My own late-night blaster boss email experienceI once worked for a woman who would smile at us all day long, and then at about 11pm the email blasts began. And they were rough. She would write to each and every person (or groups of people) who in some way irritated her or did something that she thought needed her guidance – and she would pull no punches. The smiles of the day seemed to turn into a mad dog snarl.OK. We know that goes far beyond just the problems with late night emails. But she also used these emails to manage, which is more in line with what this post is really about. All from the safety of her home PC, where she didn’t have to look us in the eyes, she gave us new assignments and even at times new organizational roles, all with the click of a SEND button.And she even brought up organizational issues that arose during the day, when we were actually a few steps away totally available for one-on-one or team talks. As you might imagine, none of this went over well with the staff.
“But there’s no time during the day!”Just to be clear, I’ve had great managers whose long days were so filled with meetings and firefighting that the only times they had to do most of their emailing was late at night. Their inboxes overflowed with our own questions as well as new issues that arose that rightfully needed our help.So let’s all agree that I am not suggesting as a manager you just ignore your emails, although I’ve worked with some people who do that, too. Nor am I saying you should never send out late night emails. There are times where that is perfectly ok – and there are ways that a good manager can handle this.
Why your email blasts may be hurting team productivityBut first, let’s look at a few reasons why this common practice that seems to work so well from the sender’s end, might wind up backfiring on them and on team efficiency:
- Employees may feel obligated to respond immediately – or be thinking about it all night and worrying.
- Some of the emails are to multiple recipients, activating a whole slew of back-and-forth emails and perhaps work activities at that hour of the night or early morning. And yet your staff is expected to report bright and early, ready for the new day.
- If your team isn’t sleeping, you aren’t getting top performance. Sure there are those times when late-nights are going to happen, but as a regular method of communication, this can lead to productivity problems that you might not even realize you’re helping to create.
- Late-night communications, spurred on by a sense of urgency, may actually wind up creating miscommunications – or responses and solutions without full information behind them.
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What might work betterSince we know that the work day for most top managers does not stop when they leave the office, make it clear to your staff ahead of time what you expect when you send an email – so as a rule they don’t think they absolutely have to start working again at midnight.Some other things that might help:
- Differentiate emergencies – and don’t have endless emergencies.
- Write your emails at night if that’s the only time you have, but wait until the next morning to send them – unless it is a true emergency.
- Don’t use email to manage. It can be a handy-dandy way of avoiding personal contact, but it also keeps you from building the human relationships that a strong team or department is built on.
- Schedule regular short (tight agenda) meetings toward the end of the day, if possible, to cover essential topics that you might have saved for an email. I emphasize short since everyone needs time to handle their own emails as well as the actual work of the day!
- Build in time for yourself during the day to take care of email. Just as you can schedule a meeting or have one scheduled for you, you can schedule a sacred hour a day for yourself to handle things you need. If needed, come up with a special phrase for your calendar that you understand and others will know to schedule around.