Monday, November 14, 2011

What does your signature say about you?

There's no in-depth handwriting analysis here, just a curious post about what your e-signature says about you. Many of us take a few moments with our email accounts to set up our "options" -- including a signature automatically added to every out-going email.

But have you wondered why you put certain information in your signature? In higher education, it is important to explore the ways we communicate (and how that communication might be interpreted).

I hadn't really considered this issue of e-signatures until I ran across a faculty member from across campus who I rarely see, but often email due to committee responsibilities. This person noted last week, "I am impressed at how available you are to faculty and students--you put it all right in your email." I didn't realize how much we might glean from an email signature.

Can you tell if a person is helpful,  available, pretentious, cooperative, flexible, technologically-up-to-date, willing to work, etc.? I'm not sure that you can get all of that from a simple e-signature, but these were terms that entered the conversation last week as we discussed what people choose to put as their signature. Laughingly, the person who noted my "availability" caught up another colleague in the conversation by saying, "You can Skype her or email or Tweeter her." After gently correcting the "Tweeter" term, I noted that I do prefer to give a lot of contact options--the same options are on my business card and syllabus. What is the use of these social channels and amazing technology if no one knows you are on them?

But there are many online opinions. In fact, most say the shorter the signature the better (name and phone number only) and others note a title, name, and phone number are important. And Wagner noted, "the longer your email signature, the lower down the food chain you are." Which, we might note by my example above, makes me an easy lunch. He also claimed the most important folks didn't seem to have a signature after reviewing his personal in-box. I'm hesitant to embrace a minimalist mentality when it comes to contacting me. I do have slightly different signatures for my different email accounts, which can be a good practice for those who want to avoid over-personalizing their workplace signature (with quotes and cute sayings or clip art).

Is there such thing as "too much contact information?" I really don't think so, though my signature may be a bit lengthy, it does allow people to reach me through a variety of options and has allowed me to connect with people via IM, Skype and Twitter that seemed faster and more appropriate than email. I met people at a conference over the summer (each living more than a thousand miles away from me) and we Skyped our way into a collaborative project.

There is a challenge to these multiple channels of accessibility: managing work-life balance. When you are available and always "on" for those around you at work, it can prove challenging to separate out the personal/home time and the "working" time. In fact, I often feel that I am always working, since I am always available and responding to inquiries from students, colleagues, etc.

There are a lot of resources about what "should" and "should not" go into your e-signature:
CBS "What should your email signature look like" 
"Food Chain" and signatures, by Mitch Wagner.
Signature blocks
"What to put in your signature"

Don't forget, you can "like" Communication and Higher Education Blog on Facebook:

No comments:

Post a Comment