Most of us get more emails in a day than we would like to admit. Most of us have at least two email accounts: work and personal. As a consultant, I have an account for my firm, my client, and two personal accounts.
I have a daily routine of going through and killing all of the junk items. I unsubscribe when appropriate.
Then I have to go through all of the remaining emails that may or may not apply to me. Some I have to act on. Some are just sent to me as an FYI. Many of them I look at and wonder why I was included. This can be more annoying when it becomes an on-going thread.
On the other hand, I learn in meetings and side conversations that an email thread was sent around to a group that I should have known about, but I wasn’t included.
Removing people from an email thread
Often, an email is sent to a large group of people because the sender is unsure who can resolve an issue. As the thread evolves, it develops into a conversation with only a few critical participants.
Any remaining people may see the on-going thread as noise. At that point someone, preferably the original sender, should ask who on the thread would like to be removed.
Other times, it may be obvious that some people should be removed from a thread. Make sure the email isn’t being sent to unnecessary or inappropriate recipients.
Adding people to a thread
It is also imperative to make sure the right people are involved. Some people need to be involved to help resolve an issue or participate in a conversation.
A critical manager may need to be involved so that he or she is aware of an on-going issue. The best way to add that person is to “Reply all” to the email, add that person to the recipient list, and add a “+ Bob”. This helps make it explicit to everybody that the person(s) has been added to the thread.
If a manager just needs to know the outcome, it may be better to wait until the thread comes to closure. At that time, you can forward the final email of the thread to the manager. Provide a short summary of the issue and its resolution. Make sure to copy anyone who needs to know that this person has been informed. If the manager wants additional detail, the entire thread is below for their reading pleasure.
Copy the right people from the beginning
When sending an initial email, it’s hard to know if it’s going to be an epic thread that goes on for weeks, if not months. But when you send any email, consider the fact that it might. Stop for a moment to consider the list of people you are sending the email to.
Do you need to have everyone on that list or can you add people later if it evolves?
Are there others who should be on this distribution that can lead to a faster resolution?
An additional consideration is multiple people with similar names. I once sent an email to someone named Chris when I meant to send it to Christine. This leads, at a minimum, to delays when you send to the wrong person. You also could be intending to send sensitive information within your organization. If you accidently send it to the wrong person, it could be a major security breach.
Be careful with “Reply all”
Sometimes someone will send out an email asking a group of people to provide them with some information. This usually warrants a simple reply to the sender. Does the whole distribution list need to know your lunch order for that meeting next week? Reply All only when it’s necessary.
Email has become the communication mode of choice. It’s quick and easy to send an email or reply to one that has been sent. But in our need to be quick and efficient, we often don’t stop to think about what we are sending and to how many people we’re sending it to.
Take a moment every time before you hit Send to think about the distribution list. You may begin to save people a little unnecessary time out of their day.
How often do you copy the right people?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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