The next time you send a colleague an email in the wee hours of the morning or in the middle of the weekend, consider the unintended message you are sending. Unbeknownst to most leaders, people who receive your off-hour emails interpret such messages as a directive to drop what they are doing and to respond NOW!
This “email urgency bias” is detrimental to the well-being of others and devastating for your leadership. The end result of frequent off-hour emails is to promote a pressurized need to stay connected with work even when it is not necessary to do so. This creates unhappiness and an unhealthy task-focus that prevents people from recharging. The perceived need to respond also destroys the goodwill required for a productive relationship. Instead, team members come to dread leaders who behave so impulsively. This “always-on” mentality also makes everything seem urgent, so what is truly urgent doesn’t stand out.
So, what should a good leader do? Don’t avoid sending off-hour emails and messages. Instead, let others know that you respect personal boundaries and that an off-hour message is not a request to respond immediately. Tell people that when they receive an email during their personal time, you want them to preserve the boundaries and wait to respond until they are working. This will help to eliminate email urgency bias and to create a healthy team culture where true urgency stands out.