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Corporate Email Etiquette - Dead or Alive? 504

Posted by Zonk
from the on-a-steel-horse-i-ooops dept.
mbravo writes "I work in a largish company, heavily into IT, and in a complex and quickly changing market. Employees are predominantly in the 30 or younger age-bracket, and as you might expect we rely on a lot of internal e-mail. Despite that, lately I'm finding myself increasingly frustrated by a complete lack of e-mail etiquette in the company. A typical thread might look like a hundred-message-long chain of one-line replies, with full quoting and hundreds of recipients in the 'To:' field. It feels like it is happening more and more often. I don't seem to be seeing much success in explaining to my co-workers what the problem is here. How do you deal with this at your place of business, and does your company care? Does the company take any policing or educating measures?"
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Corporate Email Etiquette - Dead or Alive?

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  • With gmail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:41AM (#22138188)
    How do you deal with this at your place of business

    With Gmail. It's intelligent filters screen out the quoted text, and by displaying email as threads (aka conversations) instead of just chronologically it makes dealing with a large volume of correspondence much easier. It's not perfect, but it's a damn sight better than any other email system I've used.

    • by emj (15659) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:50AM (#22138326) Homepage Journal
      Gmail is what causes those threads with one line responses because it feels much more like chatting than sending emails. People who don't have the feature to remove the quoted text will always complain. Is it a good or bad thing?

      Gmail removes somethings that were an annoyance when I used pine/thunderbird, and now I just press "reply all" most of the times, and don't bother cleaning subject or to:/cc: fields. But the "reply all" feature should reply to everyone in the discussion, not just to the ones that were included in the last email.

      Ad-Hoc email lists should be easy to set up..

      • by LordSnooty (853791) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:45PM (#22139118)

        Gmail is what causes those threads with one line responses because it feels much more like chatting than sending emails.
        Actually I think what causes it is people unwilling to pick up a phone or just go and speak to the person if they're in the same office. As you point out email isn't really for chatting, so when people use it for such it can get messy.
      • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:51PM (#22139228)

        Gmail removes somethings that were an annoyance when I used pine/thunderbird, and now I just press "reply all" most of the times, and don't bother cleaning subject or to:/cc: fields.

        On behalf of your poor coworkers...stop doing that. I can't stand the morons in my company that can't distinguish between the reply and reply all buttons. Second to that in annoyance is the people who indiscriminately send company wide emails.

        Seriously. With about half a second of actual thought you can actually avoid clogging everyone else's inbox with crap.

        But the "reply all" feature should reply to everyone in the discussion, not just to the ones that were included in the last email.

        Actually, whoever came up with the reply all button should be tried for war crimes at the Hague.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by allcar (1111567)
          The real idiots are the ones who realise that they've inappropriately done a reply all and then do it again to apologise.
          Someone did that at our place last week with a party invitation that was sent to the entire company (150+ people). To make matters worse, the mail had a very large attachment on it, so we all ended up 3 copies of the attachment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Out of curiosity, what's the problem with just ignoring an email that isn't appropriate to you? In the setting that the submitter describes, there's a business with hundreds of people. If most of those people don't need the email, then something needs to be changed to where it's easy for someone to just submit it to those who need to know. However, if the majority of those people do need to know and you don't, just ignore it.

