9 Ways Email Is Destroying Your Company

The other day, I overheard the following conversation in an elevator:

Guy almost yelling at his smartphone, “My inbox is full.  It just keeps coming in!”

Co-worker in response while punching buttons on his phone, “I can’t even send email because my account is over its limit!  This is ridiculous!”

Yes, it is.

The email flood waters have overcome many companies.  In fact, email is listed as the top time waster in most companies.

How about yours?

Email: Savior to Scourge

Email was once the best thing since sliced bread.  It was great when we could send messages and they were (near) instantly delivered to other people.

We would often check our inboxes to see what mail we had received.

“You’ve Got Mail!” was actually a happy saying.

Now, many people dread it.

However, we weren’t all carrying it in our pocket.  We didn’t have communications devices and computing devices that we carried on our person.

Email was suppose to save time.

Then: Best thing ever.

Now: Biggest time waster in most company environments.

Email is Destroying Your Company

In most corporate environments, email is running amok.  Is it in yours?

Here are 7 Ways that Email is Destroying Your Company:

  1. Employees Are Spending Too Much Time On It – Most employees spend too much time on their email.  I used to regularly get 400-500 emails a day in a previous job.  How are employees suppose to get their work done under such an onslaught?
  2. People Are Mistaking It For Their Work – For most employees, email is not their job.  But, they don’t get to their real work.  If you have hired someone with a special skill, do you want them spending 4 hours a day on email?  Or would you rather have them using their skills to benefit the company, which is the reason you hired them.
  3. Your Employees Say Things That They Would Never Say In Person – Whether you believe it or not, your employees are “flaming” each other, using ALL CAPS, and typing nasty things in red fonts. They are saying things via email that they would never dare say in person.  True.
  4. Employees Are “Hiding” Behind Their Email – There are employees who make their entire job to “shuffle” email.  This is akin to the paper pushers of years ago.  They figure if they send enough emails, people will assume they are doing valuable work.
  5. They Are Using It For Other Things - Despite any policies your company may have, your employees are using their email for YouTube videos, chain mail, ads, etc.  During a recent presentation an employee accidentally showed her inbox onscreen and revealed that she had more emails from her church in her inbox than work.   (Why people do this in this day and age… boggles my mind.  See: Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Gmail.)
  6. It Is Killing Morale – Email upsets your employees.  And with the pervasiveness of email it is upsetting them when they are at work and at home.  People are checking email after work and getting upset.  Ever check your email before bed and get so mad that you couldn’t sleep all night?
  7. Many People Do Not Have Email Skills – How can this be?  How hard is it to send an email?  Surprisingly, many people do not know how to use their company email both in a technical or an etiquette sense.  See here: “TMN’s 9 Laws For Work Email” and here, “Should Email Be a Minimum Job Requirement?“)
  8. Corporate Communications Aren’t Working - When surveyed, the majority of employees say that they delete company communications before even reading them.  (BTW, when you spam your own employees with “spin” you might as well be lying to their faces.  This is gasoline on the fire.)
  9. Your Employees Just Aren’t Reading It – I recently worked with an executive who had 1500 unread email messages in his inbox.  Wow.  Many of your workers are simply drowning in their email.  Many of them declare email bankruptcy every few weeks and simply delete everything in their inbox.

The Ongoing Battle

How do we deal with this onslaught of email?

How can we regain some sanity in our companies against this email deluge?

In the coming days, I will feature some of my favorite tools and techniques for winning the battle against email.

Please share your favorites tools, tips, and stories below…

How do you fight the email flood?  Is your company losing the email battle?

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

  • ddmcd

    This is silly. Learn how to manage email. It’s not going to go away completely, no matter how much you shift to alternate collaboration and communication techniques. Even social networks use email as a messaging system.

    Dennis McDonald
    Alexandria Virginia

  • evgeny_goldin

    Great post and *so true*.
    The only way I see is to deal with it in a smart way:

    1) Empty Inbox. My Inbox should stay empty, it is only for matters that I have to take care of. This rule applies to my professional and personal e-mail account.
    2) Rules. All incoming emails moved into corresponding folders like “Person A” or “Project B” so I always know I have N unread e-mails from my boss or my colleagues from such and such project. So I get to decide whom do I *ignore* first. Can’t get how people try to manage hundreds of e-mails in the same folder like “Inbox”.
    3) Clean up. No e-mail stays unread by the end of the day. I clean it up in the morning, takes about 30 minutes, monitor it during the day and finalize the cleanup at the evening.
    4) Why do I get this mail?
    I’m very aggressive about getting e-mails I don’t need. Unsubscribe when I can or apply a “Trash” filter when I can’t.

    http://peepcode.com/products/email may bring some more ideas, didn’t watch it yet.
    Looking forward to hearing about your own tools and ideas!

    • TMNinja

      @evgeny_goldin Thanks!

      Love your comment about creating a “trash filter.” I do the same for mailing lists that make it difficult to unsubscribe.

  • evgeny_goldin

    Great post and *so true*.
    The only way I see is to deal with it in a smart way:

    1) Empty Inbox. My Inbox should stay empty, it is only for matters that I have to take care of. This rule applies to my professional and personal e-mail account.
    2) Rules. All incoming emails moved into corresponding folders like “Person A” or “Project B” so I always know I have N unread e-mails from my boss or my colleagues from such and such project. So I get to decide whom do I *ignore* first. Can’t get how people try to manage hundreds of e-mails in the same folder like “Inbox”.
    3) Clean up. No e-mail stays unread by the end of the day. I clean it up in the morning, takes about 30 minutes, monitor it during the day and finalize the cleanup at the evening.
    4) Why do I get this mail?
    I’m very aggressive about getting e-mails I don’t need. Unsubscribe when I can or apply a “Trash” filter when I can’t.

    http://peepcode.com/products/email may bring some more ideas, didn’t watch it yet.
    Looking forward to hearing about your own tools and ideas!

  • stevenMsmith

    If people whose opinion counted demanded fitting and proper email communication, this stupidity would stop. See this article for how a smart manager addressed this problem — http://stevenmsmith.com/tell-me-what-you-want-me-to-do/

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  • Subodh Singh

    E-mails are important and one of the best ways to send feedback, delegate tasks, provide inputs without interrupting. People should handle their e-mail properly, by bringing their inbox down to zero regularly. There is no other way.

    Or it would be like ignoring the knock on the door, or the ringing of the telephone. Dealing with it immediately is the only answer.

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