Time is a precious commodity in today’s pressure packed workplace. People are expected to form trusting relationships quickly—which is difficult when there is so much to get done. The widespread adoption of electronic messaging systems has further reduced interpersonal communications, making the development of trust even less likely.
No one can fault you for relying on E-mail because it allows you to communicate with multiple individuals simultaneously without having to physically be there with them.
Yes, E-mail is a convenient time saver, but there are also hazards involved in using it in lieu of face-to-face exchanges. E-mail actually increases the likelihood of misunderstandings because it is impersonal in nature and highly subjective.
Think about the number of times you have been in a team meeting and someone waves a copy of an E-mail, quotes what you said, notes what you obviously meant, and then offers a different interpretation. Without the support of a person-to-person dialogue, off-line communication is subject to individual decoding and thus becomes a primary source of confusion and gossip.
E-mail is not a good way to build trust, especially in a hostile or resistive workplace. Even though your intentions are to communicate an affirmative message, you cannot assume all recipients will be reading it with a positive attitude. Without a sense of your tone and expressions the reader cannot be certain of your meaning, which is why interpersonal messages transmitted electronically are subject to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Given the need for more, not less, trustworthy communication it makes no sense to use E-mail for anything other than general announcements, meeting confirmations, scheduling updates, and the transmission of routine reports and files.
The point of communicating in person is to help others understand what you mean and what you expect as a result of them having heard your message first hand. Your being present enables you to observe their reactions and correct misinterpretations on the spot. You will sense, too, just how open these folks are to voicing their doubts and concerns.
Trust is also a factor of how well people know and like each other. If you like someone, you tend to overlook that person’s faults. You will probably give the people you like a little slack when it comes to tolerating their undesirable traits or behaviors. That same courtesy may not be extended to those you do not like. You are liable to be less tolerate and not as forgiving of their faults, too. In fact, you are more likely to view anything those people do with a critical eye.
Giving feedback—especially when it is negative—is not easy. In fact, it can be very difficult to do without leaving behind hurt feelings. But it is also your responsibility to communicate honestly with everyone, even those you do not like. They need it more than anyone. Giving negative feedback is one half of the relationship equation; receiving it is the other half. You need to do both, if you want people to trust what you say. E-mail is the least effective way to communicate if your true desire is to build a trusting relationship.