CYA Emails are so annoying!

Okay, here we go…first post of 2011.  In a recent survey, people said they would like to hear about the human side of Project Management.  Today, I am getting into the CYA email and will follow this in the coming weeks with similiar posts on this topic.

Before we get into it, click HERE for the video of the week.  Even if you don’t like the post, hopefully you will enjoy the clip of the week.  I even try to time them to post for the week…not this time, sorry :)

Have you ever been in this situation… 15 minutes before your next meeting and you are rushing to get out the updated presentation.  Just as you hit that send button you get a pop-up box that says “No, you hoarding slob!  You have so much junk in your mailbox that you can not send one more message.  Clean up your junk and then we can talk again”.  Okay, that isn’t the actual error message, but you get the point.  You do a quick scramble to find the large attachments or junk email you can get rid of quickly.

In our technology driven environments, staff meetings are serenaded with the constant drum of clicking keyboards and Sametime (or some other method of chat) has replaced the traditional phone call between colleagues.  Email has always been at the center of the technology/communications plan and may be the old dog in this show, but the Cover Your A$$ (CYA) email is taking center stage.  In addition to the technology push, having team members around the world has also led to the reliance on email as a communications tracking mechanism.  Unfortunately, the CYA email as added churn everyone’s day and a sort of paranoia to the work place…

  • Am I using the right words? What is the tone?
  • Do I include my boss….their boss?
  • Do I lob a setup email, wait for the response, and then come back with the ‘spike’?

So how do you say good-bye to the CYA email?

  1. Effective Meetings – As a PM, you must be driving the meetings, asking the probing questions, and assigning people to action items. For more info, check out my other post on meetings HERE
  2. Meeting Minutes – These meeting follow-ups are the centralized, follow-on communication that often includes the team and some key management folks.  Effectively recapping discussion points, calling out decisions, and communicating action steps with owners and dates is the most effective and diplomatic way of putting the spot light on a project resource or task.
  3. One on Ones – You need to get with your team members for a cup of coffee or walk (15 minutes) to ask them about their progress, workload, issues etc.  This will help you find issues that need to be addressed…is their functional manager working them too hard? Is a team member not getting them the inputs they need? Etc.  Most folks won’t call out a colleague during a weekly project meeting.  This is your way to get under the hood.  If you can understand the issues your team members are facing, then you can address them in a non-confrontational manner.

As the PM, it is your job to support your team members…get them the tools they need, facilitate the communications/data required for them to deliver, etc.  Creating an atmosphere that allows them be open and challenging will help reduce the need for CYA emails and other political gamesmanship that often occurs on projects.

How do you help reduce the tension on your projects?  I would love to hear about this and other communications practices you follow.

Additional Topic Resources:

I would be honored to connect…


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