WHAT YOUR EMAIL SAYS ABOUT YOU (systematic or natural supports) By John Watts  

How do you like your emails served up? Do you clearly and distinctly separate your home and work email approach in terms of tone?

If you say “yes” to this then you are clearly in the majority as an appropriate, professional worker.

Efficiency is the number one attribute most workers will cite.

But as a special educator in the education field, I find it  missed opportunity and a downright shame to limit oneself to too strict and reactive a brand of email communication.

Especially considering there is often such a dearth of genuine feedback and intellectual content passed via the electronic medium anyway.

In fact when you get an immediate response that’s usually when you can most discount it because it is just a robotic response to a letdown.

“Thank you for your e-mail.

 

I am out of the office till Monday, 27th of April 2009 and your email will not be forwarded.”

And I find it familiarly ironic how FAST these responses are in comparison to any actual heart to heart, human to human, more thoughtful response—which often never arrives.

Or how about this one for a more jarring tone I have discovered in response to making job inquiries on-line:

***Please note that this e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.  Do not reply to this message.***

 

 

Everyone sees these kind of formal disclaimer emails all the time at work and even more casually at home when requesting information to some company.  And certainly, no one would argue that “OUT OF OFFICE” reminders are very helpful and professional.

Again, I get the fact that such notifications are very efficient and logical.  It would take a long time to individually write to everyone on your email tree to say you were going on vacation or were about to embark on some road trip convention for X amount of days.

And taken one at a time, I have no problem with the individual cases of this.  It is very thoughtful really.

But taken in a lump sum, it is a bit soul zapping to receive so many INDIRECT hits of off putting responses.

You need more than just the basics.

This brings up my topic for today’s educators: the tone of school emailing.  Is it systematic and official sounding or is it more personal and NOT by the book sounding (natural supports)?

Sure—professional manuals on office conduct will tell you that an ambiguous message will only invite confusion and throw off the other parties’ day—but don’t we need a little unexpected ambiguity once in a while in this politically appropriate world of ours?

By this I don’t mean rude, nasty, irresponsible emails, but rather, non-hierarchal, refreshing ones that bring up a topic OTHER than the most obvious mandatory ones—“please remember that the school does NOT allow personal cell phone use in the classroom.  Violators will be prosecuted” type things.  Heck most subversive of all, perhaps a work email can even have a lighter moment of LEVITY and humor in it?  Wow.

What I am advocating for here is a thoughtful blend of personal WITH the professional such as passing on some insightful updates on student progress or sharing some lesson plan idea discovered based on an idea while on vacation.

A vibrant school system needs more than just a second cup of coffee to remain awake.

I know as a school teacher over the past few decades, the deadening nature of employee emails can be pretty mind numbing.  Instead of loftier ideas or expressions of gratitude being bandied about, you usually just receive the meeting reminders and terse inquiries about remembering to clean up after oneself in the employee break room.  In the more dysfunctional places, that tone can lapse into nagging and being burned out sounding.

At big public school systems, I have seen normally very nice secretaries resort to sounding very gruff and grouchy based on the tone of their emails.  No doubt stress can do that.  Email letters in these situations dispense with ANY personal touches.  No “hi” or “greetings” or “dear” to start with.  No its right to the point—“where is your progress report for Bobby?”  And no capstone, sign off like “have a great day” or even “sincerely or “regards,”

Which brings me to the final, definitive proof that someone has indeed strayed too far into the official programmatic mentality when it comes to emailing at school.

The title and disclaimer after the name at the bottom becomes too vast and often is INSTEAD of any personal, sign off closure like “keep up the good work” or “have a nice day.”  This speaks volumes.  If the sender has more verbiage below his or her name than in the actual body of the letter well then, that, dear sir or madam, is a pretty telling reminder that this individual is getting pretty PUFFED up or at the very least, pretty disassociated from the human side of letter writing.

Now allow me to illustrate this phenomenon.  The long Title blurb:

Roderick Swenson the 3rd

Editor-in-Chief

Swenson Inc.

234-802-392-8069 ext. 12

Ayo@swenson.com

http://swenson.com/

Now let’s look at the standard disclaimer that accompanies every Fairfax County Public Schools email transaction weighted down with enough legalize to fill a courtroom:

“CONFIDENTIALITY WARNING

This message is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Likewise, this message may contain documents or files which are confidential, and the information contained therein may not be disclosed pursuant to applicable Federal and state law. If the reader of the message is not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by telephone and forward this original message to us at the sending address.”

Finally dear reader, lets COMBINE all the email components together with their various sections:

To:  John Watts

From: Sylvia Rumproast

Message:  your progress report is due by noon.

BODY:

Your progress report is due today by noon.

ENDING:

Sylvia Rumproast, DDCCDSSS.  Current President and Grand Marshall of Applied Filing Sciences from Strayer College with a certificate in Custodial Engineering and a major/minor in spreading BS.

“CONFIDENTIALITY WARNING

This message is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Likewise, this message may contain documents or files which are confidential, and the information contained therein may not be disclosed pursuant to applicable Federal and state law. If the reader of the message is not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by telephone and forward this original message to us at the sending address.”

Or if you prefer, WITHOUT the sections listed:

To:  John Watts

From: Sylvia Rumproast

Message:  your progress report is due by noon.

Your progress report is due today by noon.

Sylvia Rumproast, DDCCDSSS.  Current President and Grand Marshall of Applied Filing Sciences from Strayer College with a certificate in Custodial Engineering and a major/minor in spreading BS.

“CONFIDENTIALITY WARNING

This message is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Likewise, this message may contain documents or files which are confidential, and the information contained therein may not be disclosed pursuant to applicable Federal and state law. If the reader of the message is not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by telephone and forward this original message to us at the sending address.”

Did I make myself clear?

Congratulations!  If you have grasped this concept and recognize it as YOUR own preferred way of emailing at your given school then YOU are indeed an aspiring bu·reau·crat!  As such there should be many doors opening and career opportunities right where you teach!

 

 

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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