3 ways emails damage workplace trust

by Apr 30, 2017

Much has been written about office email and the time it take us all to process the hundreds we get a day. But what we are learning is that lack of thought about [Tweet “our email content and habits can actually damage workplace trust.”]

workplace trust


Here are 3 ways emails interfere with workplace trust

1. When you cc the boss

Recent research from a study at Cambridge Judge,  reports how damaging cc’ing the boss can be to fostering workplace trust between co-workers. The reports says it creates a:

 “culture of fear and low psychological safety,

Professor David de Cremer also suggests it can “backfire.”  The study focused on 900  or more office workers in the US, UK, China and the Netherlands and suggests how guidelines and policy are needed to reduce potential conflict in the workplace caused be email or any other form of electronic communication.

One network connection told me that shortly after reading about this research, she was part of an email chain where she observed some passive aggressive behaviour and power playing from one of the women in the chain.  The woman had told the recipient that she was cc’ing the boss (name withheld here) about their conversation. It was a workplace poinsonous dart, intended to stop the recipient in her tracks and the equivalent of the school yard “I’m telling teacher on you.”  What it achieved was making the sender look foolish, small minded and probably bitchy.

[Tweet “The ultimate nail in the workplace trust coffin is the blind cc to the boss.”] If the sender finds out that the boss has been covertly involved, then any possibility of good working relationships are seriously damaged.

Read: Email management tips from millionaires

2. Failure to respond

Career Plateau workplace trust

Waiting for a response can destroy trust

[Tweet “Another form of passive email aggression is failure to respond.”] This leaves the sender unsure of whether there has been a cyebr glitch, the mail went into a spam folder, the person is busy/sick/dead, or there is a problem with the content.

It creates ambiguity and uncertainty which further fuels a culture of distrust. Sometimes people fail to respond because they don’t want to deliver bad news, even though everyone says that no news is worse than bad news.

Within that sub-section is failing to respond to the specific question or address an issue that is out there which might be sensitive or an area of potential disagreement.

Hiding behind technology to be mean, rather than having a direct conversation with someone is also becoming increasingly common. Women who are raised to be more conflict avoiding, run the risk of falling into the trap more frequently than men.  Nathan Feiles says in his post “Hiding behind Technology to be Mean”

Essentially, when we hide behind technology, we fool ourselves into remaining in denial about the less acceptable, and more harmful sides of ourselves (less acceptable socially and also to ourselves). Even though we may be aware we are outwardly expressing negativity when using technology, it’s still possible to remain in denial and free of shame when there isn’t a person there to reflect it back to us.

Read: 5 basic tips to write effective emails

3.  Nix the emotional diatribe

Whether it’s in sadness, frustration or anger, follow the adage of “if your pulse is raised wait 24 hours.” Bashing out a vitriolic, snippy or emotional email is not constructive and will certainly endanger workplace trust. Whether it’s the vicious one liner, sarky comment or the emotional one pager, it is always better to wait.

For many as our email load increases, and the average daily professional inbox contains 100 emails the chance of more than 5% being read at periods of high inflow are slim anyway.

How about picking up the phone?

Need help with trust in your workplace? Contact 3Plus now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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