Emailing is such an everyday business practice that we sometimes forget it is a useful resource to make positive professional impressions. Well-written electronic communication, whether it’s email, text, or social media, has real potential for you to bring positive attention to yourself.
On the other hand, you should recognize that a careless email misstep may damage your credibility or, worse yet, derail your career trajectory. Remember what you write and share in email is an extension of you and the great work you do. Your ideas, speech, bodies of work, and presence as well as your written communications are all ways you differentiate yourself from the pack. You want these actions to be memorable effects and career-boosting.
Lots of articles have been written with advice about proper email etiquette. Good email etiquette is important but does not tell the entire story. Learn these six tips on how to use email to purposefully differentiate yourself and increase your standing at work.
1. Understand your company’s (electronic) communication culture.
Are you surprised that companies have a communication culture? They do, and the sooner you figure out how important communication happens in your company and start using it to your advantage, the more influential you will become.
2. Stay professional and gender neutral.
In a business context, think twice about using an emoticon, textspeak (“u” instead of you), or too many punctuation marks (!!!). Women should be careful not to use minimizing language in verbal communication, and the same conscientiousness applies for your written communication. Revisit tip #1; if the movers and shakers in your company compose emails in a certain way, stick with the accepted culture. Let your well-constructed thoughts and intelligent words become your positive differentiators.
3. Keep in mind your emails are stored and shared.
Take the time to compose wisely before you hit “send." Are you comfortable if your recipients print, forward, or share your email with others? If you work for a company, the email system and internal communication are company property. Be mindful that your email will be retained in someone’s “saved” folder or in your company’s IT records. The last thing you want to happen is to have one of your emails turn into that Facebook red Solo® cup picture that haunts you for a very long time.
4. Write well and with purpose.
Writing is exclusively a human gift. We’ve all heard the adage, “You have only one chance to make a first impression.” The fact is that email gives you many chances to make positive impressions with your coworkers and bosses. This means you should write well and with purpose. Exceptional business writing skills are in short supply these days. Keeping your writing skills sharp is a distinct opportunity for smart women to differentiate themselves.
Make sure you have a purpose when you write your emails. Know what message you want to send. Is your email meant to inform, announce, or clarify? Is it meant to praise, chastise, or provoke thought? Whatever your purpose is, you want your emails to be a welcomed interruption in someone’s busy work day.
5. Watch your intent.
You bring attention to yourself in the right way when good intent is interpreted from your email communication. Conversely, bad intent elicits ill will. Here’s an example of a work scenario that happens all the time. Joe notices a problem that his co-worker, Jane, caused. Instead of approaching Jane directly to discuss, Joe emails Jane and copies her boss describing the problem. Both Jane and her boss know that Joe just threw Jane under the proverbial bus.
Your readers try to interpret your intentions from your emails. If you’re not there in person to clarify, it is sometimes tricky to decipher true meaning. Carefully chosen words, tone, positive intent, and correct spelling and grammar will leave positive impressions.
6. Have courage to come out from behind your computer.
Let’s face it: When topics get controversial or heated, it is less stressful to respond by email instead of talking face-to-face. After all, your computer is nonconfrontational. If you want to rise and be noticed in your company, though, you need to get up off your chair and have that important, tough conversation in person. Knowing when to stop emailing and move to a one-on-one constructive conversation is a leadership skill that all women must attain.
And please — only write emails when you are level headed, logical, and calm. Many a regretted email has been sent too quickly before anger or negativity has subsided. Especially for complex, emotional, or hard-hitting conversations, email is not the preferred method of communication for getting the outcomes you desire.
It is safe to say that everyone in the business world sends or reads emails almost every single day. In 2017, chances are that you will send more than one of the estimated 269 billion emails circulated worldwide. Email has broad reach and access to nearly everyone in any organization. Think of email as another tool in your work toolkit to help distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Connie Wedel is a global citizen and HR executive who has worked with incredible employees, teams and leaders across 6 continents. Connie is a leadership and career coach, equal rights and diversity advocate, writer, speaker and mom.
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