Project Practitioners > Manage Your Communications

Manage Your Communications

By Ed Reynolds

When should you use an email, the phone, or handle communication in person? People like to receive their communication in different ways and it can vary depending on what you are communicating.

I had a boss that was a "phone guy.” He wanted all communication to happen ear to mouth and wasn't an avid user of email. He was also an intensely busy guy. Catching him on the phone without a scheduled meeting was difficult. That made my job hard because sometimes I needed real time feedback from him on deals I was working.

Another guy I worked for was a total "email guy” but he wasn't a very good writer and he rarely reviewed what he had written before he clicked send. Half the time I couldn't figure out what he wanted and had to wait until I could talk to him so he could explain.

It seems intuitive, but you have to adjust your communication method and style to reach different people and to communicate different information. People get glued to their preferred style and don't see a need to adapt. After working in an email-centric environment for about 4 years, I changed companies. After a couple months, I realized that I wasn't getting any meaningful replies to my emails. In the new culture, I had to pick up the phone to get things done. Always ask yourself how the people you are working with would prefer to receive the information.

Official personnel business – raises, reprimands, layoffs - should always be communicated in person and followed up in writing. Whenever you may impact a person's livelihood, as a manager there is nothing more important than a caring, personal touch.

When I have any other sensitive information to communicate, I ask myself, "Is this information for the intended recipient only? Do I need to document it?” If the answer to both questions is no, I try to use whatever method I think the receiver would prefer. If the answer to either question is yes, I call or meet in person first and then follow-up with an email (if it should be documented). Whatever the case, if you write, review your note and who you copied before you send it. Make it as simple and concise as you can. If somebody isn't a stakeholder or doesn't need to know, don't copy them.

Think before you communicate; you'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Excellent article. Email communication should be used for information dissemination and minuting the business discussions and action items. The email should not be used for a situation where iterative dialogue or feedback is required between sender and receiver.

In principle I agree with Sekar, however, one of my central points is that (as long as the information being communicated doesn't violate privacy or some corporate rules) email can be appropriate if the recipient prefers to receive their information that way.

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