10 Rules of Email Etiquette at Work

One of the most frustrating things about pharmacy jobs today, for me at least, is the lack of email etiquette at work.  I know it sounds crazy to even bring this up, but I have been pondering this post for years.  You see, I have been guilty of not being the best at email, but over the years it is becoming crystal clear the errors people make every single day that not only make the sender look badly, but can actually fracture a team.  Without further ado, the email changes I would like to see in the pharmacy and hospital world with a disclaimer that since I have been practicing for almost 15 years, these examples go way back in time. 1.  REFRAIN FROM REACTIVE EMOTIONAL EMAILS.  If you find yourself getting worked up over what you are reading, do your best to avoid pressing reply and firing off a response.  Avoid sending emails when you’re feeling any type of negative emotion. These types of emails will ALWAYS make you look unprofessional and maybe even unstable.  Before you send off that email rant or reply to an email that angers you, try cooling off overnight.  Or, write an uncensored draft that you never actually send. Remember that all emails are forwardable.  If you don't want your whole department to read it, do not send it.

2.  RESIST THE REPLY ALL BUTTON.  This is the one that literally will make my entire head explode at work.  I have seen coworker after coworker make this mistake and it is not pretty.  This can make you look totally clueless all the way up the chain.  Coworkers don't let coworkers reply all.  In fact, I would love to see the day when reply all is no longer an option in Outlook, Gmail, or any other email client.  Why?  Because it creates mindless replies when all of the discussion could be tabled and then ONE single email sent out to a team.  Time after time in all of my jobs have seen emails go out - an official type declaration of what we are going to be doing - and someone else will reply all and jump in with something else essentially calling out critically all the things wrong with the initial.  Take the time to call the person that sent the email and give them the professional courtesy to make any corrections.  Don't shoot the messenger!

3.  UNDERSTAND WHAT CC AND BCC MEAN.  The recipients listed in the To field are the direct addressees of your email. These are the people to whom you are writing directly.  CC, which stands for “carbon copy” or even “courtesy copy,” is for anyone you want to keep in the loop but are not addressing directly in the email. The person(s) in the CC field is being sent a copy of your email as an FYI. Commonly, people CC their supervisors to let them know an email has been sent/an action has been taken or to provide a record of communications. The general rule of thumb is that recipients in the To field are expected to reply or follow up to the email, while those in the CC field do not.  So many times I see the ones in the CC field adding in their two-cents and then the whole thing becomes a reply-all festival.

4. IF YOU ADD SOMEONE IN THE CC OR TO FIELD, LET THE OTHERS KNOW.  Guess what?  There are times when people are added willy-nilly for no good reason and you look back and notice it a couple of emails later.  Let people know.  Professional courtesy and politeness go a long way.

5.  BCC IS GOOD FOR ONE THING ONLY.  Let's say that only half in your department contributed to the annual walk fund.  Rather than sending out an email to all those that contribute in the TO field where each of them can see who did contribute and who did not, put your own name in the TO and the rest in the BCC.  That way, gossip about who gives and doesn't is stopped before it can even begin.  Don't use the BCC field to add someone random to eavesdrop on the email.

6.  PICK UP THE PHONE.  If you notice that you are going back and forth on an email and getting nowhere, the phone still works.  Guess what?  Voices can convey so much more than words and rarely are misinterpreted as much as typed words.  I remember an email I saw that was sent for the third time.  The second time it was heavily highlighted with quotes from the manager's email weeks before.  The third send apologized for resending the email yet again but someone was not doing it correctly.  Because of the sender's frustration, more time was wasted from the entire department reading about some small piece in the whole operation, and worse, half of the department had nothing to do with the infraction.

7.  DON'T PUT A QUOTE IN YOUR SIGNATURE.  There is no reason for it.  From The Wordsmith:

******Avoid quotes, witty sayings and colors in the signature.

8.  DON'T ASSUME EVERYONE READS THEIR EMAIL IMMEDIATELY.  If something is important and needs to be communicated quickly, pick up the phone.

9.  DO NOT FORWARD AN EMAIL UNTIL YOU ASK PERMISSION.  This is just plain common professional sense.

10.  DO NOT USE UNPROFESSIONAL FONTS OR BACKGROUND PAPERS.  They only distract.  This means NO comic sans.

Hope that helps.  And, by the way, I do mess up on some of these myself.





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