The feature story below on The Whelan Group’s “Secrets to Powerful E-Mail” seminar is excerpted from a World Bank news publication.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003
Work-Life Balance Week Kicks Off

The World Bank’s first-ever Work-Life Balance Week was launched yesterday, marking a new chapter in the institution’s increasing commitment to the issue. The Week features several seminars and other activities aimed at providing tools and strategies to staff and managers seeking to more effectively balance their professional and personal lives. The activities are all united by the Bank Group ‘s work-life balance tagline —”Achieving Balance Creatively: Fundamental change for work-life harmony.”

Secrets to Powerful E-Mail

With e-mail the “workhorse ” of the modern office —and the source of so many headaches —it is imperative that Bank staff take advantage of some simple strategies to make e-mail work for them, said communications expert Michael Whelan yesterday. Whelan and co-presenter Darcie Kortan delivered a mini-workshop on “Secrets to Powerful E-Mail” at Monday ‘s launch of Work-Life Balance Week, offering staff valuable tips and tricks for getting the most out of the medium. Additional sessions will take place Tuesday through Thursday from 12:30-1:15 in the MC Atrium. Bring your brown bag lunch with you, sit in the atrium, and watch the presentation.

“[It ] only takes a few more seconds, but it can really make for a much more efficient, and friendly, workplace.” -Michael Whelan

“E-mail is powerful, but its potential is rarely used,” said Whelan, who is known in IFC circles for the writing seminars he provides. “There’s a large, under-appreciated human dimension to e-mailing. We offer 20 practical tips to give your e-mails the human touch.” The presenters began with a comparison of communications media: face-to-face, phone, paper communications, and e-mail. Each successive medium minimizes human contact, which means that people need to devise tools to cultivate positive relationships.

“A study at Stanford Business School showed that people who were more successful at establishing rapport and inspiring trust over e-mail were more generous in positive-emotion comments,” said Darcie Kortan, who teaches at Marist College in upstate New York. “The number one premise is that people don’t read e-mails the same way they read paper,” Kortan added. To address this fundamental difference, the course breaks e-mail down into five dimensions and offers ways around potential communications pitfalls.

A sampling:

  • The in-box: Arrive with reader-friendly subject lines.
  • On screen: Provide eye-friendly formats to grab attention.
  • Person-to-person: You can make or break relationships on e-mail. Words on a screen lack a human tone, so use techniques to add the personal touch.
  • Inter-culturally: E-mail magnifies cultural insensitivities. Avoid them by knowing and understanding cultural cues.
  • Publicly/Legally: Stay aware: E-mail feels very private. But the forward button makes it the least private way you can communicate.

The “Secrets to Powerful E-Mail” series is sponsored by the IFC ‘s Human Resources Planning Department. Program Manager Daniel Tytiun explained that the rationale behind the course is that a big part of maintaining a good work-life balance is simply improving the quality of life at work.

Michael Whelan summed it up: “Implementing some of our tips to give e-mails a human touch only takes a few more seconds, but it can really make for a much more efficient, and friendly, workplace.”

Story by Dorst Media Works