        Along those same lines, I think gmail's filtering of the repeated text is aweso
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        I also find it annoying that gMail tries to make everything into a conversation, even if it isn't If I get status emails from some process I'm running, they all look mostly the same, gMail tends to group them all together into one conversation, and tries to figure out what parts are the same, and mark them as from the previous message.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gnick (1211984)
      That would be nice, but is prohibitive for many companies. My company, for example, does not allow e-mail outside the firewall unencrypted. On this side, we have Lotus Notes which approaches zero usability as e-mail etiquette drops. We have periodic training for users mostly scheduled by how ugly things have gotten. Some employees, of course, never learn when it is or is not appropriate to use the "Reply to All" button, but there's no action taken on the corporate scale. The only way to handle it is to
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by orclevegam (940336)
        Sometimes I wish the reply all button had a molly-guard [catb.org] on it. Or at least add a dialog box on it that says something like "Using this constitutes spamming, does your message really need to be spammed to everyone in the From and CC field of this e-mail?".
    • Re:With gmail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by edmicman (830206) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:04PM (#22138530) Homepage Journal
      So where's the "Gmail" style conversations in standard desktop clients? I use Thunderbird at work, alongside some users with Outlook. I've got threading turned on for Thunderbird but compared to Gmail's implementation it, in a word, sucks.
      • by gullevek (174152)
        Yeah, I wished there would be a way to turn it into threading like Mail.app has. This is much better fore folders like the INBOX, to follow a thread, else in Thunderbird its then buried somewhere down below so you will never wind it again.
        • by Firehed (942385)
          In my experience, Mail.app's threading doesn't work much better. Desktop apps really need to behave more like Gmail if you ask me - tagging and archiving, and being able to do really fast searches on that metadata. I'd say labels is a slightly imperfect approach if only because the equivalent of Mail's smart folders or saved searches just isn't implemented as well in Gmail. Ironic for a search company I know, but that's life.
    • Gmail isn't much help if you want to keep your firm's internal email off other peoples' servers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by value_added (719364)
      With Gmail ... and by displaying email as threads (aka conversations) instead of just chronologically it makes dealing with a large volume of correspondence much easier.

      That's a feature that most of have always taken for granted. Long-time Windows users, on the other hand, will no doubt consider such a feature as novel, given that historically, Outlook and Outlook express were incapable of such an ordinary function, and their users had probably never seen a threaded message list of email or newsgroup posti
  • My experience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal@@@3l337...org> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:41AM (#22138190) Homepage
    My experience in the defense industry has shown me that long, full-quote e-mails are often useful for defending yourself against another's incompetence.
    • Re:My experience (Score:5, Informative)

      by orclevegam (940336) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:46AM (#22138264) Journal

      My experience in the defense industry has shown me that long, full-quote e-mails are often useful for defending yourself against another's incompetence.
      That unfortunately is the reason most quoted for using e-mail in the first place. Most upper management (and middle management) view e-mail not as a communication tool, but as a way to CYA. The phrase "Send it to me in an e-mail." is uttered far to often not because they need reminding or somehow didn't hear you just tell them that, but because they want it in writing.
      • Re:My experience (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anomolous Cowturd (190524) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:52AM (#22138354)
        I tell my boss to send me specs/todos and so on in email because that's where I keep track of them, and cross em off as they're done. Otherwise it's in one ear and out the other. Not always about CYA.
        • "Not always about CYA."

          Yes even in the case you outlined it is a CYA. It is ALSO an organizational tool, a project management tool and ......

          This is not an XOR logic problem.
      • Re:My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

        by The Fun Guy (21791) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:06PM (#22138546) Homepage Journal
        One guy I know is famous for issuing instructions to his staff that range from irritating to ridiculous to borderline actionable. These are done on the phone, because 1) the guy will never put anything like that in writing, and 2) he can draw you in and escalate your time and energy commitment since there's no clear record of what you agreed to do on the project.

        I took to following up his phone calls with a summary e.mail, outlining his demands on my time and effort. He got mad and told me to knock it off, that there was no need for e.mails when a phone call was sufficient, etc. I persisted, prefacing it with, "Just so I have it clear what you want me to do." He stopped the vampire routine, at least with me.
      • Re:My experience (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sholden (12227) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:07PM (#22138570) Homepage
        And how is that a bad thing?

        Planning, etc is much better done by talking or even by IM, but people manage to come away with different impressions on what was agreed on, so a written note removes that ambiguity. Which seems a good thing.

        I like to get things in writing (either an email, or a bug tracking/project tracking database entry) when I'm tasked with something. Both for the lack of ambiguity and for the self interested reasons of it providing a record of why I'm behind on other things (you had me do this first) and for CYA (record X was deleted because you said to do so in Y).

        Email makes that such records very easy. I've worked with someone who would tell you to do X, and then a week later disavow all knowledge of ever having done so when it turns out X wasn't actually such a great idea - a cheap, fast written record is a wonderful thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kent_eh (543303)
      I work in an increasingly large and beaurocratic telco.
      CYA is the biggest reason around here for using e-mail (and keeping a multi year archive of both my inbox and outbox).

      "Gee Mr. manager, the batteries finally failed due to overheating... Yup, here's my e-mail from last year telling you we needed to upgrade the cooling. And here's my e-mail from 3 years ago saying the same thing (with your reply saying you'll deal with it later)."
  • The problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:42AM (#22138198)
    I don't seem to be seeing much success in explaining to my co-workers what the problem is here.

    Perhaps there is no problem... Or maybe you are the problem...
    • by blincoln (592401)
      Perhaps there is no problem... Or maybe you are the problem...

      Seriously. Who cares? Maybe mbravo should demand a full refund of the price he's paying for email at his company due to the unsatisfactory service.
  • by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:42AM (#22138202) Homepage
    I encourage everyone to be wary when writing e-mails. If your firm ever gets sued, all that becomes discoverable, and attorneys have to read through all your e-mails and documents to look for interesting things. Avoid long threads and stick with short, clear e-mails. Lots of one-liners leads to situations where a vague line looks incriminating when taken out of context.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vicarius (1093097)
      I would rather have a long chain of evidence that protects me personally, so when the shit hits the fan and ligitation starts, I have something to prove that it did not happen due to my incompetence.
      • by orclevegam (940336) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:48AM (#22138288) Journal

        I would rather have a long chain of evidence that protects me personally, so when the shit hits the fan and ligitation starts, I have something to prove that it did not happen due to my incompetence.
        I avoid e-mail whenever possible, so that when the shit hits the fan they can't even prove I was in the office.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by modir (66559)
        You can still keep all your emails. But there is IMHO no reason to keep every sent message within one email.
  • I just wish that my co-workers could learn to spell and use decent grammar. Not would, could.
  • It's Free..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:43AM (#22138214)
    Because the perception that email is "free" nobody in management really cares. The only thing they worry about is inappropriate stuff.

    Yes, they need educating.
  • Different tool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orclevegam (940336) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:43AM (#22138224) Journal
    Sounds like what you really need is a company IM server. Install a Jabber server and client for the company LAN and you'll probably have a lot less 1 line e-mails as it's just easier to handle that sort of thing over e-mail. They're using e-mail as something it isn't designed for because they don't have anything better. If that doesn't fix it, I guess you could always LART a few key personnel. Maybe you could put a filter on the e-mail server that rejects any message less than 100 characters (non-quoted) and just tell everyone it's a new spam filter.
    • by wcrowe (94389)
      I'd have to agree with that idea. My company uses YIM, for example.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        I'd have to agree with that idea. My company uses YIM, for example.

        ...which completely and utterly misses the point of using a corporate IM server. Let me put it this way: I'd cheerfully send a root password to a coworker over our internal Jabber setup. Would you send the same of YIM?

    • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:55AM (#22138410) Homepage Journal
      That's a really good idea.

      This text added to reach the 100 character minimum so that it isn't marked as spam.
    • Re:Different tool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sobachatina (635055) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:57AM (#22138434)
      Exactly, people are using email because that is all they have.

      I work in a fairly large group and we have several methods of communication:

      IM- for talking to one person right now.
      Email- for messages- Or conversations of a very temporary nature- like "where should we go for lunch"
      PHPBB- for almost all question/answer type communication. This is extremely helpful because the experienced architects and build team can give advice or answer questions just once.
      Wiki- For internal documentation and build instructions.

      Since we setup the wiki and BB our email traffic has been drastically reduced. The only emails to the entire group that I see anymore are to welcome new people and announce donuts.
    • Re:Different tool (Score:5, Informative)

      by samkass (174571) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:00PM (#22138482) Homepage Journal
      Note that if you're a publicly traded company, SarbOx requires that your IM server keep logs of all employee correspondence for a certain amount of time. There are several Jabber/XMPP servers that can be configured to conform to SarbOx, but I'm not aware of any which do with a default install. You really don't want to be the one sent to jail when you can't produce the requested IM records during the court proceedings.
      • I usually start by installing a plugin to my IM client that creates a secure encrypted tunnel over whatever IM protocol I'm using. Doesn't matter if they log it, as much like SSH they can't reconstruct the contents of the conversation after the fact. Also handy if your boss is snooping on your IM traffic and you don't want him seeing you badmouthing him to the guy in the next cubicle over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tenareth (17013)
        No, it doesn't.

