04.17.09 Issue #371 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Email Etiquette To Improve Communication

A recent email from a former dental employee reads:

Dear Belle,
I recently quit my job via an interoffice email.  I was so upset with my employer, that I just couldn’t take it anymore and did not want to meet face to face, I just wanted to leave.  I feel now it was the wrong thing to do and I am sorry about it. What can I do?  Judy M.

Dear Judy,
Apologize in person.  Belle

I remember when I sent my first email.  Used to communicating over a telephone, it was difficult to word the email, so it was way too long and personal in nature.  It was like writing a letter except that you don’t seal it in an envelope and take it to the post office.  With a letter you have time to change your mind about sending it or you can rewrite it.  With email, once you press sendit’s a done deal in seconds and there is no taking it back.  

Today most people either email or text more than they telephone friends, family and co-workers.  It is an acceptable method of communication and for some people, an exclusive way to communicate.  After a conversation, we often forget some points that were made or if we aren’t listening forget the whole conversation.  Keeping the email thread as a record of communication protects you from those that say “You never told me.”  It is often said, about conversation, that “It isn’t what you say it’s how you say it.”  However with email “It is what you send, period!”  The subtle nuances of conversation do not translate over cyberspace.

With so many people using email at home and in the office, it becomes necessary to use certain professional standards to ensure that what we write is really what we intend to communicate.

Here are some pointers to consider before you hit the send button:

  1. Use the subject field to indicate content and purpose. Your email may be ignored if the subject isn’t clear or just says “Hi”.  The dental team should decide to use acronyms that quickly identify actions.  For instance the Business Coordinator may use PQ for Patient Question or MSR for Monthly Status Report.  The Dental Assistants might use TRT for Treatment Rendered Today.
  2. Don’t use smiley faces to diffuse words which may be taken as offensive.  It doesn’t work.
  3. Don’t use all caps unless you want the person to think that you are yelling at them or reprimanding them. All lower case just looks like you don’t want to take the time to communicate.
  4. Keep messages brief and focused on the objective. Use one subject per email.
  5. Don’t use email for a substitute for face-to-face contact.  Don’t send emotional content or very personal information because email is not private.  At work your email is considered property of your employer and can be retrieved.
  6. Don’t hit “Reply to All” as this can almost guarantee that someone will get the email that you did not intend to-- unless you are requiring a collective input with little variation from a group.
  7. DO NOT (I am yelling) send chain letters, virus warnings (they can be misleading) or huge files with cutesy pictures unless you have asked the recipient if it is okay to send them.
  8. Use a signature that has your mailing address, Website and phone numbers.
  9. Don’t use “texting” abbreviations in email especially if it is from your work. Your email message reflects not only you, but the company also.  Adhere to traditional spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules.
  10. When using CC, copy only to people who are directly involved.  Try not to use BCC to keep others from seeing who you copied unless there is a privacy issue at stake.
  11. Re-read before you send the email. Act as if you are reading it as the recipient and you may change your mind or catch a misspelled word or two.
  12.  Use a disclaimer to protect private information as part of your signature, such as: NOTICE OF CONFIDENTIALITY
    The information in this email, including attachments, may be privileged and may contain confidential health information. This email is intended to be reviewed only by the individual named as addressee.  If you have received this email in error, please notify the office of _________ immediately by return message to the____________ and destroy all copies of this message and any attachments. Confidential health information is protected by state and federal law, including,
           but not limited to, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and related regulations.
  13. Write an email protocol and place in your Business Office Procedural Manual and make sure that the entire team is trained to send proper emails.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email training@mckenziemgmt.com, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at www.mckenziemgmt.com.
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