The media often reports on the sheer volume of emails that the average manager has to deal with. The conclusion of these article was that email was taking over people’s lives and causing a great deal of stress. Many companies now actually limit email or ban it from their culture completely.
The best theory I have heard is that email should be used for facts and confirmation only. All other communication should be done face to face or, at least, over the telephone. Most of us will be able to recall an email which became an argument. Each stage of the ‘flame’ grows until it becomes an unsolvable slanging match. How many of these emails would not have happened had the participants been dealing face to face.
You don’t have body language in an email. It is easy to misread the content and take offence at an innocent remark. Then there are the insults or jibes dressed up as supposedly innocent remarks. People say things in emails that they would not dream of saying face to face, and then deny that was what they meant. Communicating the wrong things by email can be a recipe for disaster.
Face to face interaction is the only way to deal with complex communication, or indeed any communication other than facts and confirmation. I have heard face to face communication described as ‘broader than broadband’ and it is a good tagline to remember.
As Email continues to dominate management time, with the added challenges of dealing with the misunderstandings it causes, face to face meetings will grow in importance. Particularly events where people can bond as people, face to face, will become increasingly important for the organisation that needs three dimensional communication. Team building events, where people (people, not managers) gather to bond socially while having fun, can be the antidote to email.