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When to use the phone vs email?
Old 01-14-2015, 02:31 PM   #1
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When to use the phone vs email?

While email is convenient and efficient, is it sometimes inappropriate? It's at least partly generational, but we've all heard stories of people being fired or relationships ended via email - seems a cowards way out.

And if you go the email route and the other party misunderstands your tone or intent, as often happens with email, certainly picking up the phone or face-to-face is the right way to go vs another email? [For Pete's sake don't send another email.]

If the topic is complex, one phone call can replace many emails, and is probably more efficient.

If conflict could easily arise (especially if it's someone you don't know well), one phone call is more likely to reduce/eliminate conflict - it's a crap shoot with email.

And if your purpose is to disagree or criticize the other party, isn't a personal phone call the very least acceptable form of communication (vs hiding behind email)?
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Although emails offer almost instant communication, misunderstandings are frequent and getting the answer needed from the receiving party may take a string of emails. More experienced business associates tend to rely on the office telephone as their main method of communication with distributors and clients. They feel as though the office telephone brings the answers needed quicker than they would have come through an email. As more experienced business associates welcome newer associates into the workplace, many work to convince the newer associates to stop typing as many emails, and to start picking up the phone more often. Harvard Business Review has proven that face-to-face conversations and phone calls make conflict resolution and decision-making more effective and quicker.
Telephone calls vs. Emails: Is Office Etiquette Changing? | Summit Blog
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:34 PM   #2
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People also don't return Rodney Dangerfield's phone calls.
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:39 PM   #3
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As I age and become more forgetful I prefer to have it writing. For something without long term consequences a simple phone call is preferred.
I find my younger coworkers all use text and email much more than phone. That also works for me.
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:45 PM   #4
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I imagine similar criticisms had been made about the telephone during the initial years after its first wide acceptance, about how inferior the telephone was to a face-to-face meeting. The device was incorporated into a colloquialism for a substandard effort: "phoned it in".
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:46 PM   #5
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Some of us hate the phone.

When used properly - you can make sure you're *more* clear than you might on the phone where you might forget to make a specific point, or mention a specific detail. Email is very effective if you treat it like any other communication - write it, re-read it, edit it, rinse and repeat.

It also creates a record which can be VERY useful. We had a legal conflict and our emails with the other party (leading up to the conflict) were beyond helpful in proving our point to lawyers, arbitors, and the deputy attorney general. I know one former general contractor who probably doesn't use email anymore...
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:51 PM   #6
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Before I retired from Mega-city , A charismatic dept. head I had many years ago , who had attended Harvard school of business, has some un-written rules for important communications, especially controversial issues:

1. Never put something in a letter or e-mail if it can be done on the phone.

2. Never discuss on the phone what can be done in person.

3. Never discuss in person what can be done with a "Nod" or "wink".

A manager with the best political skills I ever came across. Ruthless and smart. Always mindful of what leaks out around city hall.

He was eventually forced out by a new Mayor and replaced by a "career dullard " , who was also eventually forced out by the next Mayor.

Back to the OP subject. Prefer Phone call. Sometimes the E-mail should be a follow up to a phone call for a paper trail, IMHO.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:03 PM   #7
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I'm pretty soft spoken and respectful of others but I back up important conversations with tenants with an email or written notice. If there is any chance I'll be in court doing an eviction I don't want to play "he said she said". In most other business relationships the phone is my primary - may get screwed now and again, but rarely by the same person twice.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi View Post
Some of us hate the phone.

When used properly - you can make sure you're *more* clear than you might on the phone where you might forget to make a specific point, or mention a specific detail. Email is very effective if you treat it like any other communication - write it, re-read it, edit it, rinse and repeat.

It also creates a record which can be VERY useful. We had a legal conflict and our emails with the other party (leading up to the conflict) were beyond helpful in proving our point to lawyers, arbitors, and the deputy attorney general. I know one former general contractor who probably doesn't use email anymore...
+1000

It is very case dependent, there are times for each. I was recently involved in a little blow-up, and it turned out ALL the misunderstandings were due to things that were communicated by phone by other parties. I was sticking to email for most correspondence, as there were multiple people involved, and I wanted to make sure everyone heard the same thing at the same time. I was able to go back to emails, and straighten it all out because I had a record of exactly what was said, exactly when it was said, and the other parties could have corrected me if anything I wrote in the email was incorrect.

