Balance a Quick Email with a Face-to-Face Conversation

Michele Warg
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Office professionals must balance efficiency with effectiveness regularly, especially when it comes to communication. One recent issue, illuminated by an administrative professional, highlights the balance needed between a quick email versus face-to-face verbal conversation. While an email may seem less distracting, sometimes a more personal approach is required.

A short piece by Your Office Coach shows how one administrative assistant was taken aback when the boss instructed her to have more face time instead of sending him a quick email constantly. Yet, the assistant does not want to waste time discussing her boss's personal life. An employee called in sick, and the assistant felt a quick email was the best way to convey the fact. The email probably took less than a minute to login, write and send.

However, the boss wants more interpersonal communication with his underling. He even balked when his administrative assistant emailed him a question about whether or not she should come into his office. The executive even said her excessive emails drive him "crazy."

The author who related the story feels the manager was a bit harsh, but clearly the boss values in-person verbal conversation rather than a quick email from someone who is just a few feet away. Perhaps the manager is a "people person" who prefers face time and closing deals the old-fashioned way, Maybe the boss is older and simply prefers to see his administrative assistant in person rather than through an email.

One key to this type of interaction is your boss lays out the ground rules. Yes, emails are efficient methods of communication. This type of correspondence leaves a paper trail to refer back to later. A busy administrative assistant may not have time to leave the desk, especially on a frenetic day filled with deadlines, endless phone calls and wall-to-wall meetings.

However, gauging someone's nonverbal cues is nearly impossible with a quick email. Your boss may need to see how you react to high-pressure days, and your manager needs to know he can count on you. You may send him an email to say "I'm not feeling well," but he may not realize to what extent until he sees you in person.

Email etiquette is nothing new. There are times and situations, such as mass emails to make announcements, where sending an email in under two minutes is completely appropriate. Sometimes, face-to-face interaction provides better access to what your boss needs. You wouldn't dream of selling a car by email because that type of salesmanship needs to occur in person. The same is true with your boss. An administrative assistant is not there to hold up a desk. An assistant is a valuable part of a team, and a manager shows that by having conversations in person rather than through a phone line.

A quick email may be sufficient for younger generations of workers. However, face-to-face communication offers better opportunities to ascertain someone's true feelings in a situation. Try to find a balance between email and verbal communication to manage effectiveness versus empathy.


Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee at



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