Email Etiquette at Work: The Top 7 Rules Achievers Follow
Just because you can open Outlook and click “send” doesn’t mean you’re qualified to use email as a business tool. Maintaining a professional image includes communicating effectively, and that, of course, includes emails.
Email is a powerful communication tool and these email etiquette rules will give you a fail-proof guide to help you build long-lasting and effective relationships. Here is how top achievers use email strategically and smartly.
The problem with email!
When we communicate in person or on the phone, we pick up on nonverbal cues like facial expressions, physical gestures, and vocal tone to guide our conversation.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman argues that we develop a “negativity bias” when we communicate with email. This means that we have the tendency to downgrade the positive intent of an email when we receive it.
In other words, when we send a positive email, the receiver will feel neutral about it and when we send a neutral message, the recipient will feel negative about it.
Email Etiquette Rule no1: Be your best self
We get busy and a lot of us are guilty of using emails as a transactional tool. We give directives, provide answers and are focused on ticking things off our extensive to do list. It’s even worse when we send emails on the go from our mobile devices – as if they strip us from basic human qualities.
We need to remember there’s a person at the receiving end – whether that person is a colleague, a boss, a direct report, a prospect or a client. These are people we rely on to get things done, to buy something from us – people we need to get buy-in from.
Email is a relationship building tool, not just a transactional tool. Use it wisely and make friends with each and every email. It means using the same words and voice you’d use with a friend, with care and respect. We need to focus on the person before we focus on the task at hand.
I want to do business with a company that treats emailing me as a privilege, not a transaction.
American designer, speaker, and writer interested in systems, complexity, and learning.
Email Etiquette Rule no2: Elevate your relationship -Amp up positivity and care
You can build, grow, elevate any relationship via email.
Expressing appreciation and saying “thank you” is one of the single most sustainable ways to make employees feel valued and motivate them.
Try to start your email by appreciating some aspect of the work they’ve already done.
Thanks for pulling everything together on such short notice.
This provides a great starting point for our discussion.
We are thrilled to have you onboard and this is exactly why we need you.
A simple, “Great job! Appreciate it” goes a long way. It enables receptivity, likeability and connection.
Everyone likes being recognized. Look for ways to show appreciation and communicate it with simple words like:
Thanks for your help today.
What a great idea!
Thanks for asking!
What if you’ve received a loaded and negative email?
You’ve got two options. You could reply with another inflamatory email or take on a leadership position and diffuse the situation. Is there something you can say that acknowledges the situation and calm things down.
Yes, you’re right this should not have happened.
Thank you for letting me know and I can look into this for you
Thanks for being open and transparent about how we can do better for you.
Taking the time to show empathy and encouragement in your emails can actually make you more efficient. Your clients and colleagues are much more likely to respond to requests if they feel like you’re on their side.
Email Etiquette Rule no3: Give clear and actionable recommendations
Give your recipient clear and constructive feedback that’s focused on how they can move forward.
Stay away from broadly critical statements in favour of providing specific direction as to how the work could be changed for the better.
Think of it as adopting a more improv-like “yes and” approach. For example, you might say:
This presentation is headed in the right direction, and if we can pare it down to 10 slides we’ll be in great shape.
As opposed to: This presentation is way too long.
This two-hour meeting was almost as productive as a single, well-written email
4.Email Etiquette Rule no4: Celebrate the small wins
Small and incremental wins can do wonders for our motivation and boost our self-confidence. Just like the big wins do.
This is because every achievement — big or small — activates our brain’s reward centre which releases testosterone and dopamine to leave us feeling energized, confident and motivated.
The human brain likes to feel a sense of completion; people are always more motivated when the end is in sight.
Framing a request in terms of completing a milestone or some other small step can be helpful. Put the request on a timeline and show progress so your recipient understands, If you do this, we will be moving forward.
Email Etiquette Rule no5: Open up possibilities with the word “yet.”
It you have to give feedback and things are not where you want them to be, add the word “yet” to the end of your sentences. Adding that simple word will open up possibilities and help the recipient keep on moving forward.
“These designs are not where I want them to be.”
“These designs are not where I want them to be yet.”
As psychologist Carol Dweck has argued, by adding that one tiny word you put the recipient on a timeline of learning and achievement rather than making them feel like a failure.
Email Etiquette Rule no6: Use CC effectively
The CC field in an email allows the sender to send a “carbon copy” of the email to someone apart from the recipient in the To: field of the email. The CC field in email lets you keep recipients in the loop. They are not expected to take any action or reply to the message.
Email Etiquette Rule no7: Control “Flaming”
The definition of a flaming email is a hostile and insulting interaction between email users, often involving the use of profanity.
The anatomy of a flaming email can be made up of any (or all) of the following:
Words comprised of all uppercase letters
Excess use of exclamation marks
Profanity and complete disrespect
Sending a flaming email might feel good for a split second, getting back at that person but it won’t be long before you get a feeling of dread.
To avoid this situation, try this instead:
– Save the message as a draft.
– Return to your email the next day
– Put yourself in the shoes of your receiver
– Review and edit
This could save you a couple of hours, days, or even weeks of headache and trouble.
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