Email has become the de facto standard for business communications. It is on our desktop, our laptop and our phone. For this reason email has become the new form of “on the record” types of communications within organizations, thus like everything else subject to politics.
Office politics within an organization seems to be an unavoidable part of the job. Many have an agenda, turf to protect or use it for self-promotion or their own goals. When it comes to email you have probably seen plenty of office politics being carried out.
What I have found interesting is how people use email or avoid using it when it comes to going “on the record”. Okay so this is a little pet peeve rant, but I deal with these two types of people on a daily basis and I am sure I am not the only one.
Those Who Avoid It
These are people who refuse to answer an email because they know it will then be on the record. You email someone asking if something should be done or if something happened. You get no reply at all or later they will answer you face-to-face, usually with no witnesses around. Deniability.
To be honest these people annoy me. They are trying to protect themselves or escape responsibility. If you have so little faith in the decisions that you make or answers that you give that you avoid putting them in an email, you probably should not be in the position you are in.
I work in a ever changing environment and these people slow me down. I have learned who they are so when they do not answer the email I go and hunt them down so they can answer in private. At least that way I can get on with my job. I may even send them an email afterwards like “Just to confirm our earlier conversation…” They hate that.
Those Who Cover Their Ass With It
Then there are people who will not give you any answer face-to-face. They only respond via email. When you ask them something face-to-face they will tell you “Let me get back to you on that” or some other excuse not to answer. Later you will get an email along the lines of “Per our earlier conversation…..”.
These are the people who want to go on the record with everything. They know email is forever in a business environment so they carefully craft their answer. They sometimes even carbon copy half the company to be sure everyone knows exactly what they said. Another annoyance of mine.
I agree there are times when you want to have an official record to avoid the “I did not tell you to do that” issues. However there are some who hinder communications because they adhere to the philosophy affectionately known as covering your ass in all circumstances.
You can go ahead and give me the answer now and later you can send me the email to CYA, but don’t make me wait or worse not answer me at all.
Watch What You Write
While I wanted to touch on the politics of email, there is something very important you should take away about email.
For some time now courts have included email and text messages as “documents”. Electronic discovery requests have become more common in lawsuits against companies. For this reason you should be VERY careful with your emails so you do not write something that is against company policy or that could land you in legal hot water.
For some email is a casual form of communications and since it is not face-to-face they may say things they would not normally say. You should never put anything in an email you would not want a reporter, a jury or your boss to read.
- If your company does not have an email policy leadership should contact a lawyer or their in-house legal team and create one.
- You should never include anything that could be seen as discriminatory, that violates employment law or reveals confidential information.
- If you are in management you should make sure all of your reports are aware of the company email policy. If you see an inappropriate email you should immediately speak with the individual about it and record the fact that you spoke with them about the issue in their performance log for your own protection.
- Just because you delete an email does not mean it is gone. Don’t think you can email someone and tell them to delete it after reading it and it will be gone. It is still in the EVault.
Do you have any email pet peeves?