Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Practice Email Professionalism and Stop Replying All

“Please cease and desist responding to the James Comey Interview/Video Conversation email chains in all of their iterations,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) David Powers stated in an email addressed to students in the CAS.

On March 22, Seattle University students in the CAS were addressed in an email announcing an on-campus event. Students began replying to all recipients either commenting on the event or requesting others to stop replying to all. After four hours of students filling up the inboxes of anyone associated with the CAS, Dean Powers sent this cease and desist email.

Sophomore international studies and Spanish double major Raisa Steger was in the middle of studying for her finals when she heard her computer ringing with notifications.

“A lot of people were trying to get administrators’ attention or telling people to stop replying but, several people were doing it for fun,” she said. “It just got to the point where I had to figure out how to turn off all my notifications because it got to be too much.”

Steger said she did not engage in the chain because she did not want to add onto the responses. She hoped other students would come to the same realization and stop responding too.

Mike Laveson, the associate director of career services, said in instances like these when replying to all becomes an issue, it gives the community a chance to reflect on how one can practice professionalism.

“Professionalism is contextual but, especially on a university campus, there is always a way to be considering what [professionalism] means,” he said. “Seattle U has its own culture as a university and as a part of that culture, there are a set of norms, expectations and practices.”

Laveson explained that a lack of professionalism, regardless of the communication medium, can come across as disrespectful to the recipient.

Business communication lecturer Professor Andrea McDowell also stressed the importance of thinking about emails from the perspective of the receiver.

“The bottom line is that [sender] intent is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t trying to offend someone, or if you were trying to make a different point,” she said. “How your reader perceives that message is what he or she is going to believe about it.”

One of the guidelines McDowell emphasized that part of good email professionalism practice is to never send an email when feeling particularly emotional. She does recommend writing out these feelings but through a different outlet.

“Write it in some other format first because it helps you get the emotions out and you can’t hit send. You don’t ever want to be in a really emotional state,” she said. “Take a step back and have someone look over it.”

Having someone else look at the email allows a third-party to accurately evaluate whether the purpose of the message is coming through or if the emotion behind the email is upstaging the original intent of the email.

McDowell explained that the difficulty of email and other digital communication lies in the lack of nonverbal clues present during phone or in-person conversations.

“You lose a lot of the richness of communication because you don’t have tone or body language,” she said. “Once someone has been offended, or gets upset, you’re in the position of having to go back and explain yourself or apologize but, the damage is done.”

McDowell also recognized that many people already know how to act and respond professionally but that instantaneous messaging has decreased the amount of time people take to construct an email free of errors and mistakes.

“People are used to communicating casually so they transfer that into different spaces where it is not appropriate,” she said. “[One needs to] recognize there are different levels of formality and be willing to shift. It takes practice, being intentional and not treating all writing the same.”

One way Laveson intentionally approaches composing emails is by taking the time to consider who his audience is.

“I am always aware of who is my audience. I assess if an email is delivering valuable and relevant [information that] serves them in some way,” he said. “I want to be respectful in my emails in both the content and the time I am asking the person to invest in reading it.”

McDowell echoes this, explaining that awareness is important when writing an email. She said there are so many different aspects of a receiver’s identity that can affect their perceptions and the way they hear or read a message.

“People just need to be really mindful of the receiver, the goal of their message, how their receiver is likely to perceive or interpret [their message],” she said. “Don’t assume. It takes slowing down and being mindful about being professional.”

Hunter may be reached at
[email protected]

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