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Lost in Translation: The Trouble with Email

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a work email that leaves us confused, miffed or downright insulted — only to later learn that the sender desired none of those reactions. The problem? Digital missives can be easily misconstrued because they lack the body language, facial cues and voice inflections present in person-to-person communication. If your company is experiencing more than its fair share of emails that are lost in translation, it might be time to establish a “digital communication vs. personal communication” policy. A good place to start is with a recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) article that offers tips to help companies practice better digital wisdom:

Use technology if your intention is to:

Communicate logistics and simple directives

  • Share appreciation and praise
  • Touch base on plans
  • Share a personal epiphany or accomplishments
  • Talk through simple scenarios
  • Summarize a conversation

Don’t use technology if your intention is to:

  • Respond to criticism—especially when it’s a knee-jerk or emotional response
  • Connect on a deeper level
  • Coach an individual or a team
  • Convey a complex emotion