The Trouble with Email – The need for rules

I have a love hate relationship with email.

The hate bit is not with the platform per se but with its misuse.

I abhor the way people treat it like Exocet missiles when they fire and forget a task onto the next person. This is the sort of person you don’t want to hire. Someone who says they have done a good day’s work when they have cleared their inbox.

The sort of person who gets delegated a task and then in turn emails a load of people (internal/external). When the boss chases on the status of the action the reply is “I have sent out an email”.  Job done then. This is the sort of person who calls you or walks up to your desk and says “I sent you an email.”

You are so not on my not to hire list I think to myself as they stand there with the look of a Michael Palin from the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

the trouble with email

the trouble with email

The Love bit: At the same time email is fabulous as a group communications tool. Effective one way messaging.

It is a great for working across different time zones, akin to playing a remote game of chess.  When you are in the same time zone and start pinging to a colleague or friend I always pick up the phone.

Then there is spam. How the ? did I end up on your email distribution list? Apparently Spam is declining, but not in my experience and you are always guaranteed a deluge of unsolicited correspondence after attending a conference.

Then there is some sort of perverted Moore’s law where the more you clear the more you get.

And you know what this diatribe highlights is the issue itself. There is too much variability and not enough standardisation or “rules” by which we should all conform when it comes to email.

It is too loose.

How many of you have tried to enforce an email policy at work by which you put prefixes like ‘action’ or even bizarrely ‘read’ in the header. Works for a week then people revert to individual behaviour.

Is this one of the reasons why text messaging, Facebook, Twitter or even IM have been adopted at such a voracious rate? Some people complain at the lack of flexibility of Twitter but that is what makes it successful.

Future gazing it is most probable that email will be overhauled. There are already things happening in this area and start-up companies looking to capture an opportunity.

How many of you read an email that needs a mouse click to take you below the fold of your screen?




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