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My team does not respond to any meeting requests, does not use proper subject for emails and generally does not appear to have any email etiquette. This is also seen in more senior members of the team who have been in the organization for a long time.

I spoke to the team in a group, sent them emails reminding them to do this, but still I see no or very little improvement. The lack of email etiquette also spills into lack of meeting etiquette, meaning, the team does not come to the meeting room on time unless I send them a gentle reminder!

Sending a reminder email just before a meeting starts (or sometimes after a meeting starts) has almost become a norm in my organization and the problem of this etiquette is spread much wider and not just localized to my team.

But I just want to focus on my team for now and would like to know how to instill this email etiquette in my team? Any ideas?

I think I do have the meetings short, efficient and most of the time end them on time. I will call only people who are needed and sometimes cancel any meetings if they are not needed at that point of time. In spite of this, I still face this issue.

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Email etiquette is the least of your problems. You have to solve the underlying lack of authority over your team. –  Deer Hunter Jan 8 '13 at 12:48
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Are you an "individual contributor" or are you the supervisor/manager/leader of the team? If the latter, I agree with @Deer Hunter. If the former, change is really going to have to be driven from above. –  alroc Jan 8 '13 at 13:43
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To fix the meeting lateness, start the meeting on time and immdeiately assign some timeconsuming and unpopular task to whoever is not there. I'd bet people show up on time the next time. –  HLGEM Jan 8 '13 at 14:58
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@HLGEM Clever suggestion but only constructive if you already have a general social trust within the team, so it comes off as good-natured prodding. Otherwise I am afraid you will create massive resentment. –  NickC Jan 8 '13 at 15:28
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@NickC - this group has no trust or respect and deserve some form of punishment. I don't know if @ HLGEM's is the right answer. Personally, I'd start with a dismissal. –  JeffO Jan 8 '13 at 18:51

6 Answers 6

Meetings should be sent using a calendar item and not an email. This way they can respond and have a reminder set all at once.

Technology is not your problem. There are no consequences when people don't do as they are told that are effectively changing their behavior. Who's in charge?

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You could be having multiple problems and the solution for each is different.

First, you could be one of those new breed of managers who believes that everyone will do the best they can without much management. Unfortunatley, this type of managment philosphy doesn't prepare you to deal with people who are not interested in doing anything except what they want to do and who are poor performers. Your team resists even your mildest suggestions and you are treating them like that's OK. It isn't. It is not your job to be the friend of the people your manage, it is your job to get the work done. In this case, you may need to get tougher with people, there have to be consequences for ignoring reasonable requests.

You also state that you have some older workers who ignore what you have asked then to do. By chance were you promoted to this position when one or more of them expected to get it? If so, they may be punishing you and trying to make you look bad and you need to learn very quickly about office politics and how to handle disgruntled employees.

Or you could be dealing with a generational problem. Younger employees expect more freedom than older ones do. They especially resist dong anything that looks to them like administrative work like checking emails or writing them or attending meetings. You will need to explain to these types of people why these things are important and why they are causing problems. This can also be a problem with developers of all ages (who belive that anything that is not devloping is worthless) although it is exacebated in the young.

Or you could genuinely be expecting something that they find ridiculous and they are right.

Or you could be trying to change a long-standing cultural practice. ANd tehre is alawys resistance to change.

I think you need to sit down with people and feel them out for why your reasonable (well they seem reasonable to me) expectations seem so unreasonable to them.

Without more information it is hard to tell which of these types of issues (and there may be multiple causes) you are facing. What is your managment style, what kind of workers are these and are they the types of workers you have supervised in the past. Id the overall quality of their work good and just these minor issues or are these the tip of the iceberg and the team is resisting you in lots of ways?

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It really depends whether there is an underlying problem or whether it's just a bad habit that has snuck in. If it's just a habit you could try something like this: everyone who doesn't reply to a meeting request, doesn't show up without prior communication or is late pays $1 (or quarter) into the piggy bank.

Use the money to go out for after work drinks and have a good laugh about it. If there isn't enough cash at the end of the month for drinks, there will be nice dinner on company $. Just a fun way to raise awareness without creating too much of a deal.

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It's not clear what your relationship is to the team, but here's what I would do.

1- Sit down with each person individually and have a frank and open conversation with them.

2- Explain to them the behavior that they are engaging in, why it is an issue and what other negative impacts it has on projects or teamwork or whatever. -- Your goal here is to get them to understand and acknowledge that there actually is a problem.

3- Specifically ask what it is about you or your meetings that lead them to ignore them. --Your goal here is to identify concrete items that you can address directly.

Assuming you are successful with step 2, you are probably going to get a whole range of answers to number 3, so you should probably be prepared with some ideas on how to combat them. Anything from "I have better things to do" to "I forget to open my email" to "I have too much work on my plate and meetings are the first thing I jettison if I have a deadline..." All of these are solvable problems.

If you are not able to convince your team that there is actually a problem, then I fear your only option is to escalate up the ladder and have some in a greater position of authority convince your team that there is a problem.

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A thought regarding the poor meeting discipline; Perhaps this is an indication you have too many meetings? In my experience thats usually the case. Perhaps have a discussion with your team, talk to them and promise that you will always keep meetings short, efficient and relevant if they promise to show up on time.

As for emails, you could have the same issue. Perhaps they are getting too many emails and haven't got time to give proper responses to them?

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you shouldn't have to bribe your team to show up at meetings on time. They are paid to work. If a meeting is called for work, they should be professional and be there on time. Making concessions undermines the authority of the management –  squeemish Jan 8 '13 at 12:44
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@Fredrik: I do have the meetings short, efficient and most of the time end them on time. I will call only people who are needed and sometimes cancel any meetings if they are not needed at that point of time. In spite of this, I still face this issue. –  seeknew Jan 8 '13 at 13:14

Clearly, you should schedule a meeting to discuss the issue.

UPDATE:

I don't know what authority you have on your team or in your organization. But I would at least start with the following:

Schedule a meeting. If that doesn't work, walk around your office and gather your team together. Tell them, "I don't want to change the culture here. However, for MY meetings, I would like everyone to RSVP. Is there anyone here who cannot or will not do that?" If you have anyone speak up, engage them in conversation. Ask why they cannot reply to your meeting requests.

Then go on with, "I would also like for our meeting to begin on time. Is there anyone here who cannot or will not do that?" Again, engage that person in conversation.

Lead your team.

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While I didn't downvote it, it's a pretty snarky answer with no explanation as to how that would solve the problem. –  Jacob G Jan 8 '13 at 14:49
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@fernando Pre-edit this answer offered nothing beyond a sarcastic jibe with no content in terms of addressing the question. Also I would be a little concerned about a manager trying to change culture with brute force.... –  Dibstar Jan 8 '13 at 16:10

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