Email is a lazy manager’s best friend.
It is hard asking people to do things to their face – especially when delivering a message that might be met with resistance. Instead of risking a confrontation, the lazy manager will fire off a quick email saying, “I’m concerned that you haven’t sent any CVs to this job yet. I need you to find 3 qualified candidates before you go home today.” They justify it by telling themselves they’re just “being efficient” with their time. In reality, they’re chickening out.
More importantly, they’re failing to take responsibility for their team’s results (or lack thereof). They don’t want to admit it, but they mismanaged the situation from the start. They didn’t set clear objectives, explain what good performance looks like, give support or training where needed, and hold people accountable for delivering the result within agreed timescales. So instead of dealing with all that, they press “send” and hope for the best.
Equally, the lazy manager loves to reprimand by email. Why take the time to deliver critical feedback in person, when it feels so satisfying to get it off your chest in a long-winded email? Even better, why not send a group email and publicly “name and shame” the under-performers? That will save a bunch of time compared to conducting one-to-ones. It also avoids any discussion on the matter, as very few people will have the courage to challenge their boss about the negative feedback. Case closed, on to the next victim.
There is nothing more demotivating than when your boss can’t even be bothered to have a chat with you about things. So much is left unsaid over an email. There is no tone of voice, no body language, no warm feeling of encouragement.
You might work in an open plan office, sitting a few desks away from your boss. You get an email in your inbox. The title could be something like: “Why haven’t you done this?” or “You have to do better next time!” The email will not go into anywhere near the detail that you need to understand their position and make some conclusions about what to do differently next time, but you know better than to try to discuss it with them.
Nope, you just sit there and take it. Day after day of feedback from above, every email puncturing your self-confidence that little bit more.
Consider the opposite scenario where there is a dialogue, and managers deliver feedback in person. Ideally the criticism is constructive, and even when it isn’t constructive, at least people have an opportunity to respond to the critical feedback. Bosses in this situation actually understand why mistakes are being made. They can help to prevent them next time. They may not be best friends with their subordinates, but at least they don’t avoid normal business conversations.
Good bosses show that they care by offering both criticism and praise on a one-to-one basis.
They don’t hide behind email like cowards.