Friday, August 23, 2013

Email & Diminishing Returns

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of time...."

This is how I am starting to feel about email these days.  

While I see the need for email, I am starting to realized that for many of us, we need to stop and ask ourselves if the law of diminishing returns is alive and well.   I am becoming convinced that email  is reducing productivity for administrators and getting in the way of the transformative work in education

This following video clip is a great example of how not to use email:

Nonetheless, the practical side of me knows that we cannot totally eliminate email from our lives.   There are some legitimate and productive uses for it.

At an upcoming meeting of principals I will be leading a conversation regarding email etiquette (here is the link to the Slides).

The following is a listing of basic email etiquette points that will form the basis of our conversation:

Train your staff.
Make sure your staff is trained in e-mail/social media communications – don't assume they know what they're doing, and what is considered professional. Set up e-mail standards that everyone at the school should abide by.

Seek balance but respond in a timely fashion. 
Balance is important. There are times when you need to unplug. Instant responses are not necessary. Nonetheless, you should respond within a day or two

No diatribes.  Keep messages brief and to the point & Be clear in your subject line.
We live in a time of information abundance – you might even call it “data smog”. Some folks receive hundreds of e-mails a day. Nothing is more frustrating than wading through an e-mail message that is twice as long as necessary. Also, it is essential that your subject line gets to the point.

Only discuss public matters. Be careful with confidential information
When emailing or using social media I picture myself speaking to an auditorium full of parents. Extremely sensitive and confidential information should be dealt with privately – face to face or via the phone. Ask yourself if the topic being discussed is something you'd write on school letterhead or post on a bulletin board for all to see before clicking "send."

Don't "e-mail angry” or overuse exclamation points.  Use CAPITAL LETTERS sparingly.
E-mailing with bad news, expressing anger, reprimanding someone, disparaging other people in e-mails is inappropriate.  E-mail/social media correspondence can last forever. Also, USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LOOKS AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING. Using all lowercase letters looks lazy. 

Don't clutter other peoples Inboxes.  Use the (BCC) blind copy and (CC) carbon copy appropriately.

Don't use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied.  It can be unethical.  Instead you should you should directly CC anyone receiving a copy. You should use BCC, however, when sending to a large distribution list, so recipients won't have to see a huge list of names. Be cautious with your use of CC; overuse simply clutters in-boxes. Copy only people who are directly involved. Do not reply to an email if your CC’d. Only the person directly email should respond.

Beware of the "reply all."
Do not hit "reply all" unless every member on the e-mail chain needs to know. You want to make sure that you are not sending everyone on a list your answer—whether they needed to know or not.

Remember, your e-mail/digital communications are a reflection of you.

Also keep in mind that as professionals we must always maintain personal and professional boundaries when communicating digitally with staff and students. All staff should be familiar with personal and professional boundary standards.


1 comment:

  1. Great article! I feel SquadMail could help with most of the problems you addressed.

    In a nutshell, SquadMail works like "Dropbox for email" and lets you share synchronized gmail labels (or any other IMAP folder) with others. Instead of CCing your entire team on an email, simply assign it a shared label and the email will show up with the correct label in your collaborators' inbox. Should your team change, you can simply add a new person to a label and they'll receive the entire communication history neatly sorted.

    Additionally, each label gets its own email address that you can for example use to receive automated notifications from your social networks or newsletters.

    Last but not least, SquadMail lets you automatically extract email attachments from a gmail label and save them to a specific folder on your Dropbox (which also makes it possible to email files straight to your Dropbox).