Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Email, Phone Or In-Person Communication?




There are plenty of reasons to communicate about inter-office business in person, rather than sending an email or calling on the phone–especially if the recipient is down the hall or only a floor away. There are also plenty of reasons to stay at your own desk and send a message or make a phone call. Rather than being dogmatic about it, be situational–just as you probably are with many work issues.

  • If you are communicating upwardly, find out if your manager or others at that level have a preference for communicating about matters that don’t require in-person conversation. Or, call or send an email and ask if he or she would prefer that kind of contact or should you come by to see them in person.
  • Let others know your preference about communication. In your email about a situation say, “Just email me the results, that way I’ll have a copy.”  Or, “Email me the results but call me ahead of time so I’ll be looking for it.”  Or, don’t worry about emailing me the results. Let’s get together and talk about it. What time?”
  • If you communicate in person, be respectful of the time of others. Don’t use every visit to someones office, cubicle or workplace as an opportunity to take a break and take them with you mentally!
  • If you communicate by email or phone, be aware of the frustrations of unnecessary messages or ringing phones. Don’t cc people unnecessarily, just as you would not pull all of those people into a room to talk about it. Also save up messages if you think you will need to get advice or input several times.
  • Even if you talk to someone in person or on the phone, email crucial information as a way to document what you have done.
  • If what you are talking about is not something you would ever want disclosed or reviewed in hard copy, talk instead of emailing.

The bottom line is to have a reason for your choices about communicating. There are times when communicating by email is by far the best choice.  Other times, a phone call is the right call to make. And, sometimes it’s better to walk or drive to the location and be able to talk to someone face to face.  The choice depends upon you, the other person, the setting, the topic and the time required.

Do you have a preference about workplace communication? How do you handle it when someone else wants to communicate differently?

October 20th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments


  1. I like emails because they save time and I have a record. I don’t isolate myself in my office so I know I’m talking enough to people. Sometimes after a conversation one or both of us will email the major points we made, so we have a record.

    I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t like phone calls for most things because they seem to interrupt and take more time than is needed.

    Thanks for asking!

    Comment by P.A.H. | October 22, 2010

  2. Emails are my preference because I don’t work in a private area. Phone calls are distracting for everyone else and I can’t discuss a lot of things openly. So, I either have to meet someone in a conference room, which seems hush-hush, or keep my voice lowered, which also seems like I’m talking about something top-secret.

    I also like having the complete record of a transaction. That has saved me a lot of problems.

    Comment by Meeker | October 22, 2010

  3. I don’t usually weigh in on office matters but this is something our staff has been dicussing too.

    We have found that that office visits are disruptive for many, especially the staff that does graphics work or similar detailed work.

    We have a break/lunch area and there is a lot of socializing there, but by tacit agreement our staff doesn’t do much casual talk in their work areas. So, it works better for us to use email, sometimes followed up by phone.

    I’ve been on a busy schedule and haven’t commented lately but I wouldn’t miss an article I was especially blessed by your thoughts about the situation in the Chilean mine.

    Blessings on you as this week ends and another begins. You’re always in our prayers.

    Comment by Don R. | October 22, 2010

  4. In person first, then email. Not phone.

    Comment by Wiseacre | October 22, 2010

  5. It depends on the things you mentioned. I’ve noticed conversation in person is more time consuming because no one just talks about one topic. I’ve had to discuss this with someone who was bothering everyone when she could have sent short emails to convey minor information.

    Comment by B. H. | October 22, 2010

  6. Hello Tina! You’ll probably get a variety of answers about this topic because it is so individualized. My preference is for email for the reasons you stated. We are working with clients so we need to hold messages until it’s convenient to look at them, not have someone poking their head in the door all the time. I keep my phone silenced for that reason.

    Comment by Careerist | October 22, 2010

  7. If someone is sitting right next to me it seems idiotic for them to send me an email when they could lean around a cubicle wall or walk out of their office and come talk to me. I have a coworker who will call me to tell me something and I can hear her in stereo! Some logic is needed about it.

    Comment by Chris P. | October 22, 2010

  8. In the class last week you talked about this, so I’ve thought about it. I would waste a lot of time if I got up every time I have something to tell someone. I don’t see why people think it’s frustrating to get several email messages from the same person. I would rather have that than to get several phone calls or have someone come to my desk a bunch of times in a day. According to whether I liked them or not!

    Comment by Apaloosa | October 22, 2010

  9. There isn’t any absolute answer for this but my choice is email. I use Outlook and have a good system for organizing information. If you’re talking about something that is minor or doesn’t need to be saved, I guess a phone would be best. I don’t like phones ringing but at least it saves time over personal visits.

    Comment by R.T. | October 22, 2010

  10. 1. E-mail. Good record and I can look at it when I want to.
    2. In-person. Nice to see someone face to face.
    3. Phone. Wastes time almost every time.

    Comment by Stan | October 24, 2010

  11. Hello Tina! I’ve been waiting to comment until I saw some of the others. I think it all depends on where a person works and what kind of work they do. If you have to walk for several minutes each way to talk to someone, why leave your desk when you can email or phone? But, if you need a paper trail or just want to have it in writing so you can remember, email is better. I like email because it doesn’t interrupt me. (Unless I let it.) Even if I’m out of the office I can still keep track of things. Just my opinions!

    Comment by Coffeeclub | October 24, 2010

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