Yet, as with most things, this technology can have its downsides. A message that is meant to be a harmless joke could end up having the opposite effect because of lack of vocal context and, the next thing you know, you have a major office controversy on your hands. That’s why it’s important to know when it’s appropriate to use e-mail or other digital means when communicating with employees.
A good human resources officer should clearly communicate to employees the appropriate times to use digital communication. In their book "The Big Book of HR," Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem wrote about five situations when you should consider talking rather than typing. Avoid e-mail when:
- An immediate response is needed. Even though we all have access to e-mail, not everyone checks it regularly. And, let’s face it, some people like to procrastinate.
- The message might be misunderstood. Sometimes things just don’t come out the right way without vocal context.
- Face-to-face dialogue is needed.
- The information is sensitive (bad news, confidential, proprietary information).
- You are agitated.
You should also confirm situations where e-mail is appropriate. Use it when:
- Your audience must get the message.
- Your audience is at a distance.
- A record of communication is required.
- Multiple people must receive the message.
- A quick but not instant response is needed.
- Time is needed to compose the message.