Using email has numerous advantages. Email is environmentally friendly, extremely inexpensive, and quick, just to name a few. Overall, there are more advantages to using email than disadvantages. However, there are a few disadvantages to using email which practitioners should be aware of, especially in the workplace. Here is a list of several prominent disadvantages.
Potential Pitfalls Using Email
The sheer number of emails which employees send and receive can be overwhelming. To write, read, and respond to a potential deluge of emails consumes a large amount of office time and personal time (personal mobile devices).
Some companies understand the potential information overload that can result when using email, so they develop policies restricting email use during after-work hours and days off.
Spam and Viruses
No one likes spam. But even with a good filter, it’s only a matter of time before your inbox fills with electronic garbage. Where spam is bad, virus-laden emails are worse. Email is one of the main methods used to spread malware and viruses which can infect your company’s computer systems.
Unintended Consequences of Auto-fill
Auto-fill can save time. However, it can also create huge headaches, especially the “TO: field” auto-fill. When your boss’s name is Phyllis and your buddy’s name is Phil, make certain you type in more than “Ph” in the “TO: field.” Otherwise, CEO Phyllis may receive an inappropriate email you intended to go to FRIEND Phil.
You can hide behind your words when using email. It’s much easier to say something sarcastic or aggressive when using email than to say something directly to another person’s face. On the other side of the equation, when we receive an email that is less than pleasing, it is all too easy to hit reply and send an in-kind message back to the sender. And once you hit send, it’s sent. A quick and hostile response is now part of the company record.
Using Email Inhibits Relationship-Building
Do you work in an office where you receive emails from someone that sits 50 feet from you? Do you return the favor and respond to that same person through email? How often could you just get up from your chair and walk over and deliver a verbal message? Bonding with co-workers requires a certain amount of face-to-face time. Using email is going to do very little to build sustainable friendships and camaraderie.
Lost in Translation
Email can be a poor communication medium because it does not include non-verbal communication cues such as gestures and facial expressions. And you cannot hear tone of voice. We know that meaning relies on tone and non-verbal cues at least as much as it relies on the spoken word. Therefore, the risk of miscommunication is higher when using email rather than speaking face-to-face, or even by phone. And no, emoji’s do not compensate enough for tone and intent (said the Baby Boomer to the Millennial).
So Take a Second…
There is great upside to using email, but before you send an email, take a second and make certain that what you are about to send avoids the above pitfalls. If you accidentally fall prey to one, you will likely not repeat the mistake. Especially if humiliation or job loss occurs.