Has email really improved our communication or made us more productive? I might be alone in saying that I don’t think so. Email has given us the ability to communicate quickly and inexpensively, but this comes at a price.
The first problem I have with email is what I call ‘the lob.’ This is when a boss, co-worker or friend forwards you an email with a request that came from someone else. Email has made it too easy to pass the workload on to others with a simple click of the ‘send’ button. Then, instantly the task has been removed from their list of things to do…to yours. In my experience, things tend to fall off the radar of both parties. Throw a few extra cc’s in there and nothing ever gets done.
The second problem I have is the informality with which people write. Since when has it become okay and customary to swear and use incomplete sentences with someone you’ve never met before? I get it, we’re all just soooo busy that we forget who we’re replying to and that there’s a spell check function. An IM with a friend? Fine. But, a new business relationship?
Lastly, and my biggest grievance, specifically related to handheld devices, is the sense of urgency implied. Just because I have my Blackberry in my purse or with me during a meeting does not mean that you deserve a response right now. I can’t remember the last time I sat through a meeting when someone wasn’t checking and responding to emails. How much of meetings are missed because the people sitting around the table aren’t focused on the task at hand? How much more could a group of people accomplish if they weren’t distracted every 30 seconds?
I, for one, would like to go back to the rotary phone and the busy signal. Ok, that might be a bit drastic, but what I’m after is the personal relationship, contact, respect and accountability we seem to have lost in our hurried search for the closest Wi-Fi connection. The best and fastest way to get anything done is to meet with people face-to-face or to pick up the phone and ask. This, in my opinion, will never change.