That couldn't happen by phone, it's all memory, and sometimes what people thought they heard is not what was said. That can happen in email as well, but at least you have it to look at review, and question what was meant.


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And if your purpose is to disagree or criticize the other party, isn't a personal phone call the very least acceptable form of communication (vs hiding behind email)?
Why do you refer to it as 'hiding behind email'? It's not like an anonymous post on a forum.

I think email is more 'open' than a phone call. With a phone call, I can always say later 'I didn't, or don't remember saying that' and I could be lying, or honestly don't remember it the way it happened. With an email, there it is, in black and white. No 'hiding'.

There's been times when I wondered if I screwed up something and I can't trust my memory. Often, I can go back to an email, and there it is, either I was clearly right (and can calmly/politely inform the other person of this fact w/o any dispute), or I was wrong and should apologize. Makes it easy, AFAIC.

Phone is good for casual stuff, or when there is a lot of back-forth interaction - that gets clumsy with email. But if it's important, I will follow up with a summary email. It is sometimes amazing what each party thought the other agreed to - until they see it in print!

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Old 01-14-2015, 03:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack
And if your purpose is to disagree or criticize the other party, isn't a personal phone call the very least acceptable form of communication (vs hiding behind email)?
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Why do you refer to it as 'hiding behind email'? It's not like an anonymous post on a forum.
I opened the OP with the two most obvious examples I know of.
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It's at least partly generational, but we've all heard stories of people being fired or relationships ended via email - seems a cowards way out.
I'd call those examples of hiding behind email, no?

I'm not suggesting email has no legitimate use, it certainly does. Documenting a conversation is one example, but not always applicable. You can certainly have a phone call and documentation without email.

But I'd contend that some people knowingly use email instead of picking up the phone, even when they know better.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:33 PM   #10
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I assume this thread was at least in part brought up because of So I guess I accidentally fired my FA yesterday....

This was a case where the poster was looking for an explanation for the results of 2014 and a plan for 2015. Sending it by email gave the financial adviser time to investigate the account and come up with a reasonable answer. I don't think the OP ever posted the actual email but it sounded to me like it was more geared towards getting answers rather than placing blame.

Funny thing, the OP could produce the email to the FA's boss or even us and we'd know exactly what was said. That would not be possible with a phone call unless it were recorded.

I like a record of when I contacted someone, what was said, when the reply came, and what it was. E-mail works well for that. Phone does not. And if they don't follow up in a timely manner, I can resend the email rather than re-typing it all.

If the adviser was to be fired, probably a phone call would be more fair. On the other hand, if you're going to pull the trigger anyway, why give them a chance to give you a hard sell to keep them? Maybe it's a chicken's way out, maybe it's just the most efficient way.

As far as I'm concerned, in business you ought to be able to handle being contacted in any way possible. If you can't handle a bit of criticism in an email, you shouldn't be in business.

Phone calls aren't immune to misinterpretation. In fact sometimes it's better to lay out your entire point in an email rather than have someone jump on the first thing you say before you have a chance to make your full point.

I've also had people who I work with call me on technical issues that they need to know. They think phone is a better way to learn and I oblige and explain it to them. Three weeks later, the same issue arises again, and the person calls me again. Instead of being able to refer to my email explanation, I have to go through it all again. Usually I'd just tell them I'll write it up so we don't repeat it a third time, but that's still double my time spent.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:47 PM   #11
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Again I go back to the first line of my previous post... Some of us HATE the phone.

I strongly dislike talking on the phone. Especially if it's a business call or someone I'm not close friends or family with. Email is more efficient - it allows both parties to answer (or not) at their own pace.

