What’s The Point Of That Email? Email Etiquette for Managers

January 22, 2013

–Adapted from AMA Business Boot Camp–a compendium of some of the American Management Association's best advice.

Email etiquette begins with clear communication. Clear communication begins with clarity of purpose.

What’s the reason behind sending an email to your supervisor; what do you hope to accomplish? Why do you want to text a direct report; how will it help get the job done? When you communicate with clear intent, you let people know you are mission-focused and that you respect their time—and your own.

One type of communication that bears a closer look here is the situation report, called a SITREP by military personnel. Updating those higher up the chain of command about changes in the status of your project or program reduces the possibility of their making decisions based on old or tainted information.

Make your SITREP succinct.

In the battlefield, it might take shape as a ten-second call to a senior officer. For example: “On the Blue Route at RP 9. Enemy sighted at RP 7. No weapons fired. On schedule to reach tarmac by 1800. Radio silence until then.”

In the office, it might be a two-sentence e-mail to the boss: “Customer complaint over system performance addressed in on-site call today. Final test of system upgrades 9 a.m. Thursday.”

The first step in making your communication clear is to recognize what you need to communicate. Consider these categories of important information as a starting point for organizing your thoughts on communicating upward:

  • Performance reports
  • Situation reports
  • Recommendations
  • Requests for additional resources
  • Planning

Your employees will have more influence on your success than any other group or individual. Their ability to function and add value to the organization depends on your ability to communicate effectively with them, which is as important as your efforts to connect, in speech and writing, up the chain of command. When communicating to your direct reports, rely on these categories of information as a starting point for organizing your thoughts:

  • Procedures
  • Project information
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Conference calls
  • Team objectives and goals
  • Employee performance
  • Key personnel shifts
  • Change in major customer/stakeholder relationship
  • Good/bad financial news

Whether you’re talking or writing, keep in mind that the content of your business communication should reflect a specific purpose. And don’t forget to proofread.

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About The Author

Edward T. Reilly is President and CEO of the American Management Association (AMA). AMA is the world’s leading not-for-profit, membership-based management development, research and publishing organization. Each year, AMA directly interacts with over 100,000 managers and executives in the United States and around the world, through its renowned management education seminar programs and conferences. It publishes many newsletters, research papers and a quarterly management journal. Through its publishing arm, AMACOM, it publishes over 80 books per year.


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