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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An E-mail's Success Often Depends Upon Its Integrity

In spite of the universal nature of an email that can and does go anywhere, it is not a medium that has one shape that fits all purposes.

Today I received a request for me for a heavy-duty favor from someone I have never met, but it wasn't phrased that way. It was written with the expectation that I would say yes and sounded more like a notification of what I was about to do for her. Rather than ask me for the help, the writer explained what I should do, when I should do it, and added, "Thanks!" as if I had agreed to break a rule for her (that was her request) and simultaneously give to her what I had declined to seven other strangers who had written to me with the same request.

Like many people in the workplace, I receive all kinds of emails and many like this.

The casual nature of the email often dupes fast-moving writers who need something fast to send an email that they hope will accomplish a job and solve a very real problem. Sometimes these emails achieve the desired result in spite of the nature of the content of the email. But in many, many cases an email written on the fly that does not respect the integrity of its own purpose will fail to achieve the successful reply that is sought and often truly needed.

If you want to increase your odds of achieving more positive replies from people in the workplace, reconsider the purpose of every email you write, and make sure that the content of your message reflects your stance. If it is a request, ask politely and reasonably for what you want rather than tell the reader what to do for you--NOW.

You might also include a so-what factor for the reader. That is, if you have a request that puts an extra burden upon your reader if your reader says yes, then include some kind of potential benefit for the reader. That is NOT a bribe. It is something like, "I know this late request may sound like I could become the kind of worker who will always require special consideration and help from you, but I won't be. If you say yes today, you will discover that I am disciplined, responsible and easy to get along with." That's a so-what factor I pay attention to when it is offered in a variety of ways from writers who do understand how to make a request that will achieve results-or at least the strongest consideration possible.

So often, an email doesn't communicate the message intended, and most emails written in the workplace should because they should not waste a reader's time.

Today, when you write an email that is intended to help you solve a problem that needs to be solved, make sure that you respect the integrity of the purpose you have in mind. If it's a request, make one. If it's the passing along of information, do that.

Whatever the case, if you take the time to consider the integrity of your message, when a reader opens it he/she will know more about you than what you have written: he/she will understand that you have integrity too.


  1. This was very interesting to me. I think I don't always consider carefully how my emails read to others.

    I intend to read this post of yours more than once, to try to improve the way I come across in email. I agree, that one should be respectful and not just use email to "force others" to accomplish one's personal goals.

    This is a very timely post!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to respond.