Hiding Behind Your E-mail is not a Defense

Published on 2013-12-17

Source: piecar @ Flickr
AT TIMES WE NEED TO PASS ON BAD NEWS. Missed targets, staff layoffs, factory closes, or worse. The whole experience for the messenger is uncomfortable; sometimes traumatic. And for that reason it is easy to hide behind an e-mail.
Case in point. Tuesday in Shanghai, was a terrible day to be trudging across town. It was cold, wet and everyone has a thousand tasks prior to Christmas and the end of the year. Nevertheless, my colleague had a key note presentation to deliver, rain, hail or shine.
Upon arriving at the venue, and asking for directions, he was told that no event had been scheduled at the hotel. He clarified. No, nothing was happening on that rainy day. My colleague then made a call to the client.
“Oh! But I sent you an e-mail,” replied the client. He dropped his head. The tension was like static through the phone. He didn’t need to hear any more to know that the event had been cancelled; at short notice would be an understatement. 
And indeed the client had sent an e-mail – at 4.45 pm, the previous Friday. But that had been Beijing Standard Time. My colleague, that Friday, had been in Australia, making 4.45 pm three hours later – 7.45 pm. And everyone knows that Australians don’t work past 5 pm on a Friday!
The cancellation was not caught, because on Monday, my colleague was Shanghai bound – a 10 hour flight, with obviously no internet connectivity. So he found himself reading the cancellation e-mail, moments after hearing the words, “But I sent you an e-mail.” By that point, it was too late, obviously.
Thankfully, my colleague and I work in the corporate training industry, so mishaps to catastrophes can be reframed into a classroom lesson, or at the very least, a blog post (of which you are reading). So what was moral of this story? ‘Don’t hide behind your e-mail.’ While my colleague hadn’t checked his e-mail over the weekend, he would have certainly picked up an incoming call, or at the very least, read an SMS message. While the e-mail message was quick, it wasn’t efficient and it certainly didn’t complete the job for which it was intended.
So in as we enter 2014, make sure that your team isn’t hiding behind their e-mails. Business Writing skills are important, but just as important is tenacity – or as some colloquially say, ‘balls’. Jingle bells!