Email Etiquette: How You Can Bring It Back!

When the question is ‘How fast should you reply to an email?’, the answer will often vary. The most common response is usually chalked down to ‘as soon as you can’ and ‘depends on how important it is’.

In the working world, email is looked at as an instantaneous medium. Once an email is sent, the sender is assured that within seconds it is in your mailbox ready to be read. It’s only a matter of minutes or hours before a response.

However, email etiquette has slipped in recent years and there are a couple of reasons for this. People’s roles do not entirely comprise of checking email. There is work to be done and sometimes email can become an interruption when you are busy. Newsletter subscriptions, multiple connections across numerous projects and global interaction in various time zones can often mean your inbox is sporting over 100 emails before you even get to work.

It is right around here that email turns into frustration, and people begin to avoid it. The problem grows as it becomes difficult to distinguish the important emails from the unimportant, causing delays in communication, set backs in projects and in many cases, damage in business relationships.

So how to do you ensure business etiquette when using email but avoid your inbox consuming you?

Trimming your mailbox

Unsubscribe from any newsletters that you became a part of, purely because you purchased a product, trialed an offer or interacted with the brand in some form but no longer need a connection to. It might only save you seconds that you would normally spend deleting these emails every morning, but the benefit here is that you actually begin to eliminate unimportant email clutter and this will later allow you clear focus on what is important.

Let others know of your status

If you are going to be away, make sure you have an ‘Out of Office’ message. If you’re going to have your head under a major project and don’t expect to check or respond to other emails, the above rule still applies. By having an informative message about your status in place, the sender is more likely to understand your situation and will not expect a prompt response.

Avoid the use of messages that state that you are busy but will ‘maybe, if you have the time, get back to them when it is convenient to you’. Either you have the time to respond to the email or you don’t – avoid the middle as this makes your message vague and will be perceived differently by each sender. People will understand if you can’t back to them when you’re busier than usual, so make it clear that you won’t respond until a particular time.

Avoid responding for the sake of responding

If you do have a lot on your plate and can’t find the time to focus on an email and it’s message, come back to it. Remember, email isn’t just about you, there is another human being involved and they are going to act on your response so make sure it’s the right one.

By adopting a few habits and showing courtesy and respect to the people you communicate with, you will avoid misunderstandings and become a pleasure to communicate with. This could not only improve your relationships but also enable you to gain more business purely because of how you choose to communicate.

How Unconscious Bias Effects Business Women

It appears that in Australia, whether we are talking about Executives or Board Directors, “like hires like”. I believe there is an unconscious bias towards senior managers, executives and Directors of a certain age, gender and race.

Its important that we recognise this bias and realise that leaders are very diverse. It’s their capability, competencies and skills that really matter.

Unconscious bias, whether it concerns gender, ethnicity or age, is hard to measure but it is very evident in business and politics. Many organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission have been trying to address unconscious bias for the last decade.

In April 2010, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick was instrumental in bringing together some of Australia’s most influential and diverse male CEOs and Chairpersons to form the Male Champions of Change group.

I believe the only way to tackle the unconscious bias issue is through direct conversations with individual leaders and their teams about their attitudes and values around diversity. Unconscious bias needs to be part of the broader diversity language in all organisations.

Organisations need to take a very broad diversity approach. It begins with open and honest conversations between males and females, in a confidential and trusting environment. It is imperative to have willing participants and include “change agents/influencers of change” and “champions” who will continue to drive the agenda. It is important to challenge beliefs in a constructive manner and imperative to engage peers and communicate messages positively.

The first step is to engage in the idea and the language of unconscious bias. Understanding how unconscious bias works is key to the success of any program. The discussions that take place on unconscious bias need to be constructive and that can only happen when the women have, or develop the confidence and capability for open and honest dialogue. It is important to build women’s capabilities to be much more self-aware and resilient in a range of leadership techniques.

There are many reasons why women do not get invited to join Executive teams or Boards. Generally, women who put in long hours, take on extra workloads and excel at what they do are less likely to get a seat at the senior executive table. Women tend to think if they work hard and achieve a great deal that someone is going to notice and promote them. In fact, often the opposite happens. They are not demonstrating an ability to network, position themselves and influence senior people which is really necessary to go to the next level of leadership.

Women resign from senior management either because the environment does not promote them or because they do not have a sense of entitlement. Women who transition back into the workforce after raising a family often feel disconnected. Disconnected from clients and customers or from new processes and technology that has been introduced during their career break.

Women are challenged to balance the role of leader, mother and often carer for elderly parents, rarely having time for themselves and their own interests.

Women across Australia at all levels in an organisation report to us that they lack confidence; in their abilities and in themselves and are less likely to ask for promotion or pay increases. “Research shows that women feel that they need to fit the role perfectly before applying, whereas men are willing to put their hand up for a role where they may not tick some or all of the boxes.

Programs need to include men and women at all levels of the organisation who are identified in the talent pipeline, not just senior levels.

Whether you are a male or female in the workforce, team member, manager or executive, I would like to hear your thoughts and experience in dealing with unconscious bias.

Donny Walford

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