Email etiquette tips for the office

Good emailing requires proper etiquette.

Don’t evoke anger with unnecessary emails.

How do you handle the following scenarios?

  1. Your co-worker is on vacation, and you just started a project that you have a question about, what do you do? Do you craft that quick email message and hit send, knowing that it will sit in your co-worker’s inbox while they are out? Or do you wait until they return?
  2. Your co-worker is on vacation, and you have some general information/update about something they are interested, do you forward?
  3. Your co-worker is on vacation, and you have an emergency question, do you send them an email?

At my place of work, these are all scenarios we deal with regularly as members of a large team that relies heavily upon email to communicate. But how we handle each of the above can set the tone for our relationships and respect for one another.

In our example (1) above, if the co-worker is the only one who can answer your question, why bother sending the message if it will just sit in the in-box? Respect your fellow team member, and wait to send the message. Simply draft it up, hit save, and hang on to it. You may also find that while they are out, you were able to answer the question by asking someone else, or figuring it out on your own – thus never needing to send the message in the first place. Learn to be resourceful. By sending someone an email (that isn’t too important), while you know they are out, it’s saying to that person that you really don’t care they are on vacation. It also makes it difficult for your co-worker to check their email while they are out, because they have too many messages and don’t know if there are any that are important.

But what about example (2)… your message isn’t important… so don’t send it. Wait. You can craft a message that says, “I wanted to wait to send this to you until you returned, so as to not bother you while you are out.” A message like that goes a long way to earning the mutual respect of your teammate.

But it’s an emergency! Example (3) may be the rare exception… so ask yourself this, “is it such an emergency that it warrants a phone call or text message?” If that’s the case, then it may be suitable for you to send the message after all… but in reality, if it is a true emergency, it may be time to pick up the phone and call your co-worker who’s drinking Peña Coladas on a sandy beach somewhere. Be careful, as you’re crossing into difficult territory, so phrase your inquiry with caution and apologize for the interruption.

Your co-workers earned this time off, just as you did. If they are out sick, don’t bother them unless they are simply working remote to quarantine themselves… after all, they are sick and need to recover.

But above all, you need to KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. By this, I mean that if you are working with someone who genuinely wants to be included on every last thread and expects to be included, even while they are out – then forget about the above – and honor their wishes…

Happy emailing… or not emailing… chose carefully.

More on Gmail tabs

Yesterday I wrote about the interesting results of several studies on the effect of Gmail’s new “tab” features, specifically is it pertains to mobile/small-screen devices. Today, a great analysis of the 3-million user ReturnPath study came through to my own inbox by way of Ayaz Nanji at

Not surprisingly, fewer marketing messages were tagged as spam; instead being tagged as promotional. While that’s a slight improvement, the real victory is getting to the inbox – which now requires end-user action (setting a particular vendor’s messages as inbox-worthy).

The report also goes on to indicate that very few people message around with their tabs – demonstrating the lack of understanding of this feature among users. The whole purpose is to customize how you consume email; but users seem to be content with what Gmail defaults to – great market research by Google (probably); but also a growing gap in knowledge among consumers as gmail becomes pervasive.

Gmail promotions tab doesn’t spell death for marketers afterall

When Gmail rolled out it’s tabs for email organization, it defaulted most promotional material to the “Promotions” tab. If users were only passively engaging with brands sending that were sending them emails, chances are that those emails are going to this new tab and not the true “inbox”.

Then came the studies… were users opening messages still? Were they clicking messages? What were they doing?

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reports, some spelled doom, others not so much.

Laurie Sullivan, for MediaPost reports:

“Gmail tabs affect the click performance of marketing campaigns — creating what Epsilon calls an out of site, out of mind scenario, reducing the effectiveness of email marketing programs.

The study suggests that consumers viewing Gmail emails on a smartphone could put a major strain on marketing programs, according to the study. I disagree. Promotions will have a better chance of earning clicks and conversions when viewed on a smartphone. You’re much more likely to view all the emails because they are not segregated within Gmail tabs.”

This is an important point. The majority of all email is now consumed on a mobile device; split between a tablet and a smartphone (unequally). Both of these devices create a hybrid view of email, combining it all (versus completely separate tabs on a desktop). So on these mobile/small screens, a marketing message is more likely to be viewed even if it gets categorized as a promotion.

Another point I’d like to make is that Yahoo and Hotmail are legacy free systems dating back to the early 90’s… users of those accounts from “way back then” may tend (I have no data other than my own experience and some anecdotal stories from friends/colleagues) get more spam to those accounts than newer, Gmail accounts. And, many people switched from Yahoo/Hotmail to Gmail as a way to reduce spam and start anew. So, I would opine that it’s possible folks using Gmail get less spam on average, and are more engaged with brands from the start (because they are more selective). This may wear off over time…

Regardless… it still means that it’s worth educating your customers that they can add you to their gmail inbox so all messages go there instead of the promo tab. My University emailed all gmail-based student accounts with instructions on how to do this (students are our customers) – we included step-by-step instructions and screenshots.

But it also doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got to send high quality, meaningful content.

And, you’ve got to track more than just opens and clicks – but actually the call-to-action (how many things you sold, or signups you got from the link). Use that as your data point to compare campaigns. If you haven’t set up link tracking, here’s an instructional video I did for MarketingProfs on the topic.

And finally, when’s the last time you peaked at your spam/bulk folder? I know for me it was yesterday. I think all scan these folders regularly because they still contain messages that get caught in the filters (false positives). So I have to check or I miss important (or at least semi-important) messages. My reply may just be a day or two delayed.

Think twice before sending that email

Email Etiquette

Image courtesy Microsoft Office

I just read a fantastic article by Anna Papadopoulos that should serve as a good checklist for determining when it’s appropriate to send an email. I always caution employees to be careful about email and to never put anything in an email that they wouldn’t want their boss/mother/CEO/etc. to read. Things get forwarded, printed out, shared, etc.  You just never know where your email will end up once you click send.

Here’s Anna’s article which sums it up well:

Here are some more of my thoughts on email etiquette.

Do not reply to this email (is bad for business)

I want you to start thinking about your email messaging differently moving forward.

Do not send a message if you don’t want to accept replies from your [customers/clients/readers].

Why? Well, unless you have a really darn good reason that you don’t want to hear from people, messaging and engaging your email recipients should be a two way street. And yes, I’m even talking about special offers, weekly discount newsletters, and so on. Don’t send an email if you don’t want a reply.

We live in an increasingly connected world that is held together loosely by the connections we make with businesses and customers. Enabling those connections to flow freely and enabling conversations will help your business understand problems before they get too big among a myriad of other benefits.

You should want to hear from the people that keep you in business. Give them an opportunity to reply to your message, even if it’s a simple receipt. Don’t turn them away.

I’m not saying you have to reply to everyone, either. This is important to note. Set up an auto-reply that let’s people know you received their message, it will be reviewed, not all messages will be returned, etc… Figure out what works best for your business.

Here’s a great article for further reading on the subject: