Articles: Email is Destroying the Very Fabric of Our Society
In a company of over 200 employees, I’m apparently the largest volume email user. I only say that to establish my credibility. Maybe I should have a doctorate in email usage. I live in email. For example, if I don’t keep checking my email while on vacation, the day of my return starts off with my face in my hands, wondering how I’m going to get through them all.
So, I keep up on them every day, even when I’m out of the country.
I joke that I’m as likely to send an email out to the staff that the building is in flames as I am to run out of my office, screaming “fire” at the top of my lungs. I probably wouldn’t do either, because there’s always one more email to handle.
They’ll find my charred body with my finger melted on top of my mouse button, poised to click send.
Come with me. Let me show you another way.
Despite this immersion into email, I’m constantly amazed at how thoroughly it has taken over as a communication medium. I can’t tell you how many times an employee has let me know they just can’t get a hold of so-and-so, even to the point of expressing exasperation over the seemingly elusive individual.
Most of the time I will casually ask them if they’ve picked up the phone and tried to call. The responses have universally been sheepishness, puzzlement, or perhaps even a slow-growing realization that the phone was in fact a viable alternative.
It’s hard to imagine for most people over 30, but there’s a whole generation of people working today whereby the business phone and the fax are nearly relics of the past… everything is email, text messaging and the internet.
Face it, your company sucks at responding to email.
I’m also constantly amazed at how many companies are so terrible when it comes to responding to emails. I’ve sent dozens of emails to companies expressing a desire to use their products or services.
The percentage of companies who respond is pitiful.
I have no idea why a company would publish an email address soliciting inquiries for sales and then not respond. You’d think the economy was booming again. If I don’t get an answer and I’m really interested, I’ll call them. Otherwise I figure if they don’t have time to answer sales inquiries via email, they won’t have much time for me, so to heck with them.
With us, all e-roads lead to the top.
If I ever find out that any kind of legitimate email request sent to PowerMax has not been answered reasonably quickly, the person responsible hears about it.
A lot of the emails we publish actually come right to me just so I can ensure that it gets handled. Fortunately, it has become such an integral part of our culture that I don’t have to comment on it much any more. But based on my experience, I may be the only CEO in the country who makes sure that prompt email responses are a part of our company culture.
Regardless, email is a great way to get the word out to a lot of people at once, to document communication, and of course as a vehicle for amusing and entertaining links and jokes (the amusement is in the eye of the beholder of course).
But to rely on it as the end-all for all communication attempts and correspondence is putting way too much weight on its spam-filled back. If you really need to talk to someone, pick up the friggin’ phone, or if they’re in the same building, walk to their desk.
Besides, email tends to read a little, uh, negatively.
Sometimes email is also used as a conflict-avoidance scheme. Got bad news? Send an email and then hope there’s no real confrontation. The problem with that is, people take bad news much better verbally, especially since email, seemingly by its very nature, almost always reads more negatively than the sender intends.
Then there are those who click “send” and then get up and ask if I’ve gotten their email before it’s even had a chance to make its way over the wires. One of these days I’m going to get a water pistol and just shoot people who do that.
In the end, blame the spammers.
Lastly, those insidious spammers who have forced us all to enable robust spam filters have also turned email into an imperfect medium for contacting those who don’t hear from us regularly. Recently I sent some information to an attorney we hired for a specific issue, and was puzzled by his lack of response. Turns out my communication went into his spam filter, even though my email was a response to his email to me. He figured I was just ignoring him. Yikes. Imperfect form of communication indeed.
Automation is not an end-all… it should be a supplement to good human interaction. Unfortunately, too many people today are using electronics to replace all the human interaction they can. And that is definitely to our collective detriment.