There is no doubt that email is one of the most
abused business tools in use today. Hundreds of thousands of these electronic missives flood office inboxes daily. Email can be an efficient an
d effective way of communicating, but more often than not it’s just an excuse to perpetuate some other agenda.
Here are four email personalities that fit into that category and, in the meantime, distract me from my real work with information I don’t need or can’t use.
The Paper Trailer
This species of emailer spends hours carefully crafting messages, whether a sentence or a page, to cre
ate the perfect electronic record of everything that was said or done.
The Paper Trailer will also seek clarification and/or permission before undertaking even the most simple task and is prone to distributing meeting summaries complete with assigned action points.
Other identifying behaviours include:
- CCing the boss or other authority figure in all correspondence
- Forwarding previous communication with “see earlier mail below” or similar instruction rather than replying directly to a request or question
- A tendency to request read receipts and the accompanying ability to say with certainty that a certain someone has not even opened a mail.
The Busy Be and the Procrastinator
To the untrained eye, the Busy Bee and the Procrastinator appear to be one and the same creature. They have the same basic characteristics of finding the smallest excuse to compose a mail and an insatiable appetite for long cc lists and reply all responses.
The Busy Bee on the one hand uses volume to prove they are working – and working more than everyone else. The hidden message is that without their organisation, clarification and general tying up of loose ends the entire workflow would fall apart.
The Procrastinator, by contrast, seeks feedback, aims for consensus, finds the devil in the details and shares it, in order to drag out or hinder decision making or delay their part in the work stream.
Most likely, the Professor has recently taken part in some form of time management training or in advanced cases, an email efficiency course.
They correctly use subject line identifiers (FOR INFORMATION, FOR ACTION and so on) followed by descriptive phrases summarising content and where necessary deadlines. The body text is segmented using bold or underlined section headers and most likely comes with at least one, if not several, bullet lists to ensure everyone knows what to do, when.
The Professor however expects everyone to follow his or her example and will let you know their disappointment, in the most polite terms of course, for failing to do so. Ironically, their pleas to stop using the “reply all” function normally includes at least a dozen people on the cc list.
The Superior Mailer
This email personality gives the illusion of being far too busy, and therefore important, to spend time on anything so pedestrian as written communication.
You can spot a Superior Mailer by the lack of punctuation and a fastidious lack of attention to spelling conventions. Their terse, barely understandable mails are likely to be written with a raft of abbreviations and acronyms to show their membership of an exclusive group, or conversely a single word or phrase, from which you are expected to extract a meaningful instruction or response.
Other common traits of the superior mailer are:
- Sending everything with high importance flags
- Forwarding your mail to someone else to deal with
- Out of office messages explaining they are occupied with something so important they will be out of email contact for an hour, afternoon, day etc
- Lack of social niceties – don’t expect a greeting, thanks or best wishes for a nice weekend, these emailers are too busy to waste precious seconds on non-essential key strokes.