Five Dysfunctional Email Traits to Conquer


By Sara Harrup

Email has been with us for a long time now and is one of the great things about the modern organization. Despite many other communication technologies, email still takes its place at the centre of many organizations’ electronic communication methods. It’s a great tool! It’s also a vehicle for displaying many of our painful human flaws. Over the years I have observed the email characteristics of people and identified some common dysfunctional profiles.

Here are my top five dysfunctional profiles!

  1. The “reply all” addict– there is a place for reply all but to be honest I am not sure what that place is. There is a good argument that if an entire group of people need to be on top of everyone’s reactions and responses to an issue it would have been more expedient to call a web conference. There are some serial “reply all” offenders out there who probably have no idea that they are clogging up the email boxes of large volumes of people by their compulsion to be inclusive. If you find your finger hovering over the “reply all” button, just pause briefly to check it is really necessary.
  2. The “CC” manipulator – this type uses email like a weapon and often are not even aware of it. They are the ones that will email you and CC your boss to let you that they are outing you to your manager for your failures. They will also use the CC to put pressure on you to complete tasks on their timetable. Consultation is not one of their favourite things to do. If you catch yourself doing this push yourself to consult and collaborate with the people in your email. You will get everyone on the same page much quicker and probably support better workplace relationships with them too. If you are on the receiving end of an email from a “CC” manipulator- go and pay them a visit or give them a call and talk through the desired outcomes. It will diffuse the bad feeling created by the email.
  3. The secret agent- this type loves to use the “BCC” and they justify it by saying there was a need to inform someone in an under the radar kind of way. In effect they are telling on you but without you knowing. In my view there is almost no instance where a “BCC” should be used. If you think about using it question your own motives first. If you go ahead beware as it can come back to bite you. Many a “BCC” has gone horribly wrong!
  4. The monologer – This type of person will write a full page extolling their views over and over. After reading the second paragraph you generally start to sigh quietly to yourself. If you find yourself writing a monologue you would probably be better having a face to face conversation. If you are on the receiving end then set up a meeting with the person to go through the issues in person rather than trying to deal with them on email.
  5. The “man of few words” type- this person rarely writes “Dear x” or “Hello” at the beginning and never signs off at the end of their emails. Most of their emails come out sounding like orders. Try to remember that people can read into what is written and what is missing in an email and that general politeness goes a long way.

So what is my email flaw? Brackets!! I am often so worried that people will take what I am writing the wrong way that I put extra text in brackets to clarify what I am saying. I now try to manage most things over the phone. If I have to email I go back through it and do a bracket edit before I send it. I’m compulsive, but I’m in recovery! How could you improve your email communication? Consider it, even briefly, as it could make an enormous difference to your working relationships.

About Sara: Sara Harrup is a Cause & Effective Associate and a highly experienced not for profit Senior Executive and Board Member.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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