Beyond Wikileaks: The Dark Side of Email

Here’s a scary thought: Try and picture a world without email.

Spooky, no?

Indeed, it’s hard to fathom our world functioning as we know it without the wonder that is email. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s just… easy. Few words can be as harrowing and bone-chilling for a business as “email is down”.

But for all its immeasurable benefits, there is a dark side to email. One that can eat away at the very core of any business – even the most successful.

It’s important to remember, that the success of any business – of any size, in any industry – boils down to one thing: relationships. Relationships between employees. Relationships with managers, and, most of all, a business’ relationship with consumers.

With technology taking center stage in our lives, we often forget that the workplace is filled with people, managed by people, delivering goods and services for people. People with differing opinions. People with distinct ideas. People with a wide range of emotions. Technology is just a means to a human end.

That is why the most important means of communication in the workplace will always be person to person, face-to-face (or, in a pinch, over the phone). During those interactions, we pick up on the many layers, intonations, and nuances that make up each one of us – the foundations of relationship-building.

With this in mind, here are a few Ptex Practical Pointers for those times when email communication isn’t recommended:

  • To Criticize – To err is human. So criticize as one – no technology involved. Delivering criticism, be it to an employee, coworker, or someone in your personal life, is always a delicate matter (or, at least it should be!). There are body language cues to consider, emotions and personalities to take into account, all of which is lost when communicating via email. Those human subtleties and tendencies are lost in the emotionless vacuum of technology. When delivered correctly, criticism can be an invaluable tool for growth.
  • Delivering Bad News – The daily grind of running a business is not always roses. There are difficult decisions to make – some downright unpalatable. During those distasteful situations, don’t make it worse by communicating your message over email. Aside from being downright discourteous, that inability to navigate and interpret nuanced emotions can be particularly catastrophic for the health of a relationship.
  • An Extended Argument – An exchange of ideas is the healthiest thing for business growth. Sometimes, when people feel passionate about their points of view, things can turn pretty heated. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been a part of those nonsensical 65-email threads. A heated back-and-forth should never take place over email. Either call a face-to-face meeting, or pick up the phone and hash out those differences. Easily solvable issues can be made that much more complicated when both sides can’t engage in a healthy, human conversation.

Lest you think this only applies to negative scenarios, it’s important to keep in mind that the same idea can apply to positive instances. Instead of praising over email, opt for an in-person congrats. Rather than delivering good news in a company-wide email blast, call the team together for a meeting.

I would, therefore, recommend conscious use of email. Before hitting ‘send’, consider the following: Is what I’m doing now going to help further and foster a relationship, or is there a better option?

Optimal email use should be to inform and explain, things that aren’t dependant on emotions, reactions, or any other relationship building-block. Otherwise, if possible, it’s best to step away from the screen, and use that wonderful tool called speech.

P.S. Got an email horror story of your own? Feel free to share by commenting below.

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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