Communications 3/16/2015

Why Emails Don’t Work

An article at got my attention this past week. It was titled, “Why business writing doesn’t communicate.” It was an interview with Phil Simon the writer of seven management books, including “Message Not Received: Why Business Communications Is Broken and How to Fix It” which was recently released. I’ve downloaded the book and am anxious to read it.

Simon points out what we all know…companies have become too dependent on email as their primary form of communication. Yes, it’s inexpensive. Yes, it’s timely. But when employees are inundated with hundreds, if not thousands of emails a day, you have to ask yourself, “Is it effective?”

Instead of a simple one minute phone call or stopping by a fellow employee’s cubicle, folks feel the urge to put their thoughts in writing and copy everyone on the team. But are they really communicating? Simon’s book points out some real-world scenarios, “Think about how many misunderstandings could have been averted at your organization if two colleagues had simply engaged in a five-minute in-person conversation or videoconference over Skype. Ask yourself how many technical problems could have been solved with a quick phone call and a simple screen-sharing session. Have you ever missed a truly critical e-mail because it was hidden in your never-ending inbox? Have you even been unable to do your jobs because key documents languished in someone’s inbox or on someone’s hard drive?”

Another common mistake in email is the use of jargon or corporate buzzwords, both of which turn people off. (C’mon…how many of you have ever played business buzzword bingo during a conference call?) Keep in mind, ‘communicate’ means “to make common.” I don’t care how sophisticated your audience may be, when it comes to HR and benefits, the simpler you keep your text, the better.

I’m looking forward to reading Simon’s book to get a better understanding of alternative communication strategies. In the meantime, the next time I get ready to send an email, I’m going to ask myself —Is it clear? Is it concise? Is it necessary? It might be better to just pick up my phone or drop by for a visit.