e-etiquette and e-boundaries

The professional setting of boundaries is addressed in the following two additions to an evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions (http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/E-etiquette):

1. If someone cc’s you on matters that you are not party to or are outside your area of authority, send a polite email asking to be left off further emails in this matter, e.g., “Work is busy at the moment, so I’d be grateful not to be cc’d on matters that I’m not party to.  Let me know if you want to talk about this request of mine.”  (If the someone inappropriately cc’s again, repeat the reply with the hope that eventually they set professional e-boundaries.)

2. If someone emails or cc’s you in ways that are “un-etiquettal” or uncollegial, especially disparaging a colleague, firmly—but always politely—let them know that you prefer not to get emails about matters that have an emotional charge or are fueled by a history that you haven’t been party to.

New Social Media: From technologies to spaces we make for virtual and face-to-face interactions

Although my initial post in this series suggested we think less about the technological side of New Social Media and more about the kinds of interactions we want to cultivate, the first consideration when using internet technologies should be maintenance of the infrastructure.  Many new websites, blogs, and twitter accounts begin with a splash only to be left untended, becoming like the fraying fliers we see stapled to telephone poles or noticeboards—at least, when we bother to look.  Read more of this post

Some practices and principles that help an academic department be supportive, collegial, and congenial

  • Communicate openly with all colleagues affected by the deliberations of any committee on which you serve, especially those you lead. (A decision made without consultation or allowing for others to disagree—even if you are 100% right and/or have done the bulk of the work and are entitled to others giving due deference to what you propose—is not a decision that builds capacity in the unit [Program, Department, College] to implement the decision effectively.)
  • Communicate openly when you notice ambiguities about mandates arising at different levels of the program/department/college hierarchy. (This gives the parties involved a chance to reconcile the differences.)
  • Do not make or allow to be made negative comments about any colleague. Instead, whenever possible affirm what has worked well and, in the appropriate setting/procedure, make suggestions to colleagues about what you think could be improved.
  • Avoid any action or email or wording that embarrasses anyone—It is usually possible to express what you would like without showing up a specific person for their shortcomings.
  • In emails, when the relevant information or the outcome you seek can be stated directly, don’t add complexity by interpreting other people’s motives or behavior.
  • If an issue is sensitive for you, don’t plead your case by email; in such situations arrange to talk and use email only for information and putting succinct memos formally on the record.
  • Memos for the record and Annual Faculty Reviews should focus on facts, not on argument. (“Facts” means documentable items and relevant happenings that other observers could confirm, even if they disagreed with the significance you draw from them.) Conversely, do not omit facts that are inconvenient to your position. Indeed, acknowledge receipt of such facts so there’s no worry that you can later claim not to have heard them. (This is also a matter of respect that helps keep lines of communication open.)
  • If someone emails requesting to talk, don’t try to process things further by email; acknowledge the request and arrange a time for the conversation.
  • If you disagree with the judgement of the Department Chair, Program Coordinator, or committee chair, start by asking for a face-to-face meeting to inquire about any facts and procedures that may not be apparent and then to discuss the disagreement (if it still persists).
  • If, after such meeting, you still disagree with the judgement, you can use the procedures of the Program or the Department (e.g., depending on the Department’s Constitution, range from calling a Department meeting to voting for the Chair’s dismissal) to take the matter further. Don’t bypass such consultation—the potential for interventions from above tends to detract from faculty commitment to and confidence in their own role in governance and administration.
  • Similarly, don’t cc emails to higher-ups (except if the matter is a dispute that the original parties agree has not been able to be resolved at the original level). (Such cc’s make it harder for the person emailed to suggest changes or respond without embarassment to anyone.)
  • (See also e-etiquette)
  • Apologize “early and often” for mistakes and for any misunderstandings—even if you think the other parties might bear primary responsibility for the misunderstanding.
  • If an issue gets heated and feelings are hurt, but apologies are made and accepted, then faculty can move forward and continue to cooperate on the tasks of running a department.

