Bonnie returned with six minutes to spare before her eleven o'clock — just enough to check voicemail and email, if she did both at once. Slipping on her headset, she punched pound-six on the phone, and clicked "Check Mail" on her screen.
As she listened to her voicemail, her email program began downloading the first of 28 messages. 'Amazing,' she thought, 'either I'm really important, or nobody respects my time.' After the seventh message, she had to leave for her eleven o'clock.
Emailstorming is like
brainstorming, but instead
of using our brains,
we use emailThat's why she missed message 17, which announced the room change for her meeting. She would arrive late, as would three colleagues.
Bonnie's organization is experiencing Emailstorming. Emailstorming is like brainstorming, but instead of using our brains, we use email.
In the constant storm of messages, only a few have significance to their recipients. We spend too much time figuring out which messages we care about, and we miss important messages completely, or get to them too late, as Bonnie did.
Here are some causes of Emailstorming, and some tips for dealing with them.
- Shotgun messaging
- The sender "shotguns" the message to anyone who might be tangentially interested. Often, shotgunners want to be able to say later "I sent it out, didn't you see it?"
- To keep someone "in the loop," send a private — possibly annotated — copy of your message. That way, they receive only the message, and none of the subsequent "Reply All" messages.
- Annoy All
- Sometimes Reply All is appropriate. At other times, a Reply All may actually be an "Annoy All." The risk of annoyance is enhanced when the reply is relevant only to the recipient.
- Be selective about replies. Most often, only the sender needs the reply, but sometimes a few of the CCs want it too. Be judicious.
- Mass announcements
- Routine announcements sent separately by HR, Security, or other functions generate potential interruptions for every recipient. These messages are especially annoying when they apply to only a portion of the recipient population.
- Consolidating non-emergency mass announcement messages into a weekly internal e-newsletter not only reduces inbox clutter, but also reduces interruption rates.
Implementing these solutions sometimes requires individual action, and sometimes coordinated action. For example, Management plays an important leadership role in addressing the problem of Mass Announcements.
Surprisingly, Management also plays a key role in solutions that require individual action. When leaders make the term "Shotgun Messaging" a part of the organizational vocabulary, they make it easier for everyone to recognize it when it happens, and they encourage everyone to address the issue directly with shotgunners.
There is a trap though. Distributing a link to this article throughout your organization via email risks violating the intent of sending it. Instead, get the message out by making Emailstorming a topic of an organizational meeting or training. Dealing with email problems in email is like throwing water at a flood. Top Next Issue
For much more about Emailstorming, see "Emailstorming"
Are you so buried in email that you don't even have time to delete your spam? Do you miss important messages? So many of the problems we have with email are actually within our power to solve, if we just realize the consequences of our own actions. Read 101 Tips for Writing and Managing Email to learn how to make peace with your inbox. Order Now!
And if you have organizational responsibility, you can help transform the culture to make more effective use of email. You can reduce volume while you make content more valuable. You can discourage email flame wars and that blizzard of useless if well-intended messages from colleagues and subordinates. Read Where There's Smoke There's Email to learn how to make email more productive at the organizational scale — and less dangerous. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Mind Reading Trap
- When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that
we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can
reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else,
that's a recipe for trouble.
- Message Mismatches
- Sometimes we misinterpret the messages we receive — what we see or hear. It's frustrating, and
tempers can flare on both sides. But if we keep in mind two ideas, we can reduce the effects of message
- Recovering Time: II
- Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get
so little done? To find more time, focus on strategy.
- Fill in the Blanks
- When we conceal information about ourselves and our areas of responsibility, we make room for others
to speculate. Speculation is rarely helpful. It's wise to fill in the blanks.
- Bottlenecks: II
- When some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks," they expose the organization
to risks. Managing those risks is a first step to ending the bottlenecking pattern.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 23: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IX
- An arrogant demeanor is widely viewed as a hallmark of the narcissist. But truly narcissistic arrogance is off the charts. It's something beyond the merely annoying arrogance of a sometimes-obnoxious individual. What is narcissistic arrogance and how can we cope with it? Available here and by RSS on May 23.
- And on May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
- When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenXGiRliFHawMYBxxIner@ChacKvUwsFFFldefnFwroCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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