Emails in the Workplace
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Electronic mail use is rapidly becoming more commonplace in the business world than a telephone call. The speed, cost, and flexibility of electronic mail have made electronic mail the definitive choice for todays business communications. McCune (1997) stated, “E-mail, otherwise known as electronic mail, is the latest corporate communications tool” (p. 14). Employees today are turning more to e-mail than to their telephones and fax machines for communication. This new high-tech form of communication brings a new set of guidelines and potential problems for employees and employers: e-mail etiquette, e-mail overload, and e-mail harassment. To prevent potential problems, e-mails in the workplace should adhere to business guidelines.
One business guideline employees should adhere to limits the number of non-work related e-mail sent and received while at work. Today, many employees receive an overwhelming number of e-mails which can cause e-mail overload. Ingham (2003) explained that “E-mail overload occurs when the number of e-mails being sent and received becomes too difficult to manage, overwhelming the user” (p.166). Due to the speed and low overhead of e-mail communications, e-mailing has become the preferred method of communication for most businesses. Most work-related e-mails are short business-related notes, memos, and reminders to and from coworkers which are easily managed. However, when employees start e-mailing coworkers personal notes they can distract from their coworkers work at hand. Personal employee e-mails are time-consuming to respond to and read. Many employees also share humorous and chain e-mails with coworkers. Humorous and chain e-mails only add to the number of e-mails in an employees inbox. Beyond business-related e-mails, employees receive e-mails from friends and family. These personal matters also distract an employee from work related matters. Employees who use their work e-mail addresses for personal matters also often receive unsolicited spam mail. To avoid e-mail overload, employees should strive to minimize the number of personal e-mails they compose and accept at their work address. By limiting themselves to work related matters employees can avoid e-mail overload and be more productive with their work time.
Another business guideline for employees is to follow appropriate etiquette rules in business e-mail communications. Understanding the rules of business e-mail etiquette is rapidly becoming an unstated required skill for employees. E-mail is the latest trend in corporate communication tools (McCune, 1997). Employees who use e-mail for communication must understand that they are representing the company for which they work. Every e-mail communication sent by an employee reflects back on the company. If an e-mail is poorly worded or composed, the e-mail will reflect negatively on the business. McCune (1997) has pointed out some of the basic business e-mail etiquette rules: knowing when to use e-mails, keeping e-mails short, being businesslike, and responding quickly. Employees who send concise e-mails are more productive. Interoffice e-mails can expedite communications and response times only when they are free from irrelevant information. McCune (1997) explained how interoffice e-mails should be sent following the form of a memo versus a lengthier personal letter. Quick responses to e-mails enable employees to complete tasks in a more efficient timeframe. Overall, employees are more productive and professional when they follow basic business e-mail etiquette rules.
The most important business guideline employees should follow is strict adherence to workplace harassment rules within e-mail