What would happen if once a week, you responded to each e-mail you received not with another e-mail, but with a phone call or an office visit? I’ll tell you what wouldn‘t happen: The sky wouldn’t drop. You wouldn’t age 50 years in one day. The world wouldn’t end.
What would likely happen is you’d build rapport with your colleagues, improve communications (a lot gets muddled across e-mails), help unclog the server and get to practice that nearly lost art of face-to-face communications.
Don’t get me wrong. I love e-mail too. It’s fast, easy and has saved my life plenty of times when I’ve had to dig one out of the archives to prove someone wrong, and myself right. But it’s reduced us to people who avoid each other–especially when there’s conflict involved or when there’s a hard conversation to be had. Rather than face each other we hide behind the computer screen sending snarky e-mails. (Are they really snarky? It’s always hard to tell when you can’t hear a tone of voice or check out the facial expressions.)
Lack of real, personal communication can add to workplace issues. When using e-mail as a main means of communication people misunderstand each other, misconstrue context and miss out on opportunities to learn each other’s ways.
We’ve got to stop this train wreck, so let’s try an experiment:
Pick one day out of the week to be e-mail-free. You’ve got to check them, of course, but don’t create one if you can help it. Instead, call the person up, walk down the hall, or turn your chair around and respond if they happen to be in the cube behind you.
I’ll try this too and post my results. Let me know how it goes out there!