Here’s an email quiz for you. Sorry, there are no bonus points for the “right” answer…but your team will thank you. And since I only have one question on the quiz…. this should be pretty easy for you.
Are you the kind of person who:
A) Automatically hits “reply” to an email
B) Automatically hits “reply all” to an email
C) Contemplates who should receive the email, adding/deleting folks as appropriate before sending any reply
If you said “C” I would have to admit that’s my category as well. However, I struggle at times in who I decide to add or delete. Adding people means long bulky email streams are born (and take on a life of their own). Removing people means someone will lose the conversation stream.
Everyone talks about email etiquette but since I’m an engineer I’d like to talk about email logic. What’s the flowchart in your mind’s eye that you walk through for every email that comes across your screen? Do you have a process? For me, here are some of my internal checkpoints I use that may help you the next time you are deciding who to add or delete from an email chain:
Are only the people I’m communicating with directly on this email?
If your CCs: outnumber your TOs: you may need to rethink your communication strategy. Who really needs this information?
Is this an INTERNAL or EXTERNAL email?
In no circumstance should a supplier or customer be copied on an INTERNAL email. As people respond and “add on”, they may not keep track if the email trail is an INTERNAL or EXTERNAL conversation. Admittedly it can get blurry when you’re in a hurry. So take a breath. Keep communication with EXTERNAL business partners separate from INTERNAL only conversations. Keep EXTERNAL in the TO: line of the email. If something is internal only – label it INTERNAL in the subject line.
Who needs this information?
Take the time to ensure your “Reply All” response is appropriate for the reply – check for confidentiality, internal/external considerations, or level of details that maybe only a few need to know. Take the time to think about if additional people need to know. Maybe the originator did not realize someone else was working on the same thing.
And finally, here’s one that I like to call, “The Jeff Foxworthy* Test”… “If you’re email message is shorter than the list of people it’s going to, yoooouu may be an email rubber stamper.” If this is the case you may want to consider using the blind copy option. There are times a group distribution is needed. Why make everyone scroll down through 50 names to read a couple sentences.
There you have it. My little “Email Flowchart” logic on how I process emails. I’m curious what checks/balances you use in your Email flow. Feel free to comment below and let’s help each other out. Thanks.
*Sorry but I can just hear his voice, hence my name for it.