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Face it: Everybody has gripes about work and the boss.
And sometimes we “share the pain” with co-workers, family and friends.
But, generally, we don’t send the equivalent of a 1,700-word Molotov cocktail to more than a thousand co-workers and customers.
That’s essentially what happened earlier this year in Arlington County, when a local school principal announced her resignation via an e-mail to 1,200 parents and teachers. The e-mail contained some choice words about her boss (who would be the school superintendent.) As you can imagine, the e-mail went viral and the principal now isn’t even allowed back on the school campus.
What this speaks to is the broader concept of your e-EQ: E-mail Emotional Quotient.
We all have an IQ, of course. And there is a niche science which involves the study of what’s called “emotional intelligence.” Your e-EQ (yes, I did in fact completely make up this term) reflects how effectively you present your intellectual and emotional savvy within your e-communications.
It’s important as professionals to get a good self-assessment on this because we’re apparently e-communicating more often than we’re actually talking these days: We send an estimated 294 billion e-mails and 5 billion text messages a day. To be fair, a great deal of this is spam. Still, my fingers are getting sore just thinking about all of that typing.
And it’s also painful to think of how often we expose ourselves professionally when we let our guard down during an e-exchange. Sometimes, we get emotional. Or we simply don’t think while we’re pecking away at the keys. To avoid this, keep these simple, best practices in mind:
“Store” don’t “send” when angry. Sure, you’ll lose your temper every once in a while. But EWA (E-Mailing When Angry) impairs your judgment. Store the message. Back away from the computer, slooowly. Find a place to chill out, and then re-read your e-mail with a cooler head before responding. Similarly, if you’re on the receiving end of an emotional e-correspondence, don’t get drawn into a brewing battle. Offer understanding and compassion instead to present yourself as the higher-minded, more professional exec.
Limit the CC. No, every single colleague, manager and senior exec within your department does not need to be Cced on Every. Single. Thing. If you develop a reputation as a “serial Ccer,” recipients will press the “delete/ignore” button. Besides, think about it: The more folks you CC for a project-focused e-mail, the more people you’ve introduced who can present barriers to your objectives.
Limit e-mail “shortcuts.” We all love’em. (As in, LMK for “Let me know.”) But communications loaded with shortcuts makes you appear undisciplined with respect to your usage of language. Also, pick your spots with respect to whom you’re sending a shortcut-loaded e-mail. (Co-workers are usually fine. C-level execs? Not so much.) And don’t get me started on using the ubiquitious “LOL” and “IMHO” for business-related exchanges.
Have a nice thing to say. Even when you must send a critical e-mail, the message will be far easier to digest if you include some positive observations. Keep criticism business-focused, objective and constructive as possible. If performance improvement is needed, try to establish measurable goals.
Know when to unplug. E-communications should enhance conversational interaction, not replace it. Marathon digital conversation strings may lead to misunderstandings of intent/needs. Get a sense of when it’s time to stop pecking away and pick up the phone. Or, better yet, walk over to that person’s space for an informal “knock knock.”
What it comes down to in the end is being able to maintain a sensible e-EQ. That’s especially important here at our hi tech PR agency. The consequences of an ill-advised e-communication can be far more negative and detrimental to your career than you initially comprehend. So the next time you have the urge to rant or call someone out, think twice before you hit send.
Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for Welz & Weisel Communications.