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4 Things Your Employees Hate About Your Emails

Author: Kristen Lund Date: April 21, 2014

Common email faux pas and how to fix them.

When Richie Lauridsen sent emails to his colleagues, he received a mere 30 percent response rate. It worried him—especially when he would ask all of the recipients to respond. So Lauridsen, director of operations at SEOhaus, an Internet marketing company in San Diego, asked his employees during a meeting for feedback on why so few offer a virtual reply. His emails, he learned, weren’t any good.

Lauridsen then asked how he could improve them, and ever since, he reports that email response rates have been steadily increasing. Here, he shares a few common email gripes among small business employees and how to fix them.

The Annoying Habit:

Writing a novel.

Why It Annoys Employees:

No one has time to read endless paragraphs.

How to Fix the Habit:

“Make the ‘meat’ of the email no more than five sentences,” Lauridsen says, “and apply the same logic to writing emails as you would to writing a paragraph in an essay. Each email should have one distinct point and topic.”

If you must write a longer email, “boil down the important information into bullet points and put names, deadlines or salient items in bold,” Lauridsen says.

The Annoying Habit:

Emailing when talking would be more appropriate.

Why It Annoys Employees:

Long to-do lists or detailed discussions are cumbersome at best and confusing at worst.

How to Fix the Habit:

Limit yourself to three bullet points or action items per email. “By keeping the points concise and streamlined, you increase the recipient’s likelihood of understanding and taking direct action,” Lauridsen says. Need to discuss more than three important items or ask for others’ input?  Schedule a meeting instead.

The Annoying Habit:

Hitting “reply all.” All the time.

Why It Annoys Employees:

They wind up with an inbox full of discussions that don’t relate to them.

How to Fix the Habit:

Avoid copying employees or using a company-wide email address unless all of the recipients truly need to be involved in the conversation. “I simply just ask that people ask themselves, ‘Do I need to send this to everyone?’” Lauridsen says. Instead of mindlessly hitting “reply all,” create email contact groups for departments or teams, and use these groups for emails related to the recipients’ particular job duties.

The Annoying Habit:

Letting your inbox double as a black hole.

Why It Annoys Employees:

Not replying to emails slows down workflow and makes employees feel they aren’t being heard.

How to Fix the Habit:

“I think sometimes people don’t reply because they don’t think it matters,” Lauridsen says. “However, when a director or CEO responds to every email, suddenly every email seems that much more important.” At SEOhaus, Lauridsen encourages employees to respond to all emails with at least “got it” so that the sender knows that his or her point was heard.

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