Thursday, May 1, 2008

There's something more than "No Email Fridays"

Some well known, large companies have declared Fridays as the day when email may NOT be used. Its intention is to force dialogue.

When I think about companies declaring “No E-mail Fridays" it affirmed for me one of the biggest misuses or misunderstandings about email is that people actually think it can replace dialogue!

E-mail is not dialogue. We can't read the recipient's understanding or body language. We can't see whether they agree with us or not. We can't have a group discussion or brainstorm an idea. In the end, many times, emailers spend more overall time fixing a misread or misunderstood e-mail, trying to collect multiple opinions shared via e-mail, or settling down emotional or angry recipients.

It is a sad consequence that companies are having to institute actual programs like “no email Fridays” to force people to dialogue. It is symptomatic of the growing trend of people relying too heavily on e-mail for ALL their communications.

While email free days are a great way bring home to workers the benefit of interpersonal communications, this shouldn’t be a one day thing.

Companies need to start creating a culture on how it handles e-mail. It’s needs to be seen as a tool for the efficient sharing and exchange of impersonal information. And as soon as we determine that dialogue is needed, employees need to pick up the phone, call a meeting, or make a visit. In short, anything benefitting from dialogue should be done with lips rather than fingers—EVERY day of the week—not just Fridays.

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