- The Brain Dump: If you’re asked to do something via a lengthy, disorganized, and unclear message, please see my post on a special kind of Swoop & Poop called The Brain Dump.
- The Quick Poop: Email for the sake of email, these are short, unhelpful messages that clutter your inbox.
Why do people swoop & poop? One or more of the following reasons usually applies:
- They mistake sending the email for doing real, thoughtful work.
- They believe they are so smart and/or authoritative that the recipients should be happy to have gotten the input – even if it wasn’t actually helpful.
- They haven’t given any thought to your current workload and priorities.
Here are a few Swoop & Poop examples (I’m sure you can think of more!):
The “hey, I’m here” email
A lot of people do this – especially on weekends – because they think, “Hey guys! Look at me! I just dumped another email in your inbox so you’ll think I’m working hard.” More often than not, the content of the email is meaningless. Sure, every now and then, you might need to send a strategically timed email to let your boss know you’re working above and beyond, but don’t abuse the tactic. If you use it too often (and your emails really are meaningless), people will see right through it.
The “let’s look into this” email
Usually sent by a higher up, this email is typically a forward with a short line at the top asking you to dig deeper into whatever messy issue is below. The problem is that the direction is vague. There’s no sense of timing, priority level, or the desired outcome, which then causes stress and frustration for the recipient. The email either gets ignored or results in….you guessed it…yet another email seeking clarification.
We can avoid doing a “swoop and poop” by always asking ourselves, “Does this email add value to the conversation?” Here are a few ways to tell that you’re adding value:
- You’re responding to a question or request
- You’re providing specific direction, including: what needs to be done, why it’s important, and when it’s needed
- You’re providing new information; e.g. a proposal for next steps or an update on a conversation with a coworker and how it affects the project
Remember: not every email warrants a response, so please put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about whether you’d want that message in your inbox. If you wouldn’t literally poop on someone else’s computer, then don’t do it figuratively either!