Written by P.M. Wortham
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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

image for An E-Mail Rant - Moron E-Mail

Originally the section title here was going to be "More on E-mail", but then I realized the little play on words does a better job of describing the subject matter. I just can't stand the way some people in the workplace use e-mail for political purposes rather than for basic communication which is of course what it was designed for in the first place. I don't think the people who created the early desktop e-mail software, knew it would be abused as much as it is today.

Going back to the stone age of e-mail, in and around the days of mainframe technology where text was the only form of communication, remember those days? If you do we now know how old you really are.

Man those were the days. If you could even figure out how to send an actual message, you were a King. And a well drafted, comprehensive note strategically sent to just the right people? You carried God status then. Of course those were the 80's and technology was still in the dark ages, only a few years removed from the challenges of punch cards and 300 baud deck-writers. Drop a stack of cards and spend the entire evening trying to re-sequence your program stack in time for execution. Ah, the memories.

Today it's all about bravery (or stupidity) in written communication, when you don't actually have to look your recipient in the eye while you're spouting off about this topic or that. Things you would never say in front of a person suddenly become easy through the use of an impersonal interface called a keyboard. With smaller personal devices, whole conversations can take place without the benefit of complete sentences, punctuation, tone, or context. Impersonal? Yes. Fostering bravery by virtue of electronic cover? You bet.


Yes Bob,

I've received your note and I see your narrow view on the subject but ask if you've considered the ramifications to your career should you continue your position?

Sincerely
Ted


Ted,

Why don't you keep your little comments to yourself or you might find your new BMW in the parking lot with a crushed fender or two. Mr. Burnside, your regional VP might also like to know about your little "business trips" to Las Vegas last year. $2000 dinner expense at the Bunny Ranch? I don't think so.

Regards,
Bob


Bob,

Go ahead, tough guy. Burnside was there. By the way, I'm sleeping with your wife and one of your 4 kids is mine. Just in case you've been wondering how an Italian family could produce a blonde kid with blue eyes.

Love
Ted


Aside from the content of the note, there's always the CC list to worry about. Did you ever start an innocent e-mail string to a limited list of people only to have one of them distribute that same quickly and perhaps poorly written note to the world?

Better yet, somebody misreads the note, takes offense and sends it upward to the senior management team for their reading pleasure. All you wanted to do was find a more efficient way of stocking toner near the office printer, and your bosses' boss wants to know why you took it upon yourself to "mess with the office supply procurement and distribution procedures".

After a bad encounter or two, you find yourself spending lots of time preparing and proof reading e-mail. You always start off the note by thanking everyone for their participation in whatever activity that participated in, complimenting them for their insight, and mentioning that your candy jar is freshly stocked with expensive chocolate in case anybody needs to feed a sweet tooth. Only then could you might muster up the courage to invite them to a follow up meeting.

Sensitive business e-mail now takes between 2 and 5 hours to write, another day to find a time slot actually open on everyone's calendar, and 2 more days for VP approval. You find yourself sitting at your desk with a feeling of satisfaction that your e-mail was quickly approved and is ready to be sent. You double check the distribution list, add one more attendee based on your bosses recommendation, and hit the send key. Just then, you review your "Sent" folder to make sure it made it through the mail server. After a quick glance you notice in horror, that the date you thought you carefully picked for the meeting actually fell on a Saturday. Instinctively, you grab your hockey helmet, tighten down the chin strap and waiting for the beatings to begin.

And now, everything is discoverable in a potential lawsuit. Everything. If its electronic, e-mail, text, elecronically stored conference calls, notes, whatever, it becomes content that can be subpoenaed. Wanna make your brain spin? Read up on the new round of commonly requested electronic discovery legal practices.

Ya know what Poindexter?

Best to stop whoever you need to talk to in the hallway, take a walking meeting to the coffee shop, use complete and meaningful sentences, watch body language, listen to tone, assess fear or willingness to agree, collaborate on ideas, grow the relationship, become mutually invested in each other's success, solve the issue, shake hands and completely avoid any risk of discoverability in the process.

Wow, that old, antiquated, no text, no technology, verbal communication shit works pretty good eh?

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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