Tag Archives: e-mail

What Happens in the Board Room Should Stay in the Board Room

By Jason Menard

When it comes to trying to connect with their audiences, business spokespeople need to paraphrase the old (and somewhat overused) Las Vegas tag line: “Whatever happens in the board room stays in the board room.”

Too many people – and this condition is not the exclusive domain of business types – are afflicted with the belief that using big words makes one sound smarter. There are many insidious reasons for why this started: from the Bullshit Baffles Brains theory to the “We Don’t Want to Tell the Truth, So We’re Going to Spend 15 Minutes Filling the Air with Empty Words” but what’s now happened is that good, solid, hard-working people have contracted this disease. Continue reading

E-Gads — Lamenting a Hyphen’s Loss

By Jason Menard

Hope you’re enjoying your uhmail.

As you can see, I’m not enamoured with the Associated Press’ decision last week to drop the hyphen out of the term e-mail. Generally, I’m all in favour of the modernization of language and I’m by no means a prescriptive grammarian.

But I think the AP – and the majority of my colleagues who support this move – got this one wrong. Continue reading

Oh the Humanity!

By Jason Menard

Three hours – 40 e-mails. And that’s a quiet day. Anyone else think that’s excessive? Anyone else feel that cubicle-dwellers are just putting up more walls around themselves by trading expediency for human contact?

It’s not a new concept, it’s not a new idea, but our compartmentalized lives are negating the delicate art of human interaction. In fact, in the office environment I work, I can go days without knowing whether or not co-workers that share the same immediate office space as I are even here!

But whose fault is that? Is it a product of some faceless, omnipotent bureaucratic force – or is it the fact that I get so self-absorbed in myself and my work that I don’t make an effort to walk the 20 feet to see who’s there?

We’re only human, so it’s normal that we look to blame someone, or something, else for our trials and tribulations. However, this loss of human contact can’t be blamed on e-mails, Instant Messaging, or the telephone – the blame lies squarely at our own two feet. And it’s time for us to deal with it.

E-mail conversations are increasingly replacing simple chats as the preferred method of doing business. As opposed to actually GOING to someone’s desk and addressing an issue face to face, we e-mail a conversation. But, like long-distance chess, the end result may be the same, but the time between commencement and conclusion can be interminable.

I’ve had e-mail discussions that have lasted all day, when in reality the simple act of picking up the phone and calling someone – or, perish the thought, actually getting up and talking to them face-to-face – would have rendered the entire discussion complete within a couple of minutes.

But today’s employee measures efficiency not in the time it takes to complete a task, but in the number of tasks that they’re able to juggle at any one time. Multi-tasking is simply a fact of life in today’s hectic business environment, so the idea of dedicating a block of time to one topic – and only one! – is anathema to many people. By keeping their butts firmly ensconced in their chair, they’re able to have access to a wide range of activities. However, by walking away from the desk – cutting the electronic umbilical cord, if you will – we find ourselves lost and alone, disconnected from the so-called lifelines that have become so much a part of us.

Remaining sedentary, in the business world, can often be perceived as being productive. And getting up, walking around, and talking face-to-face with people can be perceived by others as a lack of commitment, wasting time, or – to put it bluntly in biz-speak – having too-familiar relations with a member of the canis familiaris species.

Let’s not vilify e-mail completely. Let’s acknowledge that e-mail has the power to bring people closer together and has completely revitalized the lost art of letter-writing (however, it appears to have not brought back a commensurate resurrection of grammar and spelling proficiency). I keep in touch with friends and family living in far-off places much easier than before the advent of electronic communications. Firing off an e-mail, and even attaching a few pictures, is a cheap, easy, and almost-immediate way for people to keep in touch.

But in the business world we have to prioritize networking, communications, and social interaction. Getting up to talk about an issue with a co-worker isn’t just socially rewarding – it’s expedient, productive, and effective. Importantly, it positively impacts the bottom line.

Tone, subtlety, sarcasm, humour, innuendo – all can get lost in the process of e-mailing someone. Real feelings can be hurt by virtual world, and often these are caused by a misrepresentation of the written word reflecting off a cold, emotionless screen. You don’t get that ambiguity to the same extent in face-to-face communications.

