Taking Emotion Out of Corporate Email

By Annie Andre | Updated: 18 Nov, 2011

How about a corporate policy mandating against emotional communication in email? Michael Keck recently informed me that this is the rule for internal communications over at Algentis.

Michael and team want to stay focused on serving their clients. They DO NOT want to waste time parsing email sentences to decipher any hidden meaning behind the written words.

The no subtext rule

Their solution is a no-subtext rule: Don’t write with emotion and don’t waste time looking for it. If a manager wants to know when he will receive an overdue deliverable, he will write, “when will you send that deliverable?” He will not spend time crafting a more tactful, but easily over analyzed, sentence like, “I just wanted to check in on when you’ll be able to get that deliverable to me, as I was under the impression you would send it to me yesterday.”

The policy probably won’t work with customers, and, even internally, it requires colleagues to adhere to the same principles that make a marriage work well: Assumption of goodwill, complete forgiveness for past disputes, etc.

Don't read between the lines

If a manager writes to a colleague “when will you be arriving today?” the receiver of the message must avoid reading any innuendo into the simple question. The point is for the reader not to waste time thinking “I wonder if he thinks I’m late a lot.” The Algentis policy says such nuanced discussion will be left out of email and transmitted only in verbal communication, a form far less prone to misunderstanding.

Higher personal productivity is the benefit

I’m not sure if the tip is a good one for all teams. Operating among diverse groups may require a commitment to extra communication. But adherence to the no-subtext rule is probably helpful to any individual reaching for higher personal productivity. Imagine unilaterally telling coworkers that you’ll no longer spend time deciphering emails with emotion: The information only, please!

You may miss a bit of the meaning and connection. But spending less time reading between the lines may save enough mental energy to make it worth the tradeoff.