Working in a corporate environment, I am shocked at the ineffective use of email.

However it is not surprisingly when colleagues say the email discussion "got out of hand", "it was too hard to follow" or simply not useful. The culprits are in my opinion:

  1. People using default Outlook settings
  2. therefore People using HTML (or rich text) email
  3. therefore People not quoting properly
  4. People top posting and furthermore
  5. People cross posting -- causing separate discussions

So what's the solution? First Outlook needs to be configured to send and receive in plain text only. Outlook is surprisingly tricky to setup this policy, especially if people are using different Outlook versions.

Next work colleagues need to practice good etiquette, which largely involves being proficient in editing someone else's email, which is a difficult step for non-geeks. Often colleagues have outrageous email footers, which takes some effort to prune from an email. There is no need to sign off with your name, since there is a standardised From: field for this very purpose.

Organisations must maintain good email archives, so people can refer to past discussions and decisions, via a URL, like opensource projects use to their benefit.

The consequences of losing a great asynchronous medium such as email, leads you onto time consuming synchronous mediums like teleconferences, webex and generally poor unrecorded / unreferenced communication.

Other guides on email etiquette:

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