Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan’s article at E-WRITE gives tips on how to make the most of e-mail as a management tool.
According to the authors, e-mail should never be used as a substitute for personal interaction especially when delivering sensitive messages such as a sudden change in upper management.
Rudick and O’Flahavan recommend using e-mail for the following management tasks, though:
1. Handing out praise
The authors urge managers to praise and congratulate people via e-mail at the time of their accomplishment, and to save the message for inclusion in the annual review.
2. Soliciting employees’ inputs on best practices
The authors suggest collecting inputs on specific tasks or projects via e-mail, to be reviewed, summarized and redistributed as best practices. The summary may also be incorporated into operations manuals or policy.
3. Creating a community of workers belonging to different shifts or sites
Rudick and O’Flahavan propose the use of e-mail to encourage dialogue and collaboration among workers separated by time or location. They also advise managers to send an informal weekly e-mail newsletter or message updating employees on projects and initiatives, announcements and deadlines.
The authors say e-mail can help gather employees’ “random, short-burst thinking” as inputs in the planning or conceptual phase of projects, as long as it is made clear to them that such contributions are welcome and need not be formal nor well-crafted.
Rudick and O’Flahavan emphasize, though, that e-mail should be sent only to those who need to know the message. Replies should not be “sent to all” in e-mail distribution lists if only the originator needs to know the response. List etiquette should be made known to all e-mail writers.
The authors advise organizations to develop and communicate standards of good e-mail writing among employees, with messages spell-checked, properly punctuated and organized in a way that the main point appears on the first screen. Poorly written e-mail, according to them, wastes time.
Finally, Rudick and O’Flahavan say that company policy on the use of e-mail should be accompanied by writing guidelines.
Indeed, e-mail has become so common in the workplace that proper procedures and usage are often taken for granted. Reminders such as these are very welcome.