We are the owners of what we keep to ourselves and the slaves of what we say. But with e-mail at the workplace: We are the owners of what we say orally and slaves of what we write.
Oral messages can make us feel bad momentarily, they are forgotten more easily than written messages. Nevertheless, written words remain as if carved in stone. They fire up our feelings more strongly than oral messages. Also, we relive those feelings every time we read them. They are files that remember what was done to us and what that made us feel.
This allows us to understand why most work discussions via e-mail can be so unproductive, particularly if we want to convey emotions and messages that are difficult to communicate, even orally.
If we complain in writing to a workmate, it is very likely that the relationship will suffer. Recipients tend to interpret the feelings they read and speculate about more strongly, thus making them perceive as a scream what would have been a perfectly tolerable observation.
When I ask what bothers people more of a work-related reprimand via e-mail, they always answer: "That it was in writing. Why didn’t she come to my post, or why didn’t he call to talk about it? Don’t they trust me or aren’t I worth a more direct communication?"
Communication is the main tool to build trust among work teams, but it can also destroy it. It is very difficult for people to flow in their team if they feel mistreated in their communications.
People will give their best effort if communication with the team is productive.
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