abbreviations like ASAP, FYI, FYA are well-accepted and good. Avoid using words like 'coz', 'bcz', 'pls', 'thx', 'thnx', 'LOL', etc. These might be good to use in a chat session, but not in a formal email message. Also make sure your email is well-punctuated and easy to read. Do not use more than one smiley per formal message. Read your mail once to see if it makes sense and run a spell check before hitting 'Send'.
- Sending chain mail
Sending a few impressive emails is good and keeps cheer in the workplace. It also helps build conversation at the water cooler and in the coffee room. But please don't overdo it. Do not keep sending every trash that you receive from the internet - especially the ones that ask you to 'send this message to 500 people in 3 days otherwise your momma's gonna die'.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you have come across more email habits by posting a message below.