The Dark Side of Email

Email, text messaging, and social media messaging are some of the greatest technological innovations of our time.  But there is a dark side to these communication tools.  One that destroys time and creates trouble for the unscrupulous user.  Here are some of my tips to keep the dark side of professional communication at bay.

Time: Set aside time for email, don’t check your email constantly, and turn off the email notification on your cell phone.  Constant interruptions kill productivity.  Email is for asynchronistic communication, and it is OK if you don’t respond within five minutes.  Multitasking is inefficient, so keep your emails invisible until a designated time of the day.

Content: Never discipline via email.  Email cannot communicate tone, and readers interpret a disciplinary email in the worst possible way.  They will also have a written record of your mistake!

Also, never send a private email at work, and don’t send emails when you are angry.  Manager Tools ( gives great guidance on this point.  If your email ends up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal tomorrow would you be OK with that?  If not, don’t send it.

Effectiveness: Email is at the bottom of the communication hierarchy.  In other words, email is less personal and effective than a phone call.  And a phone call is less personal and effective than a face to face visit.  Keep this in mind when sending praise, reviewing performance, or communicating critical company strategies.

The most effective emails are short and communicate only one thought.  Brevity is key to an effective email.  Most executives I know can only pay attention for a sentence or two.  Put the punch line first, and don’t try to communicate several unrelated thoughts in one email.

So, resist the dark side and use your email powers for good.  Email is great for broadcasting or gathering information, or communicating with someone who is unreachable. Just don’t let your computer or phone chew up your time, productivity, or your reputation.