Thursday, December 2, 2010

Email Etiquette

One of the things I seem to spend a lot of time doing is weeding through email.  Some of it is pure junk, which I can usually identify from the sender or subject line and delete without reading.  Some of it is necessary communication.  And then there's the junk that looks like it might be necessary, which requires me to read it to find out that it is a complete waste of time.

For example, I serve on a few boards.  The boards have email lists for communication purposes.  One person sends out a necessary email.  Another person replies.  I open this reply, expecting some sort of relevant interaction.  Instead, I find one of the following things:
- "Thanks."  One word acknowledgement of original email: not necessary.  Especially not necessary to send to the entire board.
- "Thanks.  How was your vacation to Outer Slobovia?"  If you want to have a personal conversation, please do not reply to all.
- Forwarded messages or links to articles.
- Inappropriate comments or confidential statements that were intended to be in a personal email, except that the person sending them didn't pay attention to who was getting the email.  (I recently received an email suggesting an intervention for another board member...who of course is also on the board email list.  Good times.)

So, now I'm a jerk who tells other board members that I don't read their emails, and will stop reading all list emails unless they get their email behavior in order, which I suppose is poor etiquette of another sort.  But seriously, I have email overload.  Personally, I try to send email only when it's necessary.  How do I decide whether it's necessary?  I consider whether I would pick up the phone or send a letter to communicate this information.  If it wouldn't be worth that, it's not email-worthy either.

Yes, I just spent that much time ranting about emails that take up my time.      

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