Your Love/Hate Relationship with Email: 5 DO’s and 2 DON’Ts

“I despise email.”

“I don’t use email any more.”

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard two very senior client executives make the statements above. The two have different reasons for their points of view, but their sentiments remained very similar in the end.

One executive strongly prefers face to face interaction. He wants to actually TALK to you You've got mail, on the typewriterand have real-time discussion about a topic at hand. Most of his direct reports have offices on the same floor in his building, so they are fortunate to not have a widely geographically dispersed workforce across locations and time zones.

The other executive works in a very tech-savvy environment and his team has begun to rely almost solely on a new collaboration tool. He was making it clear that if you want to reach him, use the new tool instead of email. His workforce is global.

Depending on your own generation, you may rely on email far too often than you should. Email boxes get overloaded and it can be overwhelming. Executives simply don’t have the time and won’t deal with it.

It’s 2015 and everyone has multiple avenues to communicate both on-line and off-line. Consider these best practices to benefit your co-workers:

  • DO ask people their preference. When working with someone new to you, ask them their communication preferences. You might not have otherwise had any idea the senior executive mentioned above despised email if you hadn’t been in the meeting with us recently.
  • DO pick up the phone more often. Call the person when a brief conversation can address the topic faster than trading dozens of emails.
  • DON’T “reply all” when you can avoid it. This generates countless un-necessary emails with replies such as “ok” which cause many people to have to sort through the string to determine “what is my action item here, if any?”
  • DO text selectively. Reserve texting co-workers for items which are especially time-sensitive and/or have some urgency associated.
  • DO use collaboration tools. When you have them available, take advantage of the technology! Don’t be afraid to try new tools. They’re getting more user-friendly every day. Be an early adopter and encourage others to get on board too.
  • DON’T overuse Instant Messenger. Sometimes you can’t get any work done and/or you can’t focus during meetings when you are getting pinged relentlessly by co-workers. Just because it’s a good time for you does not mean it’s a good time for the person to whom you’re reaching out.
  • DO set a standing time. When you have a regular workgroup that needs to connect on a variety of topics, establish a regular time to meet, even briefly (15-20 minutes). This could be Friday mornings at 7:30 a.m. over coffee in the break room. Then each participant can bring their list of items to cover to the meeting and save everyone dozens of emails, phone calls and text messages.

None of this even factors in social media. For the purposes of internal communications, let’s assume you are not using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram as the best way to reach your co-workers or solve time-sensitive business issues. Chances are good that would violate your company’s social media policy anyway.

Use email selectively to have impact in the future – especially when communicating with senior executives.

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at Her email box is not yet out of control. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.