Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

E-mail Policy: Do you have one?

It was 4am in Tucson, Arizona, where I was filming an Internet project. I couldn’t sleep, so I started wading through my e-mail in-box. It was so cluttered, I thought I’d create an e-mail policy for our employees at Cooke Media Group. Read it over and let me know what you think. Any better suggestions?

1. Never say anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want known publicly. Once you hit the “send” button, you never know who will see it. So never criticize anyone – especially clients or associates through e-mail. If you must be explicit with someone or evaluate their performance, do it in person or on the phone. In person is always best for serious confrontations.

2. CC ONLY the right people – especially when communicating to clients or with business. CC’ing shows the clients we are working as a team. Also, people can’t do an “end run” on an issue when they see others have already read it.

3. Also, cc’ing keeps the right people in the loop and updated.

4. Don’t over e-mail. Make sure you actually need to respond so we don’t clutter up our mailboxes with unnecessary stuff. Don’t send an e-mail with just “thanks” on it. People assume you got it.

5. Be very clear, concise, and to the point. That’s what I love about e-mail. You don’t have to endure the pleasantries of phone conversation: “How’s the family?” “How’s business?” Just get to the point and move on.

6. A good policy is not to check your e-mail first thing in the morning. When you first sit down at your desk, do the most important thing you have to do that day. Get it out of the way, or at least get it started. THEN, check your e-mail. Your productivity will shoot up.

7. Don’t over check your e-mail. Set aside times during the day to deal with it, because if you’re not careful, it can consume your day. Don’t forget that the phone is often more efficient and quicker in dealing with something important.

8. Lastly – learn to put your mobile device down. Remember how annoyed you get at the store with the clerk lets you stand there waiting while they talk to someone on the phone? That’s the way people feel when you’re constantly checking your phone.

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  1. My additions:

    1) Never forward to staff e mails that warn them to "pass this email to everyone you know."  That wastes time, and often the warning is a hoax anyway.

    2) Emails lack body language, so it you are uncertain if the tone will be understood–call–or at least have someone review it as "the tone police."

    3) Forget "read receipt" unless it is a legal document.  It is annoying.

    4) Use auto-reply when you are out for a day.  People do expect to hear back in a day when when they email.

  2. Disagree again my brilliant friend Mary….  YOU control the flow of the relationship, and to be "always available" to anyone (except family of course) is a mistake. Whether business is good or bad, you set the tone on client and associate response.  The truth is, you aren't always near your computer or Blackberry, so to let them think they will get an instant response will take its toll on you.  Better to let them know that email isn't an 'instant' response medium.  Phone on the other hand, is immediate.

  3. Be sure to pass along every moneymaking opportunity.  You never know who might need some extra coin…plus, with the cost of prophecy soaps these days…

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