I’m as guilty of this as anyone – sending an email in lieu of making a phone call. It’s just easier, it’s fire and forget. It’s like lobbing the ball back into the other person’s court, sort of absolving yourself of responsibility for the problem for a day or two. But that’s not fair to anyone involved, especially if the issue is at all controversial or if there is any miscommunication or misunderstanding happening (or even potential.)
Now, I am also against having meetings for meetings sake, and wasting thousands of dollars of people’s time in conference rooms. The trick is to find the balance that works for the culture you’re in. Maybe schedule that meeting for only 15 minutes, and come in with a good agenda and goals. Or maybe a pop-by or quick phone call is all that’s necessary to resolve the issue. Then you can follow up with an email to document the outcome and make sure everyone is on the same page. Heck, you can even take your notes with my new favorite gadget – the LiveScribe pen. Then everything is documented and recorded, if you’re that worried (I have worked with people where this would have been hugely important, as they were master political manipulators and twisters of words. Not fun, but also not the point of this post 🙂 )
And never send an emotional email based on what you perceive is the tone of an email you received – once emotions get into it, dealing in person is almost always better. Pick up that phone or walk down the hall so you can resolve things.