3 Dec ’06, extracted from http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/collegiality

Desirable Qualities of our Service in an Academic Institution

In an academic institutions service is acknowledged, but principles that govern service are rarely articulated or used to take stock of how we could improve.  Our efforts can be thought of as Building Supportive Communities that are characterized by:

  • planning that takes into account the often-limited and uncertain state of resources, guides where we put our not-unlimited energies, and seeks to make the result sustainable or cumulative.
  • community-building, not only for the sake of a sustainable product, but so participants/ collaborators value their involvement in the process.
  • probing what has been taken for granted or left unarticulated until coherent principles emerge to guide our efforts.
  • transparency and inclusiveness of consultation in formulating procedures and principles and in making evaluations available.
  • documenting process, product, and evaluations to make institutional learning more likely.
  • organization, including efficient use of computer technology, to support all of the above.
  • taking care for colleagues’ reputations when disputes arise, especially colleagues coming up for or currently under review.
  • equity in relation to explicit guidelines (thus eliminating suspicions of favoritism).

Extracted from http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/AcademicLife

E-etiquette: An evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions

An evolving set of guidelines for our email-mediated interactions (http://ptaylor.wikispaces.umb.edu/E-etiquette)
Please suggest adjustments or add rationale or new guidelines.

  • If any doubts arise about receipt of an email, use RR (receipt acknowledgement requested) if you are sender. Confirm if you are receiver so sender knows they’ve got through.
  • If you need to delay responding to an email, acknowledge receipt of it and indicate that there will be a delay in responding. (Otherwise, the sender might worry that you are sitting on the issue and, passive-aggressively, making them nudge you again.)
  • Establish a system to keep track of emails to be answered and don’t let difficult-to-answer emails stay at the bottom of the yet-to-be answered pile.
  • Download and read emails carefully–don’t respond quickly just because you’re online.
  • Don’t add complexity by interpreting other people’s motives or behavior when the relevant information or the outcome you seek can be stated directly.
  • Don’t send a message with emotional impact until you’ve slept on it.
  • Don’t send a message when it’s a way to avoid talking or if it would be better to talk.
  • If an issue is sensitive for you, don’t plead your case by email; use email only for information and putting succinct memos formally on the record.
  • If someone emails requesting to talk, don’t try to process things further by email.
  • Don’t forward an email or cc a reply to anyone who was not on the original distribution list.
  • In fact, unless it is purely informational, don’t forward an email to anyone without the sender’s approval (especially not to a listserv or distribution list).
  • If you get an email about a committee matter that is addressed only to you, reply and refer to it only to the sender.
  • Consistent with the last three items, don’t quote from an email to you in an email you write to a larger body (e.g., the full committee), especially if you write your email about a sensitive issue instead of asking to talk. Certainly never quote without giving the lead-up emails and the factual context.
  • Don’t cc to higher-ups (except if the matter is a dispute that the original parties agrees has not been able to be resolved at the original level). (Such cc’s make it harder for the person emailed to suggest changes or respond without embarrassment to anyone.)
  • If you want an email memo to go into your personnel file, indicate in subject line or body of message that a hard copy is to follow.
  • Use Bcc (blind carbon copy) only when you want to avoid a big header AND you make the subject line identify the class of people who are recipients of the email.
  • Include the message you are replying only if it is necessary for the reader to follow the thread. (Use subject line to indicate topic.)
  • Don’t clutter up inboxes with “me too” replies to group emails.
  • Don’t go into details about excuses about things that are in the past; trust that receiver appreciates that life circumstances can get in the way of meeting expectations, attending meetings, etc. and simply state how you propose to proceed. (Of course, if the excuse is an ongoing condition, e.g., you are in hospital after a car accident, that is useful information and should be conveyed.)
  • One subject per email (unless explicitly stated in subject line); separate messages for separate subjects (especially if some items require more thought or more immediate action)
  • Change the subject line if you are changing the subject .
  • Change the title of your file before attaching so it indicates the sender and, for a course, the subject (e.g., “AFR0607PJT.doc,” not “AFR.doc”)
  • If you can email information updates beforehand, meeting time can be saved for clarification and implications. For this to work, you need to read such emails beforehand and bring a printout to refer to during the meeting.
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