Corporate America is in a love-hate relationship with e-mail.\n\n\n\nOn one hand, e-mail has become so critical that businesses could not\n\nfunction without it. On the other side, the volume is so high that much\n\nof it goes unread by intended recipients.\n\nWhile the conflict over the relationship with e-mail continues,\n\nthe amount of time that senior executives and managers spend daily on\n\ne-mail is actually increasing, though some may find hard it hard to\n\nbelieve it is possible to spend more time on e-mail than was been being\n\nspent already.\n\nIn 2001, a reported 71 percent of senior executives and\n\nmanagers were spending more than one hour or more a day on e-mail. In\n\n2003, that number was 75 percent. Today it is 80 percent, based on\n\nthree nationwide surveys over those times by NFI Research.\n\nA third of executives and managers are now spending three or\n\nmore hours a day on e-mail, with six percent spending more than four\n\nhours a day. \n\nInterestingly, though more business leaders today are spending more\n\ntime writing and reading e-mail, they say the amount of unnecessary\n\ne-mail they receive is going down, although a third still say more than\n\nhalf the e-mail they receive is not necessary.\n\n\n\n\n\n\u201cSpam, even with our filters in place, continues to be a problem,\u201d said one survey respondent.\u201d\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nSaid another: \u201cJunk mail is junk mail, whether it\u2019s in the post box on the end of my lane, or the inbox on my computers.\u201d\n\n\n\nProblems arise when e-mail essentially gets out of control.\n\n\u201cE-mail started as a better way to communicate,\u201d said one respondent.\n\n\u201cIt has evolved into an albatross.\u201d\n\n\u201cE-mail overload is getting worse, but it\u2019s largely from\n\nexternal sources,\u201d said one manager. \u201cI have no idea where some of\n\nthese companies have gotten my corporate e-mail address or why they\n\nsend the totally irrelevant un-asked for offers that they do.\u201d\n\nWhile some find e-mail absolutely necessary, others find it\n\nused as an internal political tool. For example, a purchasing agent\n\nmight require all requests and changes in writing, making e-mail an\n\nessential documentation tool. \n\n\u201cE-mail is the great cop-out to critical thinking and reasoned\n\nmanagement,\u201d said one survey respondent. \u201cIt wastes as much time as it\n\nsaves. E-mail is often just a CYA tool, particularly when there is a\n\nbare copy without explaining why people are copied.\u201d\n\nSaid another: \u201cIf folks could only get two basic rules: Don\u2019t\n\ncc the world, and if someone should fall out of the loop, take them off\n\nthe list. Oh, and do not hit reply-all on general stuff; that\u2019s\n\nannoying. And if folks would stop with the unnecessary forwarding of\n\njokes and stupid stuff and chain letters and political requests, we\u2019d\n\nlive in a better world.\u201d\n\nBased on responses in the survey over a base of more than 1,000\n\ncompanies, the chief executive also can play a significant role in\n\ne-mail usage within an organization, either positively or negatively.\n\n\u201cLuckily, our current CEO began a campaign\n\nfour years ago, when he assumed that role, to stamp out war by e-mail\n\nand the endless chain e-memo,\u201d said one manager. \u201cWe don\u2019t have total\n\nsuccess, but the volume has dropped significantly. He is currently on a\n\ncampaign to stop multiple names in the \u2018to\u2019 line. His position is that\n\nif the e-mail is to six people and requires action, no one feels\n\naccountable for taking the action, so nothing happens. We\u2019re seeing\n\nsome success on this as well. All in all, except for ubiquitous spam,\n\nthings are better.\u201d\n\n\n\n\n\nOne CEO introduced e-mail-free-Fridays, \u201cso we can talk to each other again,\u201d said another manager.\n\n\n\nThen there is the negative side. \u201cWe suffer from a CEO who won\u2019t\n\nread his e-mail, yet demands that his staff communicate with him\n\nprimarily via Blackberry,\u201d said one respondent. \u201cHe seldom keeps an\n\nappointment to meet face-to-face. If the e-mail is short, he wants more\n\ndetail. If you give him detail, he admonishes us to keep the e-mails\n\nshort. E-mail is an insidious, misused, virus-infecting business.\u201d\n\nPerhaps most telling is that a larger percentage of senior\n\nexecutives than managers are spending more time on e-mail today.\n\nConversely, a significantly larger percentage of managers say they are\n\ndealing with e-mail overload by deleting e-mail without reading. \n\n\n\nWhere\u2019s the effective communication in that?