E-mail is great, but it does have a few drawbacks
E-mail has long been hailed as one of the few, if not only, killer application of the Internet age. Its improvement in communication and business productivity has been lauded by experts and laymen alike. Beyond that, e-mail has further been extended as a tool to expose the truth, especially in seedy corporate evildoings.
But when you get down in the weeds, oftentimes, e-mail lessens productivity and muddies up communication. We all know about spam and the time and effort wasted tending to it. Similarly, phishing and other scams simply steal from the innocent. But there are also aspects of e-mail that negatively affect organizations and individuals.
For example, e-mail allows confrontation from a distance. Folks who wouldn't even dream of saying certain things to your face don't have a problem with e-mailing you the exact same comments. This certainly is far less productive than having meaningful, face to face discussions to resolve any issues at hand. We've even heard stories have cropping up recently about folks getting laid off, or in similarly poor form, resigning via e-mail.
Even if the matters at hand aren't controversial, many folks simply choose to e-mail instead of getting out of their chairs. Too often we hear of folks who simply won't even go into the next cubicle to discuss important issues.
Certainly, there are circumstances under which e-mailing your colleague who sits 10 feet away is more appropriate than direct discussion. The most common example would be if that person is on the phone. Or, if you have detailed information or documents to pass on, e-mail ensures accuracy. But more often than not, a face-to-face discussion is the best way to handle such matters.
Another area where e-mail can be less than productive is the so-called "endless trail." This is a trail that starts out as a single message to a group of people, but expands seemingly exponentially as various parties "reply to all." Ultimately, you end up with a collection of confusing and sometimes conflicting messages. Once you get more than about three responses, many folks just simply ignore any additional replies. In such cases, while possibly more problematic to arrange, a conference call would be a much more efficient medium.
Similarly, if you find yourself continuously exchanging e-mails with a colleague every minute or so, a call might be more efficient. After all, you both know you're sitting at your respective desks.
So if you find yourself in one of these situations, think twice before falling into the e-mail trap. Sometimes, the old-fashioned methods work best.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org