Many people rely on email as the main communications tool they use in the office. But in reality, it’s actually a very poor communications tool in many respects. Here are some of the reasons why it’s often worse to use email, than to just pick up the phone and call someone.

1) It causes misunderstandings

Because you can’t read tone, and body language in emails, very often it’s easy for the recipient of an email to misunderstand the meaning of your message. If you were speaking to someone in a friendly tone and said something simple to them such as “Hey could we improve this other section also?”, the tone of this simple message would have been received differently had it been sent via email.

2) It’s time consuming

Because discussions are much slower via email, you spend a lot of time clarifying a lot of small details, people keep going back and forth trying to explain themselves. Email is a horrible way to have a discussion, and very often because everything is written, people also a bit more careful and spend a longer time thinking about how to word every message.

3) It’s cold and doesn’t build relationships

Email doesn’t help colleagues build relationships with each other, therefore companies that use email a lot will will struggle to build culture and a sense of togetherness in the office. People are also much more likely to be hostile because it’s easy to hide behind an email, and you don’t have to directly deal with the emotions of the other person, you just click a send button. But if they were forced to deal with a difficult issue face to face or over the phone, in many cases people are much more amicable and issues get discussed more politely.

Here’s a good video that basically sums up the problem with email, and offers some solutions also:

  • Make it a company wide rule not to have arguments over email. And if an email trail goes beyond several emails, just pick up the phone or walk over to the other person to discuss the issue.
  • To receive fewer emails, just send fewer emails. Avoid getting sucked into the super time consuming tasks of constantly having to respond to emails.




Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.