Today there was horrible weather in Chicago, South Bend, and other areas of the upper Midwest. Thunderstorms were present, tornado sirens were sounded, and winds made travel difficult, and potentially dangerous. A student was in Chicago this morning and planned to drive down to South Bend in time for his job interview on campus, but with the weather conditions the student decided it was better to stay in Chicago rather than risk the drive.
So he sent an email to the Career Center alerting the office to his situation.
In addition to poor weather plaguing South Bend, the Notre Dame campus has been without email since the wee hours of the morning. Anyone using ND’s email exchange has not been able to login to accounts, send, or receive emails. Thus, the student’s email was never received. When the individual did not show for the interview, the Career Center called the student only to find out that the student was just now leaving Chicago and that in cyberspace a message awaited us informing us of his situation.
In the student’s defense, there was no way the person could have anticipated a massive email outage. However, was email the proper way to deliver the message? Should the student have followed up with a phone call after an hour or so after receiving no acknowledgment from the Career Center of his email? Is the student at fault or is it just a convergence of serendipitous circumstances?
I try to counsel individuals to use email for questions and answers that are straight forward, providing informational updates, brokering an introduction, when you want someone to consider an idea and then follow-up, when there are no emotions involved in the conversation, etc. Phone is better for conversational topics, bad news, idea generation, when immediacy is important, or emotional touch/caution is required.
What are some of your guidelines on whether to fire off an email or pick up the phone?