by Kay Wais, PMP
A large percentage of most project communications today is done via e-mail. And this is a good idea for many reasons, such as the ability to state instructions clearly, precisely, and to broadcast to an entire team at once. However there are common mistakes that project managers should watch for in their own writing when using this invaluable tool for project communications.
Since e-mail can so easily be misundestood, it is important to review, re-read, edit and review again any message that you send out regarding project instructions. Below are a few reminders that can keep your e-mail working for you instead of against you.
- Don't use humor or sarcasm in e-mail. It doesn't translate well and it's more likely to elicit a raised eyebrow rather than a laugh.
- Leave out personal opinions and emotions. Keep to the business topic and deal with it professionally.
- Don't do anything to fuel the fire of personality conflict. You don't need to compliment. But never use e-mail to insult or criticise.
- If you're in a high-stress situation, give yourself time before hitting "send" . Once the e-mail is out there it can never be taken back.
- Think about that "To" list again. Are all the necessary people included and those who don't care left off?
Many project managers, such as myself, credit our "direct" communication style for many good things. However I know I have improved my e-mail clarity and relationships by remembering to take the edge off before sending messages. That is often a simple change of wording from "well, they've done it again!" to "we've seen a pattern that we'd like to have improved". This morning I changed the instruction to "get it right the first time" to "please review the deliverable for your acceptance prior to forwarding to the team."