        SOX is only in reference to financial statement or items that may impact your financial statement. You can either have policy against using IM for any financial conversations, or a trigger system that detects communication that may be related to financials, which then logs the relevant portion of the conversation, but most companies don't even do that because of states like Washington that requires both parties have to agree to have a conversation recorded.

        However, large companies will also
    • by MrNemesis (587188)
      Ditto, I find IM invaluable at work. When I just need an answer to "what server does $app" live on?", I IM. When we're discussing some techie points on some projects, we email. Two different tools for two different types of communications.

      All the IM stuff is logged but only in the event of an audit. Keeping all of the techie correspondents in your email means that writing the doc the night before the projects goes live (our projects tend to be short, on the order of 1-2 months so it rarely mounts up to a hu
  • What's the problem? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rob1980 (941751) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:44AM (#22138234)
    I don't seem to be seeing much success in explaining to my co-workers what the problem is here.

    Well, what is the problem? Do you just not like long e-mail threads, or is there a legitimate concern here?

    Convincing them there's a legitimate problem, aside from your ideal form of etiquette, ought to be step one. Otherwise - why would random_employee_002 do anything different?
    • If the email redirects to your mobile, and your tariff charges you per byteYes there is a very big problem

      Not everyone lives in the USA, and the rules are different in other countries!

      (Some of us actually do roam!)

    • The problem is that the more the conversation goes on, you have to wade through a longer and longer rat's tail of irrelevant stale quoting.

      But really, should that be your problem? Remember, these are professional mails, which you do not read on your own time, but on company time. If it takes you 3 times as long to read it, than so be it. It's not your time lost, it's your boss'es. Just make sure you don't stay one second longer because of these mails. If somebody brings up your low productivity, then, in

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)
      Isn't the problem that they're using email for a task that's better suited to something else - maybe like usenet?
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @01:08PM (#22139444) Homepage

      Convincing them there's a legitimate problem, aside from your ideal form of etiquette, ought to be step one. Otherwise - why would random_employee_002 do anything different?

      It's not 'his' ideal form of etiquette - it used to be quite common and well understood.
  • Forum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:44AM (#22138242) Journal
    Just configure an *inernal* phpBB (and secure it FTLOG!!) forum and make people post there. If you have long conversation threads then it might be good to have them in a forum instead of clogging the mail (and that way you can prevent mail leaks.

  • And your point is? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phaze3000 (204500) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:46AM (#22138266) Homepage
    Email is a tool. The job of IT is to support that tool and help people use that tool effectively. If you think employees are using IT non-optimally because of lack of training, arrange training. If employees of the company think these one line emails are the best use of the technology even after you've trained them effectively, let them get on with it.

    If your problem is that your mail server can't handle all these mails, it's time to upgrade the mail server and/or switch to different software.

  • by Aram Fingal (576822) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:47AM (#22138276)
    Part of the problem is that there are two distinct ways people commonly do quotations in email. The quick and lazy way is to just hit reply, quoting the sender's entire message below, and write your reply above. The more precise way is to quote specific lines from the original message and write your reply below each set of lines. What I really hate is when the two methods get mixed. For example, I use the more precise method to reply to a message and the someone else quotes the whole thing with their reply above, the message goes through another round or two of replies and then gets forwarded on to someone else who was not one of the original recipients. Good luck figuring out the track of the conversation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by value_added (719364)
      The quick and lazy way is to just hit reply, quoting the sender's entire message below, and write your reply above. The more precise way is to quote specific lines from the original message and write your reply below each set of lines.

