How to cut through email clutter with your boss

By Sean Lavin, Special Projects Producer, slavin@wkmg.com
Published On: Mar 25 2014 11:15:00 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2014 12:03:24 AM EDT

Everyone seems to be overwhelmed with email nowadays -- especially your boss.

Everyone seems to be overwhelmed with email nowadays -- especially your boss.

Sometimes bosses don't respond at all. And if they do, it's often just one or two words that don't answer your question.

A big reason is time. Email is replacing face-to-face contact in the workplace. And it's only getting worse. The average employee sends about 121 emails daily, and a recent study shows that number will jump to 136 by 2017.

Matt Durfee, with Navigator Executive Advisors, is not surprised.

"People have the capability to send emails at a red light with their smart phone, so the volume has really kicked up," he said.

But there are ways to help cut through the clutter and send the right message in the workplace.

Durfee suggests people keep emails concise.

"I mean something that gets to the point and makes it easy for your boss," Durfee said.

That means people should avoid sending out long emails with big paragraphs. It's harder than it sounds when an employee is passionate about a topic. But there are ways to keep the length in check while still getting your point across.

"One way is to use some bullet points, instead of using long texts," Durfee said.

He also says it's important to remember that an email is not a text message.

"Make sure people understand the difference between text and email," Durfee said. "An email is supposed to convey professionalism and convey intellect."

Durfee says employees should avoid sending sensitive emails and instead ask for a meeting.

"That would be when you're dealing with something sensitive, like a confidential issue involving an employee ... that you don't want forwarded along and getting in the wrong hands," he said.

Sending emails when you're emotional is also a bad idea.

"That's something most people have encountered. They sent an email maybe when they were angry and if felt good at the moment, and they ended up dealing with the fallout," Durfee said.

But typing angry emails can be helpful -- as long as you don't send them. Abe Lincoln used this tactic, long before email was around.

"After he died, they opened up his drawer and found numerous letters that were angrily written towards his generals, but he never sent them," Durfee said. "It allowed him to vent, but not cause a disruption."

If you find yourself sending angry emails and regretting it a few minutes later, there is a way technology can help you. Durfee says an IT department can set up email so there's a five minute delay after you hit send. That way, you have time to retract it before any damage is done.

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