Can you imagine your workplace without any e-mail communication?
It’s hard to picture, isn’t it? E-mail has become the preferred method of communication in the workplace. Through e-mail, messages can be written, edited, and sent at lightning speed. Additionally, e-mail software allows us to have an efficient filing cabinet on hand with the capability to filter, sort, store, and search messages and attachments faster than paper-based communication.
E-mail is wonderful in many ways – it’s almost impossible to picture a successful organization without it. But, it's time to be realistic and recognize the limitations, especially in terms of how YOU communicate in your workplace.
E-mail communication allows us to avoid face-to-face conversations with those in our organization - and that, my friend, is an issue.
We know gaining exposure is an important factor in influencing others (see blog post: How to Gain Visibility and Exposure at Work ). But if we’re relying solely on e-mails to communicate, we're missing critical opportunities to build both our image and exposure.
Yes, in many ways e-mailing is easier and allows you to avoid conversations with others which- let’s be honest- we as human beings often prefer. Hiding behind e-mails hurts our chances of gaining exposure and building credibility among those we work with.
Communicating with people in-person challenges us to connect with people on a deeper level by making eye contact and seeing the emotions and facial expressions that person is exhibiting.
I want to share a personal example with you. During one of my first internships, when I was just starting my career, I gained some valuable feedback from my supervisor. He told me I communicated efficiently and effectively through emails, but when I spoke with him face-to-face, I tended to ramble. On top of that, he said I had a hard time getting to the point I was trying to make or getting to the question I wanted to ask him. I knew he was right as soon as he said it. When I spoke with him in-person, I would avoid eye contact and it would take me at least 2 minutes to explain something and ask a question when it really should have only taken me about 30 seconds.
Many of us prefer email communication because we have time to edit and review the contents before we send it, but it’s important for us to put ourselves out there and develop our in-person communication skills too. These skills are linked to social agility and emotional intelligence which are HUGE factors in developing executive presence.
Some of us have a tendency to write how we talk. For me, I often struggle with e-mail communication because I feel like I don’t sound friendly enough. I understand the importance of not including exclamation marks and smiley faces throughout every e-mail in order to make myself sound friendlier. But as I proof-read an email the thought of “do I sound friendly enough?” is always in the back of my mind. This can be avoided by committing to face-to-face communication.
Smiling in person is a lot more natural than inserting a smiley face in an email. Give people the chance to see your authentic self by conversing with them in person.
Next time you go to send an email to your coworker, supervisor, or direct report, I encourage you to ask yourself if the communication should be done via e-mail. If not, make the effort to communicate with them in person. I challenge you to start incorporating in-person communication when you have the chance – your image, exposure, and credibility will benefit and you may even gain some valuable feedback about how you’re showing up.
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Whitney Ohmer is a Talent and Organizational Development consultant for the Corporate Talent Institute.
To learn more about her organization, visit www.corporatetalentinstitute.com