      I'd suggest the second should be characterised as "written, edited and formatted for the benefit of the recipient rather than the convenience of the sender". A fairly popular signature that reflects one aspect of the obviousness of this is the following:

      A: Yes.
      Q: Are you sure
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      That is not the problem. In fact long chains of "reply to" are awesome.

      I hate the new chick in Sales or the Director of marketing that has a 1.2meg photo background, a 3.4meg digital signature image, and uses wierd fonts on all their emails.

      HTML email is the most evil and worst thing ever created in the world, and outlook gladly let's you abuse the damn feature.

      I dont like my email box clogged to the hilt because you want a foofy image and pretty font. Oh and marketing sending everyone a Copy of a 130meg
    • In other words, "Outlook style" is the problem. Outlook QuoteFix [in.tum.de] is the solution.

  • by phobos13013 (813040) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:48AM (#22138290)
    no

    {Unclassified}

    -----Original Message-----
    From: mbravo@spb.ru
    Sent: January 22, 2008, 10:39AM
    To: Slashdot-all@slashdot.org; phobos13013@corporate-email.com; digg-all@digg.com; bob2074@dobbs.com; bob@aol.com;
    Subject: Corporate Email Etiquette - Dead or Alive?


    "I work in a largish company, heavily into IT, and in a complex and quickly changing market. Employees are predominantly in the 30 or younger age-bracket, and as you might expect we rely on a lot of internal e-mail. Despite that, lately I'm finding myself increasingly frustrated by a complete lack of e-mail etiquette in the company. A typical thread might look like a hundred-message-long chain of one-line replies, with full quoting and hundreds of recipients in the 'To:' field. It feels like it is happening more and more often. I don't seem to be seeing much success in explaining to my co-workers what the problem is here. How do you deal with this at your place of business, and does your company care? Does the company take any policing or educating measures?"
  • i don't understand. are we actually concerned, in 2008, about consuming excess disk space and bandwidth because of simple text? sure, it adds up, but unless people are passing around big bulky attachements, i have a hard time believing over-quoted email text is a big corporate burden. it would seem to me worth the resources to have the entire conversation right there on the same page within scrolling distance.

    (granted, gmail does it better, but not all of our employers are as enlightened in that regard.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wizardforce (1005805)
      this has nothing to do with email consuming disk space, this is about the fact that a lot of people who use email at the work place don't bother to clean up their emails. they already have a copy of everything said beforehand, so they don't need to clutter the next one with the entirety of what has already been said. Their spelling and/or grammar should be expected to be readable by another human being. Private emails are casual, work emails OTOH should be more professional.
    • Re:i don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sydbarrett74 (74307) <sydbarrett74@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:31PM (#22138882)
      It has nothing to do with drive space or CPU cycles. It has everything to do with the fact that people receive dozens or hundreds of emails a day which are irrelevant and waste their time. Too many lazy people hit Reply All when the only person who cares is the original sender. The worst is when, say, a person emails with: 'Will the person with the green Hyundai please come to my office?' and my inbox gets flooded with dozens of messages all expressing variants of: 'Nope! I don't drive a Hyundai!' A lot of it is common sense, which isn't that common.
    • It's not a technical problem, it's a people problem.

      Consider an average prole on (say) $30/hour. If they get 10 of these dumb emails a day, each of 200 lines it will take a few minutes to read each one. Call it about 30 minutes per day or $15. If just one person responds to each of the 100 people on the email, that takes each of those 100 people another 1 minutes to read the new stuff = 100 minutes = $50 per responder, per email.

      If 10 people respond to 10 emails a day (all sent to 100 people), that's $5k/

  • E-mail vs. chat... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TofuMatt (1105351)
    It depends... the people in the office who only use e-mail to communicate are often the ones I get one-line e-mails with bad grammar and no signatures, etc., from. However, a lot of us use an office-wide Jabber system now, so I increasingly get brief messages or requests over iChat. Unless I'm just really quickly rattling off an e-mail from my iPod or something, I make sure to treat an e-mail much more formally than I suspect many others do. Working in government, it's considered an official gov't document
  • try a wiki, a forum, a social-networking solution akin to facebook, IMs or other online chats, extranets, online live documents (like writely/google docs), whatever. email is an outdated medium. try "collaborative software" in ask.com
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:50AM (#22138318)
    It sounds like you're using email when you should be using another, or several different technologies.

