Email Ping-Pong!

There are many types of office games.  However, in today’s world, the favorite seems to be “Email Ping-Pong.”

(Some offices have official leagues…)

People love to send volleys of emails back and forth.  Some like to see how quickly they can do it.  Others like to see how far they can send their message.

The problem is that email sport wastes a lot of time.  The back-and-forth is counterproductive.  Email was intended to help get work done, but it usually gets in the way of productivity.

Do you play the email ping-pong game?

Email Ping-Pong: Sport of Annoyance

Do emails “ping” and “pong” around your office?  Sometimes you can literally hear them bouncing around.  “Ping!”  A computer here.  “Pong!”  A cell phone there.

One of the basic email laws to remember is:

“The more you send, the more you get.”

It does take two to tango, and email Ping-Pong requires you to play their game.

If you choose not to get involved in the silliness, you can dramatically reduce the time you spend on email.

Variations of Email Ping-Pong

The are many ways that email Ping-Pong can be played.

Before you consider “going pro” with your email sporting skills, let’s look at a couple of the variations:

1. The Endless Email Thread – Everyone has seen this one.  It appears that your team is going for the Guinness Book for the longest email thread.  The replies just keep coming.  Each person has to add “just one more thing.”  If an email thread goes back and forth more than 3 times, I ask the individual to just call me.

2. The Email Ping – Tag!  You’re it!  Email can be a great way of reaching out to someone in a non-urgent manner to address things.  However, it becomes a problem when the other person decides to use it as their personal concierge system.  Dashing off an email as if you were their personal Google.  “Where is that file from last week’s meeting?”  “How does our company do X?”  Um… why don’t you go look it up?  Or call the help desk?  Or do something.

3. Hiding Behind Email - Email really emboldens some people.  They feel safe and powerful when hiding behind their email.  They say and do things over email that they would never do in person.  Sometimes this can go to people’s heads.  Flame mail, upward delegation, and other silliness ensue.

4. The Email Shuffle - There are people in the workplace that make a living shuffling email.  They appear busy by sending emails.  (Is this the modern equivalent of the paper pusher?)  They think that they more emails they send, the more work they are doing.  Unfortunately, it usually has quite the opposite effect.  At least, for those on the receiving end.

5. Copying Too Many People – Some people feel that the more people they copy on their email, the more important they appear.  These are the email “communicators.”  They want everyone to think that they are very busy, so they over-communicate.

6. Abuse of Distribution Lists – Speaking of copying too many people, some take it to the “pro” level by abusing distribution lists.  It is one thing when you copy all of your co-workers, it is another when you start spamming distribution lists with items that they were not intended for.

7. Thank you! (to Everyone) – Here is a simple one, folks.  If you are thanking someone, thank that ONE PERSON. Do not hit “Reply All” to thank Johnny for sending out the meeting notes.  (Unless, of course, you are following Rule #5.)

8. And You’re Welcome! - Is it really necessary send a “You’re Welcome” email to every “Thank You” email you get?  I say no.  BTW, triple points if you “reply all” with your “You’re Welcome” message.

A Sport Not Worth Playing

While others are busy sitting in front of their computers waiting for the next volley of email, you can be out actually doing your work.

Remember, for the majority of people: Email is not your work.

So until email goes away… (which is probably not too far off)… I recommend staying out of the Ping-Pong games.

Does your workplace play email Ping-Pong?  What are your best examples?

Related Posts:

TMN’s 9 Laws for Work Email

Should Email Be a Minimum Job Requirement?

7 Ways to be Ruthless with Your Email

5 Reasons Email is Now Snail Mail

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Brent Rutter

    My favorite is when the email trail is forwarded without explanation and you have to dig down just to figure out why it was sent to you.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Brent,

    Love it! Know exactly what you mean!

    Even better when it is just sent with “FYI” at the top of like 10 pages of email forwards.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7PXDVDAZFYIKGIOZHBW2VVCKRI Andrea_Daytimer

    This is a great post! “The E-mail Ping” (#2) is a personal pet peeve of mine, especially from co-workers sitting a few feet away. More often than not, “quick” questions would take less time if they were asked in person instead of via e-mail. If it’s important enough to ask you should pick up the phone, walk over, or re-evaluate your definition of important, ha!

  • http://www.thepassionateprojectmanager.com Elisabeth Bucci

    Ever since I stopped writing emails, my Inbox has been at zero. Three months and counting. But reading this post brought back many fond memories of some of the really stupid things I have seen…and done.
    Great post!

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Andrea, good one!

    I use to work with a boss that sat 10 feet away from the team. She would sit in her cubicle and email her team questions! LOL

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Elisabeth… great!

    If only people followed the “less you send, the less you get” email rule. :)

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