The phone works great for sales people, or people who like to chat/engage. Even on work conference calls I preferred to keep my end muted, only unmuting if asked a direct question or to correct someone elses error or misconception. Some folks love the sound of their own voice... some of us would rather not have to listen to ourselves or others on the phone.

Yes... I'm an INTJ. And an engineer... I like clearly stated written things. I'm not one for schmooze.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:53 PM   #12
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Again I go back to the first line of my previous post... Some of us HATE the phone.

I strongly dislike talking on the phone. Especially if it's a business call or someone I'm not close friends or family with. Email is more efficient - it allows both parties to answer (or not) at their own pace.

The phone works great for sales people, or people who like to chat/engage. Even on work conference calls I preferred to keep my end muted, only unmuting if asked a direct question or to correct someone elses error or misconception. Some folks love the sound of their own voice... some of us would rather not have to listen to ourselves or others on the phone.

Yes... I'm an INTJ. And an engineer... I like clearly stated written things. I'm not one for schmooze.
Again, would you fire someone via email? Break off a serious relationship via email? I'm also an INTJ, but I wouldn't.

I use email a lot. But I can also remember situations that got off track when a carefully composed email was misunderstood by the recipient. Live and learn.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:01 PM   #13
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I've seen a friend fired by email before. Manager in another state. Couldn't reach friend by phone because she was at a doctors appt. Manager didn't bother to try her cell phone.

That particular rif - a lot of people got the hint they were going to be fired when they were asked to show up to specific conference rooms at specific times. (Where they were greeted by outsourcing experts - not even their managers.) That email 'meeting notification' was as good as being told "you're fired".

I've never done it. I successfully avoided management - preferring to stay "technical staff".

As far as breaking up via email... Depends on the grounds for breakup... If it's due to infidelity, or some other horrid thing by the other party- yeah, I would break up by email in a heartbeat. Why get into a yelling war or tears?
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:11 PM   #14
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The flip side of using the phone is with "Customer Service" communications. It is normally by phone , and always " for quality control, this call may be monitored or recorded". The business needs to do this to cover their butt if a legal issue arises , but seldom do we also record the call. Technology exists to provide a computer generated transcript, but the call center would never want this IMO.

Using E-Mail for customer service , other than dept. to dept. within a company, is a disaster in my experience.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:12 PM   #15
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While email is convenient and efficient, is it sometimes inappropriate? It's at least partly generational, but we've all heard stories of people being fired or relationships ended via email - seems a cowards way out.
No difference between email and telephone there. Such things should be done face to face.

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If the topic is complex, one phone call can replace many emails, and is probably more efficient.
It is probably less efficient to discuss a complex topic over the telephone as compared to discussing a complex subject by email. Email provides the sender the opportunity review the content before it is received by the recipient, and the recipient to read it until understanding develops. If email isn't good enough, then do it face to face.

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And if your purpose is to disagree or criticize the other party, isn't a personal phone call the very least acceptable form of communication (vs hiding behind email)?
No. There is no difference between email and telephone calls in this regard. Again, such things should be said face to face or not at all.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:14 PM   #16
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Again, would you fire someone via email? Break off a serious relationship via email? ....
No, just send a text or tweet. Shorter and faster.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:29 PM   #17
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With family and friends I prefer the phone first with email as a secondary form of communications. However, unless it's a really simple and quick question, with most business related issues, banks, brokers, insurance, even doctors, etc, I prefer email so the "questions, answers, instructions, etc are well documented. If I can't get it across in an email or two, then I'll pick up the phone.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:43 PM   #18
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If I can't get it across in an email or two, then I'll pick up the phone.
During my work days, our company was heavy into email. We made a policy that "after 3 back and forth emails, it's time to call the person".

What really bugs me now is DW taking 9, 10 or 12 texts back and forth with someone when a simple phone call would've settled things in less than a minute.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:49 PM   #19
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I give up. Using the phone is never necessary, email is always best...
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:57 PM   #20
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I give up. Using the phone is never necessary, email is always best...
We're allowed to disagree. No need to change a strongly held opinion... But I get to keep my opinion, also.

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