    Look into putting up an IM server, a wiki, blogs, online discussion groups, etc. Email is poorly suited to the kind of long-running threads you're talking about. One size does NOT fit all.
    • It sounds like you're using email when you should be using another, or several different technologies.

      Yeah, like speech. I hear it's getting pretty advanced now. You can use those new fangled electromagnetophone things.

      • by emj (15659)
        It's funny because I find voice mail extremly unhelpfull. An email is so much better because it's very easy to gloss over, but an voicemail requires your whole attention and you still need to write it down if you are going to send it to someone else.

        Or perhaps you have an easy way of doing forward with voicemail, would be fun.. ;-)

  • Everything is in the title and the joke in the body !
    "I work in a largish company, heavily into IT, and in a complex and quickly changing market. Employees are predominantly in the 30 or younger age-bracket, and as you might expect we rely on a lot of internal e-mail. Despite that, lately I'm finding myself increasingly frustrated by a complete lack of e-mail etiquette in the company. A typical thread might look like a hundred-message-long chain of one-line replies, with full quoting and hundreds of recipie
  • The corporate environment I'm in rather encourages this. First of all, you copy as many people as possible to CYA - my direct boss specifically asks to be CC'd on anything I send out of department, others include their bosses on the replies, sometimes adding a couple of VPs if they think there might be a person to blame for something or another, and so it piles up.

    Also, it's considered "proper" to top-post and include all prior emails in the chain so that one can easily reference previous points of the conv
    • by clifyt (11768)
      "First of all, you copy as many people as possible to CYA..."

      At least CC'ing anyone directly responsible for the work. I know I have to deal with several departments on projects and I need others to sign off on changes...or at least be in the loop so that if they don't like the changes, I can tell them they were notified 3 months earlier and it is their own damn problem they didn't respond then.

      "I was the only person in my circle of correspondance that trimmed my replies..."

      In corporate email, I'd probably
    • by timftbf (48204)
      ACK. I repeatedly get asked why I send my emails "all funny" - that is quote-trimmed, converted from HTML to plain text, bottom-posted (or interleave-posted if it's something that requires separate responses to several points). It's definitely a case of people brought up on Outlook / Exchange not knowing that there's any other way than top-posted, quote-everything, usually in blue MS Comic Sans *spit*.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:52AM (#22138356)
    How do you deal with this at your place of business

    Beatings and electrocutions. It may work differently outside the gulag, but I wouldn't know.

    We're experimenting with other methods. Here's a picture [theseventhvoyage.com] of our recent IT hires. We give them free reign in deciding disciplinary actions.
  • Thing that annoyed me were emails with no subject - how do you prioritize answering them?

    I set up a rule that made a subject mandatory.
  • It is mainly for this reason that I consider email a third-class means of communication, even below sticky-notes attached to the desk.
  • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:00PM (#22138468) Journal
    My problem is e-mail conversations, with 20 e-mails going back and forth. Cause I'm a manager, people think they have to include me in on the conversation so I can "stay in the loop".

    People, have your conversation, come to some conclusions, and e-mail me a brief summary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nullCRC (320940)
      Of course, when the shit hits the fan, a manager like you is the first one to say "Why wasn't I kept in the loop on this?", and then look for someone to blame it on, so you don't look incompetent because you were too busy fapping in your office.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      My problem is e-mail conversations, with 20 e-mails going back and forth. Cause I'm a manager, people think they have to include me in on the conversation so I can "stay in the loop".

      The only times I've resorted to that were when I was being stonewalled by a coworker and I wanted my boss to see all the excuses I was forced to deal with.

  • What I mean is it not business related or is it business related. I work for a small company of about 25, and I setup an internal Jabber server to allow people to talk to each other, and create group sessions, without sending on stupid email stuff that doesn't really need to be sent. Keeps them off AOL or Yahoo messenger and talking to others outside the company. But email etiquette really isn't dead, just the one liners are sometimes all that is needed. I ask for something to get approved for purchase
  • I have groups set up, where you can only see two things, the sender and the group as to, even if you reply to all, there will be one, or max two mails. If the To user was in the group, he will get only one mail.

