10 Rules of Pharmacy Email Etiquette


One of the most frustrating things about pharmacy jobs today is the lack of email etiquette at work.

Email etiquette is not taught in pharmacy school. The errors employees make in emails every single day not only make the sender look bad, but also may actually hurt a care team.

Here are the email changes I would like to see in the pharmacy and health-system world. (Disclaimer: I have been practicing for almost 15 years, so most of these examples go way back in time.)

  • Refrain from sending reactive, emotional replys. If you find yourself getting worked up over what you are reading, do your best to avoid pressing reply and firing off a response. Avoid sending emails when you’re feeling any type of negative emotion, because they will always make you look unprofessional. Before you send off that email rant or reply to a message that angers you, try cooling off or write an uncensored draft that you never actually send. Remember that all emails are forwardable, so if you don't want your whole department to read it, do not send it.
  • Resist the Reply All. I have seen coworker after coworker make this mistake and it is not pretty. This can make you look totally clueless all the way up the chain. Coworkers don't let coworkers reply all. In fact, I would love to see a day when Reply All is no longer an option in Outlook, Gmail, or any other email client. Why? Because it creates mindless replies when all of the discussion could be tabled and then have 1 single email sent out to a team. Take the time to call the person who sent the email and give him or her the professional courtesy to make any corrections. Don't shoot the messenger!
  • Understand what CC and BCC stand for. The recipients listed in the "to" field are the direct addressees of your email. These are the people to whom you are writing directly. CC, which stands for “carbon copy” or even “courtesy copy,” is for anyone you want to keep in the loop but are not addressing directly in the email. The person(s) in the CC field are being sent a copy of your email as an FYI. Commonly, people CC their supervisors to let them know an email has been sent or an action has been taken, or to provide a record of communications. The general rule of thumb is that recipients in the "to" field are expected to reply or follow-up to the email, while those in the CC field do not. Many times, I see those in the CC field adding in their 2 cents and then the whole thing becomes a reply-all festival.
  • If you add someone to the CC or BCC field, let others know. There are times when people are added willy-nilly for no good reason and you look back and notice it a couple of emails later. Let people know. Professional courtesy and politeness go a long way.
  • BCC is good for 1 thing only. Let's say that only half of your department contributed to the annual walk fund. Rather than sending out an email to all those who contributed in the "to" field, where each of them can see who contributed and who did not, put your own name in the "to" field and the rest in the BCC. That way, gossip about who gives and doesn't give is stopped before it can even begin. Don't use the BCC field to add someone random to eavesdrop on the email.
  • Pick up the phone. If you notice that you are going back and forth on an email and getting nowhere, the phone still works. Voices can convey so much more than typed words and rarely are misinterpreted as much. I remember an email I saw that was sent for the third time. The second time, it was heavily highlighted with quotes from the manager's email weeks before. The third send apologized for resending the email yet again, but someone was not doing it correctly. Because of the sender's frustration, more time was wasted from the entire department reading about some small piece in the whole operation. Worse yet, half of the department had nothing to do with the infraction.
  • Don't put quotes, witty sayings, and/or colors in your signature. Period.
  • Don't assume that everyone reads their email immediately. If something is important and needs to be communicated quickly, pick up the phone.
  • Don't forward an email until you ask permission from the original sender. This is just plain common professional sense.
  • Don't use unprofessional fonts. They only distract.

Hope that helps. And, by the way, I do mess up on some of these.

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