By, Erin Isselmann, Xerox Global PR

Sometimes, I wonder how people got any work done before there was email.   Most of us start our days by checking it first thing in the morning (on our smartphone).   With email, I can easily reach out to people half-way around the globe and quickly bring my colleagues into the loop. 

In a recent article in HBR’s blog, Anthony Tjan, CEO and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball  makes a strong argument that email is becoming the convenient way to participate in issue-avoidance.   The truth is you really can’t avoid an issue over email; you can just delay or prolong the inevitable.  

Email makes me lose focus when I participate in the corporate sport of email volleyball.  I admit that I have fallen prey to its charms.  In the moment it seems a lot faster to hit reply and send the issue back to someone else’s inbox.   The problem with this game is that the issue eventually gets served back to me (and my inbox) and usually arrives with an added dose of miscommunication.    

When I have to unravel a confusing email thread or deal with an issue that has been escalated due to poor communication that stops me from being able to focus on the work I really need to get done. 

There are times when an email makes sense and there are times when it clearly doesn’t.   Here are some tips I use to avoid getting sucked into the game of email volleyball:

  1.  Look at how many replies there are in the email string.  If there are more than three, chances are there is some miscommunication taking place.  
  2. Have you met or spoken to the person that you need to communicate with to make a decision or solve an issue?   If the answer is no to both, then it’s probably time to pick up the phone.
  3. Did the email you just read make you see red?  If the answer is yes, adding fuel to the fire with a zinger reply probably won’t make things better.  

So in the spirit of the season, (i.e. peace on earth, good will towards men) the next time you are tempted to improve your email volleyball score, take a moment to think about it and ask yourself if it will really save you time in the long run?