Negative electronic communications destroy trust.
Many schools have experienced the very destructive effects of angry emails, though sent with privacy intention; see wider distribution – creating a wave of disruption within the school and without. In an email, many individuals will state in very strong language, words, and expressions they would rarely utter face-to-face. The impersonal quality of email often empowers individuals to unleash inappropriate language and harsh tones.
Additionally, emails can be misinterpreted. Much genuine communication takes place apart from the actual words on the screen or page.
The potential damage to a school’s health by attempting to solve issues and concerns via email has led many school leaders, including myself, to utilize email only for sharing information, not frustrations. In the schools that I have served, we have updated our Grievance Policy and protocols, informing faculty, staff, students, and parents that they may not submit a problem or grievance via email. If they do so, the only response they will receive is to set up an appointment to discuss their concern in person.
Through this practice, I have witnessed the temperament and morale of the school community improve significantly. We still value the importance of documenting concerns and issues, but strictly utilizing email or chat for information-only keeps communications clear – and guards against misinterpretations. Additionally, when stakeholders know school leaders value face-to-face conversations and will not abide gossip or inappropriate conversations via email or social media – trust in their leadership and the school staff’s professionalism develops to a greater degree.
©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved