Is email the most effective type of communication?

While I would agree that email has made work easier to get done and communicate with everyone, there are many times that an interaction still requires a phone call or a face to face meeting because an email just won’t get the right type of communication across. When was the last time that you were at work and received an email that was taken out of context because you misread the tone of the email, or someone was CC’d on the email and you thought it was because the person sending it was trying to cover themselves or get you in trouble? When communicating through email, it is so much easier to misconstrue the tone, direction or message of the actual communication vs other forms of communication.

Now, many people will point to a generational gap for the expanded use of email as the “only” way of communication. Unfortunately, the majority of the workforce today has never worked at a job or can remember a time where email didn’t exist. I was lucky enough to work for a few “old-school” managers that taught me when an email is sufficient and when a phone call or face to face meeting needs to happen because a certain message needs to be conveyed.

I find that I am more sensitive to this because of my position and profession. There are many times that I am interacting with clients (internal and external) and there are times when the conversations are not very pleasant. When the conversation is tough for me or my audience, I would prefer to have it in person or over the phone because I am almost positive that an email just won’t suffice and there would be something lost in translation no matter how well written the email may be. Also, on the other side of the spectrum if I am delivering good news to someone like awarding the business to a vendor; I want to have that one on one interaction with them through an actual conversation (phone or personal) to gauge and view their reaction. Sometimes you can tell a lot about a business based on how they react when being awarded a contract; are they happy or did they over promise and are now on the hook to deliver something that they may not be able to do? There are a lot of things in business that you can tell by a person’s body language and you cannot see any of that through email…

While I am big fan of email, I do come from a place where it is not the end all be all for professional communication. As mentioned above, please encourage your team to continue to use the phone and face to face meetings when available. I believe more can get done in a face to face meeting with people than what can happen when all of those same people are on an email chain.

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