Avoid Email Recall: Or Five Suggestions to Cope with Email as a PM

ShissoIn spite of Microsoft’s best efforts, I’ve never seen Outlook successfully recall a message.

Once out there – you lose control of the message and how it’s read.  To avoid having to use the feature, I’ve tried to implement the following 5 suggestions:

1. Be wary of the Cast of Thousands email.
Be especially wary of those with mail aliases – because you really never know how many people are copied on.  Treat these mails with kid gloves because their sender is trying to make a point. Each of the suggestions that follow go doubly for emails like these. It goes without saying that unless you’re sending a status report – you should not be sending out this kind of email.

2. Reply Alls Should be Used Sparingly
I read a post that suggested you should never Reply All.  I don’t agree with that.  I think that you should use your head when you reply all.  If you’re:
a) Trying to avoid a misunderstanding that involves everyone on the email
b) You’re trying to avoid miscommunicating then Reply All.

If, as above, you have a Cast of Thousands email, my recommendation is to forward it – to avoid a possible bcc and then only to the sender and the key people that need to be engaged.

3. If any email thread goes beyond 3 responses: Set up a call.
We all get a boatload of email every day.  If there are questions that go beyond a simple answer – response – answer – then honestly – you need a meeting.  Get everyone on the same bridge and hash out whatever question, issue or concern that they have so that you can reach a common understanding.  Threads that go on and on are hard to follow and usually add to the confusion.

4. Don’t Flame.  NEVER Flame.  I repeat: Never Flame.
Run around your desk.  Curse up a storm, but never let it show in your email.  Later, if it turns out you didn’t have the full picture or were just wrong, you can at least comfort yourself with the knowledge that you were polite and it cannot be sent back to embarrass you at a later date.  I’m not saying you have to act like a robot, but express your emotion in another format. You’ll thank yourself later.

5. Remember that it is likely that you may encounter situations where most if not all of these suggestions are not followed.  Remind yourself that people are human and remember Suggestion #4.

I’m sure you have other suggestions to avoid email mishaps.  Leave a comment or send a tweet.  My id is jgodfrey.

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