A handy guide to appropriate use of office email

In 1971, some dude with too much time on his hands sent the world’s first email. Ever since then, in offices across the globe, people have been misusing email to frustrate and irritate their colleagues. The approach a lot of people seem to take is that if it’s boring and/or poorly expressed a great place to put it is a whole staff email.

Here I present to you the Ode To Existence guide to appropriate use of office email. Share this with you colleagues, preferably by way of a whole staff email with unnecessary capitalisation and a vague (or even better: empty) subject line.

Think carefully before using global distribution lists

You might think that a distribution list called ‘everyone’ or ‘all staff’ is a quick and easy way to get a message out to all of your colleagues. You’d be right. You might think that your message is relevant and of interest to all of your colleagues. You’d be oh so very wrong.

If you think you need to send an all staff email, just take a moment to think again. In 99% of cases, you don’t. Here are some real life examples of all staff emails at my office that simply did not need to be sent:

  • Someone lost their black Country Road cardigan and asked all staff members to keep an eye out for it
  • Someone had an old sofa their son and daughter-in-law were getting rid of and wondered if any of their colleagues would like it
  • Someone was going to a local restaurant where a former colleague was performing with his band and invited any interested staff members to join them
  • Someone’s lunch had disappeared from the kitchen and was appealing to all colleagues for information on its potential whereabouts
  • Someone found a pencil case and was wondering if anyone knew who it belonged to
  • Someone accidentally sent a blank all staff email, then sent a follow up all staff email apologising for the original accidental all staff email

All of these people thought they needed to share these emails with everyone who works at their company. All of these people were wrong. Before you hit send on an all staff email, just don’t.

Step away from the reply all button

Like the all staff email, the unnecessary reply all is a sure fire way to make your colleagues hate you. Not everyone needs to know that you can’t make the meeting because your daughter has an orthodontist appointment, Cheryl. And Rod, stop hitting ‘reply all’ just to say “Thanks team, love your work!” And please, I beg of you, never ever ever reply all to a whole staffer. Even worse than the person who asked all her colleagues to keep an eye out for her lost cardi was the one who hit ‘reply all’ to say they hadn’t seen it anywhere. When it comes to that you may as well just pack up all your stuff and go home because it’s only downhill from there.

Keep it polite but professional

I’m only going to say this once: emojis have no place in work-related emails. Same goes for exes and ohs and any overly familiar greetings or sign offs. Even exclamation marks should be used sparingly and thoughtfully. I recently received an email from someone who finished their message by imploring me to ‘keep smiling’. This was someone I had never met. Someone who wanted me to do business with them in a professional capacity. There’s a line between friendly and unprofessional. Let’s all stay on the right side of it.

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