There is no difference between business ethics and personal ethics… for there is nothing more personal than how you treat others in business. The two cannot be separate.
Over the years, with the advancement of technology, we have lost a certain element of that personal touch. In front of our computer screens we don’t feel a firm handshake or see the sparkle in the other person’s eyes as they greet you with a smile. Behind our computer screens, we are forced to guess at intonation and intention; and it is often difficult. At the same time, technology allows us to communicate faster and more frequent. Questions can be answered in a matter of minutes. Contacts are organized and easy to find. No more manual digging through an address book. No more answering a phone without knowing who is calling. Information is at our fingertips, allowing us to navigate our way through life without ever having to pull out a Rally’s road map and spread it across the dashboard. No more waiting for film to be developed so you can see if you got a good picture. Results are now instantaneous… and so are expectations.
With advancement comes a whole set of new challenges. Today I want to talk about email in particular…
If I walked into your office and sat down in front of you and said, “I need help.” Would you spin your office chair so that your back was to me and ignore the fact that I was sitting there? Of course you wouldn’t… but when you don’t respond to an email that is asking for help, you have done just that.
If I stopped you in the hallway to ask you a question, would you turn your head away from me and keep walking, ignoring the fact that I am standing there? Of course not…but when you don’t respond to an email that has posed a question, you have done just that.
In our world today, email has replaced a great deal of our face-to-face communication. Whether you think this is right, wrong or indifferently doesn’t matter…it is a fact we cannot avoid. The rules are simple: If you would not ignore a person standing in front of you then you should not ignore an email they have sent to you. That email represents them sitting in your office asking you for help. That email represents them reaching out to shake your hand and introduce themselves. That email represents a personal smile or a heartfelt tear. Whatever the case may be, in today’s world of technology, ignoring an email is as rude as turning your back on someone who is standing right in front of you.
Some people seem to think a lack of time is a justifiable reason to not respond; but this is unacceptable behavior. Everyone has time to acknowledge the receipt of an email. If there isn’t time to answer the question or type the necessary response, then simply type: “I’ve read your email and will get back to you shortly.” Then, make certain that you flag it and respond when it is more convenient for you. This is acceptable. The important thing is that you have acknowledged the person’s presence. It would be like me popping my head into your office and asking a question, to which you would respond, “I have a meeting right now, but let’s discuss it later this afternoon.” Perfectly acceptable.
Responses are validation. A simple acknowledgment is all that is needed.
When there is no response, and particularly when emails are continually ignored, it sends a definitive message. It says, “I don’t care about your issue.” It says, “You’re not important enough for me to take the time to respond.” It says, “Go away.”
No response speaks volumes. It hurts feelings. It belittles. It degrades. It sends a message you would never send in a face-to-face setting… so why, then, do you think it is okay in a virtual setting?
Between my personal email, my author email, and my FB inbox mail, I receive anywhere from 150-200 emails every day. I don’t respond to the ones who are trying to sell me something or to the group emails… but I do respond to every single personal email sent to me. I don’t always feel like it and I don’t always have time, but I do it because I never want to make someone feel like they aren’t important or that they do not matter. Email is no different than if you walked into my office and sat in the chair across from me. I would not ignore you in person and I will not ignore you online.
There should be no difference between how you would treat someone in person and how you treat them online. Is your business model "How May I Help You Today?" or "How May I Ignore You Today?" ~