Recently I was working on an initiative for my job that involved getting some feedback from an Executive Director at my company. I had emailed him, asking a couple of questions and requesting a meeting to discuss what I was working on.
Over a week went by without a response. I found out that he was on vacation and wouldn’t be back for another week or so. A couple days after he was scheduled to come back in the office, I emailed him again. This time another week or two went back without any response. I was beginning to get frustrated. Why wasn’t he responding me? I’m sure he had a full inbox to look through when he returned to the office but surely he has cleared it out by now!
That week I was attending a meeting with a number of other local leaders and after the meeting ended I got to talking to VP at my company. I expressed my frustration about the situation and lack of response to my emails by the Executive Director, but was stunned with the VP’s response to my comment. It wasn’t accusatory or condescending, but more inquisitive.
“Why don’t you just give him a call?” she questioned.
Then it hit me. How could I have not done something as simple as picking up the phone? I realized how technology has caused us to put up so many barriers and in some ways has hurt the work relationships that are so crucial to build. We look for the easiest way for us to communicate something, instead of one that is the best for the person we are communicating with. I also felt like a bit of a moron, given that I had overlooked such a simple solution.
The next day I made the call and was able to connect with the Executive Director and get the information I needed for my project right away. All that stressing I did was for nothing and what I had built up to be a hassle in my mind, was really a simple fix.
Email is great, don’t get me wrong, but our reliance on it (especially at work) has caused us to forget about some of the most effective ways to communicate. Email can provide a better record of a conversation, but it is much easier for someone to say “no” when you ask them for something electronically. It is much harder to be turned down over the phone or in person. In using email, we also look to avoid confrontation and instead engage in a bunch of back and forth, as more questions come up or people pay half attention to what you write, asking for information that you already provided.
Talking to someone live or on the phone demands more of their attention and engages them in a way that sending an email cannot. Plus, it is a more efficient form of communication because you can get the answers you want immediately, instead of having to wait for a response (what will invariably come when you are distracted doing something else). Moreover, since many of us receives dozens of emails a day, our email may get lost among the others, while a call stands out more. One final, often forgotten, benefit of talking with someone live is that it improves your working relationship, helping you do your job better in the future.
Instead of only relying on less-personal forms of communication where tonality and urgency can be lost, go back to the “old school” and connect with people more directly.
Successful young professionals are willing to proactively pick up the phone to get what they want. They set up an in-person meeting to build a better relationship instead of just relying on technology platforms.
So go ahead and pick up the phone, or drop by your co-workers’ office instead of sending that email. Not only will it improve your working relationships, but it will help you get the answers you need faster. The worst that could happen is that you have to leave a message.