In the end, no matter what business you’re in, your end product’s target is human. So why don’t we involve more humanity in the process? E-mail is a tool, that’s it – it shouldn’t be the whole tool box. And I’d rather have a face-to-face with a repairman than a hammer any day – it’s a whole lot less painful.

The next time you go to send an e-mail, consider whether a more personal approach may serve you better. After all, we’re only human, right?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Human Tragedy of Spam

By Jason Menard

Hello, my name is Jay, and I have a small penis.

At least, that’s what my e-mail tells me. On top of that, it’s a small penis that underperforms, judging by the deluge of solicitations for Viagra and phallus-enhancement utilities that I receive. But, just to let you know, this stunning revelation has yet to stop the deluge of willing women just itching to either meet me or perform on line for my gratification.

And that tiny member should soon be dwarfed by a rapidly burgeoning bank account. It seems that I’m a prime candidate for any number of politically challenged foreign dignitaries and multi-billionaires who have been soliciting my help to transfer enormous amounts of funds into my account.

Yes, if money and power are the ultimate aphrodisiacs, I should be living on easy street any time now. With just a few clicks of my mouse I could be a wealthy tripod, with a harem of imported Eastern European brides by my side and just-of-age teens shaking their moneymakers on my screen.

Or, more likely, I’ll just delete all these messages, unread, unreplied to, and quickly forgotten. After all, what would my wife think?

Despite doing my best to prevent Spammers from harvesting my e-mail address, I still find my e-mail account’s Spam folder regularly filled with this type of unwanted solicitations. So what can we, as end-users, do? Unfortunately, nothing at all. We can choose to wring our hands in frustration and rue the day that we created this e-mail account, or we can laugh it off as a small price to pay for free, instant communication.

Spam won’t stop until Spam stops being effective. Obviously, out of the millions of solicitations that go out, a certain percentage of people are clicking through and – more importantly – buying the wares that are presented to them. What seems ludicrous to the majority of us obviously strikes a chord with a certain segment of society. Whether they’re looking for love in all the wrong places, or dreaming of a get-rich scheme, there are people for whom Spam is a welcome solicitation.

Look at the topics that junk mail focus on: sex and money, the two topics that can create an intense feeling of insecurity for some people. Whether it’s penis size or pocketbook size, there is a significant subsection of our society who feel emasculated in this world due to a perceived or real lack of both. So, when an anonymous e-mail professing quick fixes for either situation, those who are most vulnerable to this type of persuasion are most willing to take a chance.

Many of us laugh at the Spam e-mails we receive, revelling in their grammatically challenged subject lines or schoolyard bluntness. Yet, we’re not the target audience. Those who are sitting at their computer, feeling deficient either in the pants or the pocketbook, or those whose greatest source of intimacy comes from the warmth of the screen upon which these images are flickering are the target.

The Internet has given rise to a new generation of technological Snake Oil salespeople, looking to make a cheap buck in the same manner that their Old West forebears did – by playing on the naiveté and dreams of a bunch of Rubes. But instead of hocking their tonic at local fairs and travelling circuses, they do it from the comfort of their living room – with the world as their audience.

The great irony of the Internet is that while it’s made the world far more inclusive and accessible to everyone, it has also heightened our sense of isolation. For all the increase in contact through Instant Messaging and e-mail, we’ve reduced our actual face-to-face communication. We are interacting more with the world, all the while feeling less attached to it.

That sense of anonymity breeds loneliness and insecurity for some. Talking on-line is so much easier than meeting in person, and, as such, it increases the anxiety of actual real-time social interaction. For some, their inadequacies become amplified by the simple lack of human contact.

Why should we be surprised when people react to the promise of a better life with minimal effort? That’s what Spammers rely on. Those who are most vulnerable will be the ones most likely to act.

So, while many of us will either laugh about or rail against the intrusion of these ridiculous e-mails, perhaps we should take a moment and remember that we’re getting these messages because, targeted to a vulnerable sub-section of our society, they work. And that’s the saddest statement of all.

Remember, while we may be navigating our way along the Information Superhighway, there are a number of people out there just looking for the on-ramp to join in – any way they can get it.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved