There’s an old saying that email is the enemy of great because it allows the leader to not actually have to communicate. While that might be a bit of an stretch, the essence is true. Leaders spend most of their time communicating. The communication happens up to their superiors, down to subordinates, and across workgroups to coordinate and integrate the work of others.
Even knowing this, far too often, there are headlines that are similar to this one:
Radio Shack lays off employees via email – USA Today
The article states that employees at the company headquarters were notified by email that their employment was being terminated immediately.
Not all the email horror stories are this drastic. Most are more along the lines of a boss who is sitting 15 or 20 feet away and sending an email to ask if the employee has a minute to pop in for a conversation. The boss claims this is simply a way to save time by not having to walk out to the desk. The employee simply thinks, “really?”
Some things can be communicated by email. General announcements that are intended to build awareness of a non-critical business initiative. Items that are intended for the entire workgroup like the date of the company picnic can be communicated by email. Other communication needs to happen face to face, or voice to voice. These items include:
- Personnel issues – If you have to talk to one of your employees about a performance related issue. It has to be done in person.
- Delegation of assignments – If you are giving an assignment to one of your employees, you need to allow the employee the chance to absorb the information and ask clarifying questions.
- Buy-in – Change initiatives that require the support of your workgroup should be communicated in a direct way.
When you communicate in person rather than electronically, you are allowing the feedback loop to happen. Employees get the chance to voice their opinions, give input on how the work should be done, and ask questions if they don’t understand a part of the message.
The next time you sit down to write an email. Stop and take a minute to think about whether you would be better off picking up the phone or walking over to someone’s desk.
If you would like to learn more about effective communication, check out our Essential Skills of Communicating E-learning course.