    If I get mails inside those "one line above, full quote bottom", I just cut everything below the quote, and reply in the good old style. At least I put a "break" into such threads.

    But actually, most quick things get decided via Jabber (in house server) anyway ... I don't have so much mail-hundreds-lo
  • by redelm (54142) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:08PM (#22138586) Homepage
    ... that's all it takes [plus limited access to distro lists]. Yes, it's is a PITA for some cases, but to curb abule, the innocent usually suffer.


    Trimming the top-posting is slightly less important-- people just delete the previous messages to have a nice archive. That is, if someone didn't trim early!

    • by Pontiac (135778)
      I just wish people would learn the difference between "Reply" and "Reply to all"

      We had a reply storm of "please remove me from this list" after 1 person got sick of downtime notifications.

      After that We locked down the All Staff list but then someone really wanted to reply so he expended the sub lists and replied to all of them.

      Funny how they never reply after I tell them that quick nasty "I'm so sick of these messages, remove me now!!" bitch letter went to over 1,000 people including the CEO
  • An email sent to say 20 folks in the morning... half hit "reply" and the other half hit "reply all". By the afternoon my inbox is filled with all types of conversation, etc... on the topic. I then spend/waste my time trying to get everyone back on the same "page". More time is wasted following emails all over the place than actually working on the topic the email originally addressed. Everyone I've spoken to agrees with the frustrations and wasted time, but nothing is done to correct it because one or two
  • by Aladrin (926209)
    The company I work for deals directly with customers a lot. At least 1 person has been fired for their inability (I assume it was not unwillingness, after all the talks and customer complaints over a -year-) to communicate properly via email.

    Intra-office communication is a little more lax, but the basic etiquette rules are always followed.

    The problem is not the employees but the employers. If they don't want proper etiquette, there's nothing you can do about it. If they do, they have been very lax and ma
  • If I receive a long email trail that someone somewhere is expecting me to act upon and which is unnecessarily long and convoluted, I just book a conference bridge and invite all the important parties to talk to me instead.

    It never seems to be a problem for anyone since they know I'm prepared to take the problem seriously and do my best to fix it, plus I can ask the questions I need to, get answers quickly and make notes.

    Email is useful to highlight an initial problem and who knows anything about that pr

  • Dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:17PM (#22138714)

    Email etiquette is dead. Has been for years. Some things I've noticed which contributed to its decline:

    • People putting everyone in the "To" line which means that Outlook highlights that email in a different colour (according to my setup) because it's assumed that I'm being asked for something.
    • Putting two John's in the "to:" line and then addressing the email to "John". Which one?
    • Microsoft Outlook which positively encourages people to top quote.
    • People using the excuse that being on a Blackberry means that they can not use any punctuation or capitalisation.
    • Inserting large graphical images as the signature. I saw one of an animated Betty Boop. WTF?
    • Using the stationary functionality to give me a mock background image of a paper pad. Why?
    • Use of Comic Sans as a font.
    • Sending out messages with high priority set on a far too regular basis. High priority is for just that, if you use it all the time then it loses its meaning.

    There is probably more but I can't think of them right now. The main problem is that no-one is taught any etiquette and (as they've never used UNIX or posted in news forums) they haven't had any kind of etiquette forced on them by an application or verbally beaten into them by some irate news group member.

  • The reason that people in corporations top post is because Outlook pretty much forces you to top post. Since so many companies use it, it has become the "norm".

    Getting companies to handle sane quoting is going to take a big change from Microsoft and a big cultural shift. I don't expect it any time soon. The habits are far too ingrained at this point.

    (And, yes, I know where are plug-ins/hacks for Outlook that reformat e-mail. I have yet to get any of them to work. They seem to be based on a loophole that
  • Dead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @12:49PM (#22139204) Homepage

    In my experience, it's dead. My office has a bit of an informal tone, but I get emails from external businesses we deal with that have spelling mistakes, IM speak ("... if UR able 2..."), and other things.

