Conquering Email in the Workplace

Conquering Email in the Workplace
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Updated on 10 November 2014

Conquering Email in the Workplace How the right approach is a key ingredient to your future success.

Whether you are just starting your career or simply settling in at a new environment, the initial adjustment period can be a bit tricky. One important discipline that threatens the spirit of many new hires is deciding how to craft their emails appropriately. And by craft, I am alluding to all factors: the length, tone, style, closing signature and even who to copy. The pressure to fit in, collaborate efficiently, and to ultimately prosper can be daunting and anxiety-inducing. And, worst of all, email is one area of socialization in the workplace that typically comes without training of any kind, relying mostly on sink or swim Darwinism.

So, what is the right way to approach work emails and build your clout when joining a new team? While the best practices vary by trade and culture, here are some guidelines to help you sail the seas of corporate communication with confidence:

Step 1. Master the Objective & Avoid the Subjective

When you start a new job, no matter what your title is, you are essentially still in tryout mode, whether you realize it or not. Your number one goal should be to build trust. To this end, focus your energy on what you can control: proper grammar, etiquette and clarity.

Remember that email is intimate, but it is also very much extremely open to misinterpretation and that you are only granted one first impression with everyone you meet. Because of this, try to avoid symbols, all caps, and slang to reduce confusion and potential misunderstandings.

Finally, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or propose a face-to-face meeting if a thread is dragging on. It will show maturity and is a great way to build trust and solve more complex problems.

Step 2. Modestly Inject Your Personality to Build Your Brand

As a general rule, you won’t likely get in trouble for keeping your tone in emails short and a little dry. But you could almost certainly get in trouble for being a little too cheeky, sarcastic, or for making personal references to something that may have occurred outside of work hours.

This being said, life is short, work is hard, and some calculated humor can go a long way towards building your relationships. Some guidelines:

Rule #1: Know your work culture deeply, and use this as your north star. Rule #2: Make sure you know everyone on the email chain if you go with an inside joke. Rule #3: Never insult a team member, client, or anyone else for that matter. (See rule #4.) Rule #4: Remember that emails are essentially permanent and you are always accountable for what you write!

Step 3. Maintain Your Discipline & Save the Spotlight for Other Mediums

In other words, keep repeating steps 1 and 2 with an understanding that email doesn’t have to work harder than any other medium to build your relationships. Being a rockstar in your work emails is not the same thing as being a rockstar in a meeting or phone call. Keep your writing focused, the grammar correct, and the aspirations high, and you’ll build your credibility one day at a time.

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