Is it just me, or are e-mail and productivity at work just two things that don’t belong in the same sentence together? I find it amazing that companies invest so much money in deploying e-mail systems and yet spend nothing on training people to communicate effectively with them. Perhaps you work in a company that is uniquely different? If so, I would love to hear about it!

E-mail lacks so many of the visual and auditory cues that we need to communicate effectively, yet people write less clearly and deliberately than they would in a letter.

The opportunity for mis-communication and emotional trauma is almost endless. Recently I have been comparing the organizational effectiveness of e-mail, phone calls, conference calls and face to face communication. I am sure you won’t be surprised to hear that e-mail comes out bottom in terms of results achieved against time invested.

My conclusions?

  • If you can pick up the phone and get hold of the person, pick up the phone. In the long run it is actually quicker and cheaper.
  • A conference call will achieve more than an email storm almost any day.
  • If something has emotional element (e.g. might cause a strong emotional reaction), then the communication does not belong on email.