There are a lot of hilarious instances, which comes to my mind when the topic of email etiquette surfaces. I recollect reading an email (which went viral in our office), addressed to a ‘Jacket’. Here’s what the mail had to say-
“Hi Jacket – Please look into the priority ofthe issue, which the development has sent us. Need to get back to them by threw.
The actual content of the email was-
“Hi Jasmeet – Please look into the priority of the issue which the development has sent us. Need to get back to them by tmrw.
Lesson learnt- using the autocorrectfunctionalityin emails without proof reading it can cause massive damage to your linguistic reputation. Also, we should be careful while drafting the emails. Do not try to save Nano seconds by using abbreviations, text messaging or shortcuts in the official emails. In the above email shortcuts to two simple words (‘tomorrow’ and ‘Regards’) invoked the autocorrect functionality to disastrous results. So avoid shortcuts to avoid embarrassment.
There was another incidence when I was leading a project and one of my team members emailed me requestingforleave during a time when the project deadline was approaching.
It read, “ I will be unavailable tomorrow due to some personal emergency. I need to get my cooking gas cylinder replaced. I need to stand in the queue for hours as the supply is short”.
The CC was marked to my boss, my boss’s boss and the director of our product group.
Though I appreciated the guy’s honesty, I had to take a moment’s pause trying to understand his ‘personal emergency’. Precisely, at that time my boss came out of his chamber and called me in to understand why he, his boss and the director are being marked in the email. I was speechless.
The moral of this email- keep your personal stories out of your official emails (though it is okay to share the details with your boss verbally, if required). Also, do not mark people in CC when they are not required in the loop. Such emails will be directed to the junk folders of the non-stakeholders. Keep matters simple.
I recollect another situation when I had totally forgotten about a task, as it had seemed unimportant at the time it came to me. I was working on a global technology-consultingproject, where the stakeholders were from different countries. A majority of our project work was with US and Europe. A small part of the work was being done for Japan. At the beginning of the requirement analysis phase, an extract of the email from the Japanese client read –
“Please look into the requirements which are listed in the attached MS excel file. We will need most of them towards the second phase of the project and not now. In the first phase of the project (currently underway) we mostly have ‘good to have’ requirements and need not be treated as ‘must have’. Kindly arrange for a meeting to discuss it”.
At first, I was delighted to read to email. I did open the content of the excel file and checked that there are no ‘must have’ requirements in the current phase of the project. Then I replied that I would arrange for a meeting soon and I forgot about it. There was no reply from my Japanese counterpart for the next six months – almost till the end of the first phase. One Friday morning, when I was in the best of my Friday mood I opened my inbox, and there I could see an email marked with the ‘Important’ flag. I opened the reply after six months. An extract of the email was as below(the first line was in red font color and in bold)
“ Why has a meeting been not arranged with us till now? This project is coming to a closure and we have been completely left out from the discussions in first phase of this project. We want this to be matter to be escalated.”
I underestimated my Japanese friends. With my Friday mood being replaced by embarrassment, I briskly walked to my boss’s cabin knowing fully well that he was the only firefighter who could save me. After a couple of conference calls with the Japanese client, the matter was finally put to rest and there was respite for me. Thankfully, my boss was supportive and he knew how to handle the escalation.
That incident taught me few important lessons regarding email etiquettes, which I would like to share in this post.
- Always close email loops even if they seem unimportant. In the above case, had I closed the loop six months back; I could have saved myself the embarrassment of an escalation.
- Never make an open-ended reply in an email. In the above case I replied the initial email from the client saying that I will arrange for a meeting ‘soon’. Rather, I should have mentioned a date and a time for the meeting in the email.
- Never reply an email in haste. If Ihad replied the escalation in a hurry I could have done more damage. I did the right thing by discussing it with my boss. The calls (in place of emails), which we made to the client, seemed to pacify them. The email was replied only after that.
- The next time a mail written in bold and red font is received; understand that the person is literally shouting at you at the top of his voice. However, it is not the best way to vent your anger and is not advisable to draft an email in that manner.
There are times when we get upset by reading an email- especially by the choice of words being used in the content. One such incident happened when I read the below email from one of my clients with whom I shared a wonderful rapport.
“Why is the issue not resolved till now? Please send the resolution by today afternoon.”
The background to this email is very simple. There was a minor error committed by one of the team members in the weekly update report. I had to rectify and resend it. I already spoke about it to the client about an hour back in a teleconference.
At first, when I got the email, I got upset because-I found the email to be in reprimanding tone and I felt I was singled out for no mistake of mine. However, my better sense prevailed and I chose to call the client. He spoke to me in a very amicable manner and he told me that he was waiting on me as his boss is expecting the report post lunch.
I understood, that there was nothing personal in the email. Sometimes, people are so worked up that they do not pay much attention to minute details while drafting an email. The matter ended there. In your work life, if you get any emails, which offend you, make sure you think twice before replying it in a befitting manner.
Those were some of the incidents, which I wanted to share regarding email etiquettes. Mostly, I have mentioned about the common mistakes, which we make in our day-to-day lives. Hope this proves to be helpful to all the readers of this post.