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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Email without Etiquette

There is a great Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe today from Traci Logan, the vice provost of academic affairs at Bentley College.

You perhaps have heard or maybe even seen the emails between the lawyer and the prospective law student about the job offer and the response. The offer was reconsidered and declined but instead of doing this business via the phone, it was conducted via email. And these were two lawyers. Shouldn't they have known better. Traci writes:
But this story is about more than the dangers of e-mail and committing our thoughts to the Internet. It is about etiquette and human behavior, and the growing evidence that suggests the ''one, two punch" we face daily -- a reliance on technology and the allure of virtual communication -- might be eroding our ability to effectively link the two. How many of us have intentionally substituted e-mail or voice mail for conversation, knowing full well the deficiencies in such a choice? Yet we do it, time and again, because typing into a keyboard has become routine and so much easier and efficient -- but not necessarily better -- than navigating human to human discourse.
I like this turn Traci takes. The bigger issue is here.

Technology only helps us communicate faster and won't help us do it better unless we truly do it abiding by the good rules of etiquette and human behavior. Traci continues:
In our eagerness to fund programs that provide technology and Internet access to students -- ostensibly in an effort to make them more competitive in a world transformed by technology -- let's not forget that people are fundamentally products of their social environments. Are we afraid to delve into the complex socio-technical influences that reinforce Internet behavior? Or have we decided they're not a priority?
We should not be. We need to remember the basics of human interaction. We need to be the model of good behavior. We need to devote time and effort to this in the schools.

Let's follow the path. If the future strength of our economy depends on our capacity for innovation -- business models that promote versatility, expandability, and affordability -- as well as our understanding of how context-observant technologies might fuel collaboration, then a critical stage for developing the skills that amalgamate these components is our public school system.

Just as careful reflection should precede a nasty e-mail, equal deliberation should be given to the educational programs that support the ''connected" school or community. I say forgo those computers and forget about wireless access unless you're able to combine them with complementary educational programs that address etiquette, cultural sensitivity, and responsible use in virtual environments.

Read the full article and let me know your thoughts on this.

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Comments on "Email without Etiquette"


Blogger Rosa Say said ... (8:59 PM) : 

In my coaching with managers and leaders we talk about email etiquette so much, and making better decisions in the first place, as when to use it all versus making a phone call, or taking the time for personal visits. Especially in one's own workplace: amazing how many emails are sent to people in the very next office or down the hall, and then they wonder why they don't have a good working relationship with each other.


Blogger Phil Gerbyshak said ... (4:24 PM) : 

Great post Steve. Too often we do things via e-mail to try to AVOID confrontation when a face-to-face or phone call would be more effective and more efficient.

Why do we hide behind something that can be printed in the Wall Street Journal?


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