Phil Nuttall, boss of The Travel Village Group, identifies three broad types of staff who disrupt businesses by adopting a damaging email culture and prescribes the cure
I can only speak of the sector of the travel industry that I work in but in my experience there are three types of emailers in the workplace:
They can be summed up as:
1. Keyboard warriors
2. It’s Not My Fault, and
3. Email Bullies
I am no expert, but I do have my opinions on this subject and I recognise that I am talking about extremes here.
The travel industry is a 24-hour ever-changing, developing sector highly reliant on technology and communications. But outside of this there have to be ground rules within a business and this is what I will set out in this article.
Back to my three types of emailers.
Thankfully in my business I have never experienced the third and this is down to the fact that everyone in my business knows they can approach me personally at any time if there’s a problem.However, it would be ridiculous to state that we have never had a problem email culture within the business at any time because that would have been impossible to avoid.
Back in the day, email was seen as the savior for many reasons and some of these were in fact excuses when we look back. The advent of ‘smart’ phones has brought email into our daily lives to a point where it is almost impossible not to be interrupted 24 hours a day.
Email is still vitally important for communication of documents and important information to our clients and suppliers, but unfortunately it doesn’t stop here. Within our business it can be abused on a daily or even hourly basis without any personal thought or strategic business assessment.
The first two emailer types are the most common and most of us will have experienced these and probably still are. They are easier to deal with when they are in your own business, simply by education. If they are an external irritation, then there’s two ways of dealing with them.The third, however, is slightly more difficult to deal with and has a wider impact on people’s lives outside of work.
Here’s my advice on how to deal with the three types of emailers:
Keyboard warriors – They appear to have lost the basic human social skill of communicating either face-to-face or via the telephone.
In many instances these people are actually in the same building as you and even sat in the same room.Every email they send is probably irrelevant, not work based and has probably been generated because their mind is not on their work.
Solution – Without a doubt, this is down to communication, education and strong leadership to get everyone to recognise the problem and effect on the business and their personal performance.
It’s Not My Fault – Hiding behind emails has always been the perfect solution to any problem in the business, hasn’t it?
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have seen this across the industry and within my business at times. “I copied you in”, “I sent you the email three weeks ago, do you want me to resend it to you”.
I find it amusing that when we get to the point where we realise something has gone wrong we pick up the phone.How ironic that if we had done so in the first place and called the person after sending the email to confirm their receipt, we would most likely not find ourselves in this position.
I have a real issue with this type of email culture. In a nutshell it is plain lazy or ‘cantbearseditis’ as I prefer to call it - a very common disease that is rarely diagnosed.This email culture, above all, has the biggest impact on senior management when something goes wrong.
Solution – I believe there are two solutions to this type of email culture. Both come down to communication and education with the first being about knowing when not to send an email and simply pick up the phone.
When this is not practical and an email is required, then a phone call must follow to confirm receipt and that the email content is actually understood. So much is lost in translation in an email and this is quite often overlooked.
The other simple solution is to use the technology that is available to record your calls and simply refer back to them if required at a later date.
Email bullies - These people are a combination of one and two but with a more sinister intent.
These are people who rarely pick up the telephone, their ‘Keyboard Warrior’ mentality is certainly not to spend their day communicating spam and trivia. They are also one step ahead of ‘It’s Not My Fault’, they are intent on covering their back at all costs by passing the buck to someone else.
I have many theories as to why these people do this, most of which are not acceptable and ultimately indicate they are in the wrong job.
But the sinister side kicks in because these people want you to fail, they are looking to catch you out and they send these emails outside of normal office hours, mostly when you are with friends and family at weekends or late in the evening.
The negative effect of these emails cannot just be calculated emotionally, but in terms of productivity – they are worst people to have in your business. They change people from being in a positive frame of mind to someone who comes to work with a negative attitude and their impact on the business is enormous.
Solution – This one ultimately has to come from the top and these email bullies need to be educated and given the same opportunity as anyone else to change.
In my eyes the only solution to this problem, unfortunately, is that someone will inevitably leave the business. Unfortunately, I would hazard a guess that in many cases, this may not be the perpetrator.
So how did I move my business from being reliant on emails? You simply cannot stop emails because that is not practical or feasible.
Firstly, I stopped some emailing and secondly I replaced some email communication with social media.
The emails which I have stopped are those that come into category one, Keyboard Warriors. We no longer have this culture in my business. It is a quick fix and we feel the benefit.
The first thing was to address the whole team and take them on a journey starting with the introduction of the telephone and what a wonderful creation it is.
We stopped all the ‘please call me when you are free’ emails straight away.
That was probably 20% of emails sorted in one move. My admin team speaks to my sales team. My sales team speaks to my marketing team etc.
Then we started (like most businesses) our own private Facebook group for the team: The Village Square.
The real winner here was the opportunity to bring our home-based team together with our head office in one virtual place and allow transparent conversations to develop.
The sharing of important information can be easily acknowledged without an email trail sent to 40 people awaiting 40 emails back and forth confirming receipt.
We also stopped direct emails between colleagues and suggested direct messaging either through Facebook or Google where groups could be created for various divisions of the business removing the need to email and CC people in.
We share documents in the ‘cloud’ whereas before we emailed them, then emailed them again after we made a change.
These are just some of the simple changes we have made over the last three-and-a-half years.
We have almost (and I say almost because we have had a recent case of ‘cantbearseditis’), eliminated number two, the ‘It’s Not My Fault’ culture, and people pick up the phone to talk with our operator partners more often.
Our VOIP telephone solution has also been a great help in supporting my decisions to change the way we use emails and there is now less reliance on email and more reliance on a call recording.
I am also very aware of the impact social media has within the business and I have a strict rule that barring any emergency affecting the business, the Village Square is only open 8am till 10pm (9 till 9 on a Sunday).
I do not allow any posts outside of these hours.
What I have found over the last few years regarding email is you must ask your team for feedback, make strong decisions and look at alternative solutions through existing online channels.
Communication is the key in the travel industry, you just have to get the balance right.
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