Think Twice Before You Hit Send

Are you sure you want to send that email? Take a second and think twice before you hit the send button on that email or text that should have stayed in your drafts folder.

Each year, we have the privilege of coaching managers who have sent an email that, to put it bluntly, should have never been sent. These emails have caused friction, escalated conflicts, and undermined teamwork in the organization. Even worse, the sender has hurt his or her ability to lead successfully and others in the organization may no longer be motivated to follow this individual. The following tips will help you to avoid sender’s remorse by becoming an even more effective communicator and leader.

  1. Don’t communicate anything in email that you would not communicate to someone face-to-face. For whatever reason, some people, when hiding behind a computer screen, choose words they would never utter to someone when speaking face-to-face. When we read emails that cause problems for leaders and employees, we always start with the same question, “When you hit the send button, what was your goal?” If the goal was to destroy relationships and cause problems, the email was highly successful.
  2. Determine if email is the right format to communicate your message. Have you ever received a lengthy, drawn-out email, teaming with emotion, that clearly took someone a long-time to painstakingly write? In many of these instances, it would have been better, faster and more effective to communicate face-to-face or by phone. The best thing a recipient can do with this type of email is to respond, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. We need to talk. Will 2:00 pm today work?” You could also pick up the phone and convey the same message. To continue this type of conversation by email is a huge waste of everyone’s time. Unfortunately, there are some people in every organization who would rather send an email half-way around the world and copy the entire organization, when they could have resolved the problem by pushing their chair back and talking to the person in the cubicle next to them. Do not use your fingers when your feet and mouth would work so much better.
  3. Double check the email recipients. Slowing down to take this one step will save you a lot of grief. However, if you skip step four but still follow steps one and two, the fallout should be minimal.
  4. If emotion is involved when you are writing an email, save it as a draft to re-read later before you hit send. Sometimes you may only need an hour to pass. Other times you might be better off waiting until tomorrow to re-read your email. When you re-read after the heat of the emotion passes, you can objectively ask: What is my goal in sending this email? What is the tone that comes across? By sending the email, will it make my organizational relationships weaker or stronger? Is anything good going to come from my communicating this?  Will anything bad happen if I don’t?
  5. Severely restrict the number of people you copy. The more people who are copied in your emails, the more likely they are to think that you cannot resolve your differences or conflicts through one-on-one or team communication.
  6. Don’t over emphasize. Putting things in ALL CAPS, better yet, ALL CAPS in a large type font with bold and multiple exclamation points makes you look like a jerk who has no ability to control emotions.
  7. Ask yourself, does the email even need to be sent? My dad taught me well. Sometimes exercising your right to remain silent may be the best strategy in successfully achieving your goals.
  8. Ask yourself, is this email in alignment with the mission, vision and values of my organization? This question could save people a lot of grief and loss of credibility. More importantly, it could save a lot of time for all the recipients who wouldn’t have to read the email.

There are enough unforeseen challenges in life. Sending an email bomb that blows up and ricochets throughout the organization doesn’t have to be one of them. Life is too short to jeopardize your career over a rogue email.

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