“Sometimes my job seems to be just about answering emails” said one of the participants in my millennial workshop earlier this month, “And they don’t seem to stop, even at weekends”.
The workshop was an exercise in listening; I wanted to get a group of similar-aged people together in one room and listen to their experience of workplace culture.
The tyranny of email was one of the themes to emerge. This is something most of us are familiar with. The deluge of email traffic and how to manage it is a familiar topic of raised by leaders and managers during coaching. There are even training courses, and books, about the 'infobesity' of modern life.
My recent workshop was first time I had the opportunity to hear the perspective of people who are on the receiving end of their manager’s need to get something of his/her chest, at 9pm in the evening or 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, without any thought given to the impact it will have on the recipient’s downtime. The leaders of creative companies are possibly the worst, but by no means the only, culprits of this.
I had a client like this once. He was a brilliant, successful entrepreneur who regularly fired off emails in the early hours, as and when he thought of something he needed to communicate to an external consultant, or to someone lower down the chain of command. Even if they were on leave.
Nobody had ever pointed out to him that this wasn’t fair. His need to offload was not balanced by thinking about the impact it would have on the people who received his 5am thought.
Had this been raised with him doubtless his response would’ve been “I didn’t expect you to read the email or respond to it, I just wanted to raise it whilst I was thinking about it.”
Some of the millennial aged workers in my workshop said their bosses said this to them, too. Sometimes it was even part of the message. "Don't read/think about this now, but....".
Think of this from your employees’ perspective. They are young, so they are never more than a few seconds away from checking their phone. For the most part they are in the early stages of a career, so they want to impress you and demonstrate their commitment. Urging them not to respond to a work email until they are back at work is not only borderline passive aggressive, but sort of begs the question, why send it in the first place? So ask yourself, "What difference will it make if I don't send this email now, but save it as a draft and send it in the morning?"
So if you are working this weekend, do everyone a favour. Acknowledge that the people who work for you are probably not. And they shouldn’t be. They will be all the more refreshed on Tuesday morning if you leave them to enjoy their downtime!