    We've received emails that are clearly accusatory that we've failed at something, or something is our fault. We've had people fly off the handle when we reply that that's not the case with evidence attached (my favorite: when it's a quote from one of their earlier emails).

    Things just still surprise me. Yesterday I got an email from one of the highest ranking people in our sales/marketing department. It was all very business and sort of what I'd expect, until the second to last line which was... "kthxbye".

    People (both internal and external) are often far less proper and "businessey" (I hate to use that fake word, but I don't know what else to use) than I would expect. The etiquette is gone (not that it was probably ever there).

  • by emurphy42 (631808) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @01:18PM (#22139598) Homepage
    99% of my work e-mail is to or from a customer. Top-posting, full-quoting, and non-plaintext are the order of the day. Obviously, we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by yapping at them about it, so we simply follow suit. The extra cost of bandwidth and storage is peanuts compared to the cost of Getting Useful Things Done for them.
  • A solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Confused (34234) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @01:39PM (#22139946) Homepage
    First, forget about changing the people, it's futile to try. You need to find a solution that works for you under the current situation.

    Second, never ever put something in writing what you wouldn't want to have to explain at court. There's no reason for it. Be offensive as you like face to face, in meeting or on the phone, but always the voice of reason in mails or chat. Never take part of bad-mouthing people in written, you simply don't know who will read it.

    About mails where you're on the CC: list: ignore anything where you're only on CC. If the sender would have intended it for you, he'd put you on the To: list.

    For mails where you're on the To: list, the question is if you're the only one. If there are other people on it and things need to be done based on it, assume someone else from the To: list will do the work and ignore it. If it the sender intended something specially for you, he'd should have sent you the mail addressed only to you.

    Mail containing meeting minutes of meetings you didn't attend, ignore them. I something relevant to you was discussed there, you'd either have been invited or someone would have had the task to inform you about it. Wading through other peoples meeting minutes isn't productive.

    All this sounds harsh and should only apply to mails you don't care about, but in reality works quite well. For the CC: I always liked to blame it on my clever spam filter that failed to highlight it as non-spam because I'm not a recipient. People get very miffed about that but somehow seem to slow to come up with good arguments against it. For the other mails you ignored, it's best to ramp that up slowly starting by the most stupid ones. The more mails you ignore, the less people expect you to read them.

    If some mail asks for work to be done and you're on the To: list and you don't feel safe enough to ignore it completely, in big organisations a good way to cover your arse is to ask the original sender for a meeting of all people on the To: list to schedule resource allocations. If you are creative, add to that mail a few additional people, best some with opposing agendas. That usually puts off tasks for long enough for them to become irrelevant.

    About the endless quotes and attachments, what works best is never to quote the whole thing. Always remove all quotes except a very few you are replying to. That has the advantage, that people see only what you want them to see. Most people won't find the original message in their inbox anyway. It's also a good idea to cut down on the recipient list (just leave enough to cover your backside). That divides te recipient crowd into groups with different information, which always can be useful, in case people start to blame you. Then you can fob it off to someone else you informed but who didn't act on it.

    Also avoid short mails, except if they're very positive to you. Present the case with advantages and caveats. Instead of quotes, start your mail with a short - and naturally also biased in your favour - summary of the matter at hand. That forces people to read and think your mail, instead of scanning just for know thread patterns. Most likely, this will exceed most people's attention span. The additional advantage of restating all the important aspects of matter is, that people will sometimes go into discussions about that or will feel uncomfortable to disagree. I always liked to bring up matters like involving the legal department, safety and health regulations, compliances of any kind, or of everything else fails the involvement of the quality control department for affairs I wanted to get rid off. You'd be surprised how few people dare to put in writing, that they don't want to make sure those things are done properly.

    This should give you in the middle term some lee-way to ignore mails as you see fit, and people will get very cautious of asking for your help. And, as a side benefits, you sometimes are able to collect mails that are always very popular if your company happens to be investigated for some misdeeds.

    Cheers.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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