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  • Jharna Jagtiani

Decoding the Email Dilemma: Pros and Cons of Negotiating in the Digital Realm

Email negotiations offer documentation and flexibility but lack non-verbal cues. Learn from Infosys-Narayana Murthy case for insights.

As digital communication continues to dominate the business landscape, negotiating via email has become a common practice. This article examines the advantages and drawbacks of negotiating through emails, shedding light on when this mode of communication is appropriate. An Indian case study further illustrates the dynamics of email negotiations.

Pros of Negotiating via Email:

  1. Documentation: Email negotiations provide a documented trail of communication. This can serve as a valuable reference, minimizing misunderstandings and offering a clear record of agreements and disagreements.

  2. Flexibility and Convenience: Negotiating via email offers flexibility in terms of timing and allows participants to respond at their convenience. This asynchronous communication style accommodates different time zones and busy schedules.

  3. Thoughtful Responses: Participants have the luxury of crafting thoughtful, well-considered responses. This can lead to more strategic and nuanced communication compared to the immediacy of face-to-face discussions.

  4. Global Reach: Email negotiations facilitate global collaborations by overcoming geographical barriers. Participants from different parts of the world can engage in discussions without the need for simultaneous availability.

Cons of Negotiating via Email:

  1. Lack of Non-Verbal Cues: The absence of non-verbal cues such as body language and tone makes it challenging to interpret the emotional context of messages. Misinterpretations are more likely, potentially leading to misunderstandings.

  2. Delayed Responses: Negotiations can be prolonged due to the asynchronous nature of email communication. Quick resolutions may be hindered, and urgent matters might not receive immediate attention.

  3. Security Concerns: Sensitive information shared via email may pose security risks. Confidential details could be vulnerable to hacking or unauthorized access, necessitating additional precautions when discussing sensitive matters.

  4. Impersonal Tone: The formal and written nature of emails can create an impersonal atmosphere, lacking the warmth and personal connection that may be crucial for relationship-building during negotiations.

Case Study: Infosys and Narayana Murthy (2017)

The case of Infosys, one of India's leading IT companies, and its founder, Narayana Murthy, provides insights into the dynamics of negotiations via email.

  1. Documentation in Dispute Resolution: In 2017, a public dispute unfolded between Narayana Murthy and the Infosys board, primarily conducted through email exchanges. The email communication served as a documentation of the grievances and attempts at conflict resolution.

  2. Lack of Personal Interaction: The email exchanges between Narayana Murthy and the Infosys board highlighted the impersonal nature of written communication. The absence of face-to-face interaction potentially fueled misunderstandings and strained relationships.

  3. Global Collaboration: Despite the challenges, email communication allowed for global collaboration. Narayana Murthy, based in India, and the Infosys board, scattered across the globe, engaged in discussions without the need for real-time meetings.

When is Negotiating via Email Appropriate?

  1. Routine Matters: Email negotiations are suitable for routine matters, updates, and straightforward discussions where immediate responses are not critical.

  2. Global Collaborations: In global collaborations involving participants from different time zones, email negotiations offer the flexibility needed to accommodate diverse schedules.

  3. Documenting Agreements: When documentation is crucial, such as in legal or contractual negotiations, email provides a written record of agreements and commitments.

  4. Sensitive Topics: For sensitive topics that require careful wording and consideration, negotiating via email allows participants to craft thoughtful responses.


Negotiating via email offers both advantages and disadvantages, and its appropriateness depends on the context of the negotiations. The Infosys-Narayana Murthy case underscores the importance of considering the impact of the digital medium on the dynamics of negotiation. As technology continues to shape business interactions, a strategic approach to leveraging the benefits of email negotiations while mitigating their drawbacks is essential for successful outcomes.


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