Monday, December 18

Professional Email

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Professional email dos and don’ts

The email you use to correspond with Aunt Shirley about recipes and family gossip can be as informal, ungrammatical, and long-winded as you care to make it. Company email, however, is an entirely different matter.

A single email should be on one subject only, and that subject should be stated in the “Subject” line. The placement seems obvious, but too many internal emails use a subject line that gives little or no information about the actual subject matter. You are busy, but so is everybody else. If your subject line is vague or general, the recipient may not be able to easily locate the email if she needs it at a later date. As for having only one subject per email, it is easier for you if you cover several topics in a single email and thus rapidly dispose of many issues you want to discuss. But how does the recipient store that message (and find it later) if it covers several subjects? Should it be placed in the folder for training for coaches, or the one for official company policy concerning breaks, or the one for agents who are at risk?

An email option you should probably never use is “Reply to all”. Many emails that you receive are being sent to a number of employees, sometimes a lot of employees. If your reply is intended only or primarily for the sender, then just hit “Reply”. Copies of emails are often sent to managers but their address is not listed on the email you receive. Hiding the address of some recipients is a simple chore to perform but it can create problems if your response goes to someone you never intended to send it to. Stay away from “Reply to all” unless you are certain that is what you want to do.

Keep your correspondence on a professional level. Remember that company emails are every bit as much company documents as invoices and payroll reports. If the company has some legal difficulty down the road, emails can and will be subpoenaed. Anything you may have said that could be misconstrued can be used against your company. Any statement that might be considered racist, sexist, or derogatory of some religious organization will be used to put your employer in a bad light. Make all of your messages concise, stick to the subject at hand, and never say anything you would not like to defend in court. Emoticons are a lot of fun when you are corresponding with your friend. They have no place in professional email and should not be used.

If a policy has been put in place or a major change in an existing policy has occurred, and you find yourself extremely irritated by the new policy, you may have an urge to fire off an email on what a bad decision it was to make this change. Do not do it. Never send an email when you are angry. Inflammatory statements cannot be retracted. If the new policy upsets you, take some time to think about it. A single message sent in the heat of the moment can spoil your chances for promotion. Executives take a dim view of “loose cannons”, so wait until you can write a calm, rational email.

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