May 3, 2013

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash!

How Trust is Often Undermined PART 1: Email Etiquette

I saw this sign hanging prominently in a tattoo parlor: “In God we trust, all others pay CASH.” At the time, I thought it was funny. But after reflecting on it, I realize that the sign was hung probably in response to being let down. It got me thinking about the trust systems we have in church, and how often, probably unintentionally, trust is being undermined.

Here’s what I know: All solid relationships are built on the foundation of trust. Trust can be compromised when expectations aren’t being met. The consequence of not establishing clearly defined expectations is everyone expecting different things from someone (and let’s face it, some expectations are too high, others are too low). So over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some typical mistakes church leadership sometimes make.

So what is an acceptable expectation for answering emails? In today’s world of smart phones it has never been easier to check emails. Unfortunately though, many people are in the position to read, but not respond to emails. And too many times, those people don’t have a good system in place to remind them of the emails requiring attention. Nothing can be more frustrating to someone who has emailed a clergyperson or a program staff person with something that’s important (at least important to them) just to be ignored. The bottom line is that people who email someone expect an acknowledgement.

In order to show your respect to all who take the time to communicate with you, consider some of the following suggestions:

  • Don’t check emails on the fly.
  • File your messages after you’ve responded so you don’t have a cluttered inbox.
  • Establish a certain time of day when you handle emails.
  • Make it a habit to acknowledge all emails. If you’re not in the position to accept an action item from the sender, then say that, and ask the sender to follow-up with you in a specified amount of time.
Ultimately, if you are in the habit of letting emails fly by without acknowledging them, you’re essentially communicating that you don’t care. By practicing healthy email etiquette, you’ll undergird a more solid foundation of trust.

What is difficult about consistently answering emails? What are some other consequences of not responding to emails? Please share other tricks you’ve learned to live into replying to every email you receive.

This post first appeared on Melissa's blog Moving the Spirit and is reprinted with permission.