Email Etiquette Tips for the Workplace Newcomer and the Seasoned Pro
Emails are a big part of the professional world, which makes email etiquette a necessary skill to learn for those entering it. For those looking to better your basic emailing skills, read “Email Distinction 101”: Part 1 and Part 2. On the other hand, some of us have been sending professional emails for such a long time that it has become second nature. But even email pros occasionally make mistakes. Here are 5 email etiquette tips that will benefit both the workplace newcomer and the seasoned pro.
- Consider the medium.
One of the many reasons emails are the go-to messenger of the professional world is because they are quick and easy. However, sometimes the worst part of your message is that it was sent through email.
People tend to automatically send an email in response to every situation. But there are many situations, such as when handling emotions, in which email is not the best way to send the message. Additionally, you are less likely to persuade people over email. In fact, you are 34 times more likely to get yes as a response when you ask someone a request in person than through an email (Bohns, 2017). So, before hitting send, make sure to ask yourself if the medium is appropriate for the message.
- Know your audience.
The general email etiquette rule is to keep it formal. This works great for sections of the professional world that are just that—professional. However, it does not translate well for sections of the professional world that are much more relaxed. Therefore, it is more important to know your audience when emailing than to always keep it formal.
“Write for the person who will be reading it—if they tend to be very polite and formal, write in that language. The same goes for a receiver who tends to be more informal and relaxed,” (Pollak, 2010).
For example, say you get a job at a company where all the employees wear jeans and t-shirts every day and everyone is on a first name basis with the CEO. The atmosphere of the company is relaxed, so no one within the organization will expect to receive formal emails.
- Balance productivity with politics.
Who to include in an email can be tricky. A general email etiquette rule is to spare people’s inboxes and leave off the boss for routine matters (Stillman, 2017). This rule, which creates productivity and efficiency, may not always work well with the politics of the workplace. For example, you know that you did not include that guy in the email because you were trying to spare his inbox, but he may see it as you pushing him aside. Additionally, leaving your boss out of the email, even if no action is needed on his/her part, might appear more like a cover-up than an attempt to save time.
So, before hitting send, make sure you have included the right people to maintain a good balance between being productive and workplace politics.
- Timing is everything
Emails are convenient because they can be sent to anyone at any time and the recipient can respond at the best time for them. However, one unspoken rule of communication is that emails received must be answered as soon as possible, which places an immediate demand on the recipient (Stillman, 2017). To avoid placing unnecessary pressure on the recipient, only hit send if the message is urgent. If the message is not urgent, consider if the time is appropriate to be sending this particular email to this particular person. For example, if it you are working on a time sensitive project at 9:00 p.m. and need information from a colleague, send the message immediately. However, if it is 9:00 p.m. and you are asking your boss if the meeting next week is cancelled, wait to send the message during the day.
“Just because you’ve written it now doesn’t mean it needs to be sent at this exact moment” (Rae, 2013).
- Write for everyone to see.
While emails are intended to be private messages, nothing is confidential and every electronic message leaves a trail. Always assume that others will see what you write (Pachter, 2013).
If there is anyone who you do not want to see your message, do not send it, even if that person is not the intended recipient. You never know when you could accidentally hit reply all or someone could forward your message onto that person you do not want to see it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Alli Williams ’19
Bohns, V. (2017). A face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-face-to-face-request-is-34-times-more-successful-than-an-email
Pachter, B. (2013). The essentials of business etiquette. McGraw-Hill Education.
Pollak, L. (2010). Know your audience. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/email-etiquette.html
Rae, A. (2013). Don’t send yet! 9 email mistakes you’re probably making-and how to fix them. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3017198/dont-send-yet-9-email-mistakes-youre-probably-making-and-how-to-fix-them
Stillman, J. (2017). 5 email etiquette rules even smart people get wrong. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/5-email-etiquette-rules-even-smart-people-get-wrong.html