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10 Email Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

10 Email Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

The way in which Email is used nowadays has changed drastically with the introduction of smartphones and tablets. Many people have moved away from the formality of letter-writing styles in Email to more conversational Instant Messaging uses. However, especially within a Work Environment, it is necessary to make sure you fulfil a certain criteria in order to maintain professionalism. Here are some of the Email mistakes that people make often to really consider.

1. Use greetings and closings.

Too often we are caught off-guard with an Email, and try to respond as quickly as possible by just sending back the information they’ve asked for. However, common courtesy still applies to Email! Make sure you address the person correctly, be it ‘Dear Mr. Miles’ or ‘Hey John,’ —depending on whether it is a colleague, someone you met on a training course, or a client—and make sure you tail off the Email correctly, too. Not only does this help people decipher where the Email starts and stops (especially if you’re Email client shows previous conversations), but it also keeps a little formality and professionalism associated to your persona. People are likely to take you more seriously.

However, especially with closings, you can be a little less formal with these and actually use them as part of the conversation. Consider the following: ‘Thanks for passing on that Information,’ ‘Good luck in your endeavours,’ or ‘Look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.’ All of these don’t necessarily sound as formal as ‘Yours Sincerely,’ or ‘Yours Faithfully,’ but still have the closing appeal of a letter, and offer some form of conclusion to the message you have been writing.

2. Subject is key.

The Subject of an Email is often overlooked, yet it can have such an impact on the delivery of the rest of the message. It is the first thing a person sees regarding your communication, and thus can be used to such a great benefit. You can outline the basic contents of the message, perhaps add a sense of urgency (a deadline to respond), or simply mention that it doesn’t necessarily need to be replied to.

You can guide the way in which you want the recipient to use the email, and by giving them an overall breakdown of the Email can make the contents a little easier to digest. Also, if you have previous conversations, or it is a group email, it can become very confusing if topics of conversation change but the subject line does not: an Email regarding Sales labelled as Human Resources could become very confusing.

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3. The opening paragraph outlines the content.

In your opening paragraph of an Email, always outline the content of the rest of the Email (especially if it’s a long one). This acts as a quick introduction and helps the reader guide through the rest of the content. It also quickly outlines the important information you want the reader to take from the Email. For example, you may open with:

Hey Fred,

I’m just sending you an Email to give you an update of our takings from Q1, and wanted your opinion on the findings.

On the whole, we managed to take…

If this Email was intended to just give information, Fred may not have taken a more critical approach to the figures. However, in asking for his feedback and opinion prior to giving the content, he is likely to read the information more critically and attempt to absorb more of the information. The easiest guide to the opening paragraph would be: Greeting – Outline Content – Desired Outcome. This not only helps the reader, but it helps you plan the content of the Email you are writing, too—so, all in all, is a bit of a win-win.

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4. Play to your audience.

This is very similar to the Tip 1, but more regarding the context of an Email. One of the biggest Email mistakes I’ve seen—especially with regards to my University studies—has been when people Email their professors in the following manner:

Hey John,

Can u send me the feedbaxk?

Thx Rick

Now, although University is probably not a great example due to the informality of many nowadays, there is still a line between informality and disrespect. Depending on who you are talking to, it is necessary to make sure you are communicating in an appropriate manner. If it’s a colleague you get on well with, by all means adapt a more informal stance but remember that if your communications are professional, keep them in a professional manner. This can lead to difficulties in working relationships when the confines of the working environment and the friendship become blurred.

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5. Recognise when Email is and isn’t right.

Sometimes a good old face-to-face chat is really what’s needed. So many times I have seen in the industry people using Email to send negative feedback, or even to tell someone of their redundancy—this just does not sit right within my ethics. If you need to deliver bad news, constructive feedback, or are looking to connect with colleagues and networks, then an email is not the right way to do this. If not face-to-face, maybe a quick phone call, or a handwritten memo. There are different ways to deliver different messages, so maybe experiment until you find one you find works and are comfortable with.

6. Know when to say LOL (and other chat language).

This is never right, in my personal opinion. I’ve always been a firm believer in the full use of the English language, and that abbreviations are just a lazy-man’s way of writing. The only time chat language is somewhat acceptable is via SMS. An Email is a formal form of communication, much like a letter, and thus always make sure you use correct language, and spell-check before you send. Not only that, but some people may not be aware of certain abbreviations, or may find it difficult to understand chat language. To make sure your communication is consistent and comprehendible, make sure you use correct grammar and spelling.

7. Double-check before you send!

Everyone can admit that at some point they’ve sent an Email to the wrong person by mistake, and waited anxiously for the response. Always check you’re sending it to the right person, that you’ve spell-checked, and that your subject is correct! So many times people send Emails with ambiguous subjects, or completely irrelevant people CC’d into an Email. Always check—and if you’ve noticed a mistake just as you’ve clicked send, check out the tip at the end of this post if you use Google Mail (it might save you in future!)

8. CC/BCC?

There are times when people need to be added to Emails in order to keep them up-to-date, or simply just for continuity. However, always think before you CC (Carbon-Copy) someone into an Email. Is the recipient likely to feel nervous of seeing someone else being sent the same Email? Most of the time if an Email is directed at a sole person, it can seem somewhat unprofessional to CC someone into the Email rather than using BCC (Blind Carbon-Copy). A great example would be in sending out a press release to your various contacts, you don’t necessarily want other firms to know that you’ve been sending the same information to them, and most of all to retain professionalism you should not be sharing these email addresses with competitors. Always think before you send—what impact will this have on the recipients of the email?

9. Reply-One? Reply-All!

Did you mean to send the whole department that Email? This is such a big blunder regarding group mails. Make sure you only hit Reply All if all need to hear about it. If it’s just regarding a catch-up on your holiday request, I don’t think everyone really needs to get involved. Always review who really needs to receive the Email in any case. The only times the whole department or a large group of people really need to receive an email are: any form of internal change which affects everyone, updates regarding performance or financial situations, company-wide announcements, or generalised feedback to departments. Plus this style of Email, if used constantly, can begin to make a team feel detached from the other members of the organisation and can actually decrease morale.

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10. I’M URGENT CAUSE I’M CAPITALS

Never, ever (I mean it) use Caps-Lock in a professional Email. No matter how urgent the Email is, the use of Capitals is often a highly expressive form of communication, detracting from the professionalism of a work Email. Plus, in regard to your own image, it comes across as somewhat childish in manner, and can have an impact on your own reputation.

Top Tip: Cancel Sending Emails in Google Mail

If, by unlucky circumstances, you do end up sending an Email with some incorrect information or the wrong person copied in, within Google Mail you can actually cancel an email up to 30 seconds after you clicked send. To do so, you need to go into Google Labs and enable the Undo Send button. And while you’re at it, why not check out the other features of Google Labs that you might find useful.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via ununsplash.imgix.net

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Kerim Hudson

Unemployed

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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