Think you can tell the difference between a manager's email and that of a rank-and-file employee? A Georgia Tech professor has some handy tips for telling who is who.
Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, has spent a lot of time analyzing old Enron emails. Yes, that Enron. Grandma Millie's Enron. And he tells us there are easy ways to spot whether an email is being directed up or down a company's email chain.
ProTip: Just look at the nouns and verbs because semi-coherent, non-passive writing usually includes nouns and verbs. Former Enron employees used both, and how! For example, employees lower on the corporate food chain were fond of using hedging phrases such as "thought you might" when they weren't writing "attach," "sounds good," "weekend," "absolutely no problem," "opportunity," "thank you" and "call me anytime." Pick me! Managers, meanwhile, were prone to writing mom-like phrases such as "have you been," "I hope you," "what have you been up to," "status," "let's," and the dreaded "need to talk" and "let's discuss." Geez, do we have to do it right now? I have work to do!
So what does this mean to us here in Enron-less 2012? Well, if you're wondering where someone sits on someone's multi-branch organizational chart and their nebulous job title offers no insight, just scan their email message for hedging phrases and an obsession with all things weekend, I guess. Or better yet, look at their Twitter page. You couldn't do that back in 2000. Just don't jam power up someone's you-know-what for $250 a megawatt hour. That's a form of power tripping nobody likes.
You can download a .pdf of the study here. Page 7 has employer vs. employee word clouds!