Dear 3040 and Beyond:
I’m a new grad at a big firm and I think I’ve messed things up with my co-workers. They’ve been acting weird around me and my only office friend says I’ve been offending people in my emails. From my boss to my peers, it looks like I’ve made everyone mad. The thing is, I have no idea what kinds of stuff I could say in email that would piss people off! I’m a nice person and I haven’t had many problems like this before. Can you help?
In Hot Water
Dear In Hot Water,
Never fear, we can fix this mess in no time. The thing with emails, texts, and all pieces of writing in general is that people don’t always know you’re intention or tone.
People convey our messages when we talk to each other in person not only by dialogue, but also by our tone of voice. You can immediately tell if someone is irritated, joking, or being sarcastic by the way they talk. The lack of physical presence in emails creates a disconnect for people reading and interpreting them.
In an article by a leadership developer Connie Dieken, she speaks about the warmth we need to add to emails. Acknowledge your coworker’s presence when writing an email by using their name in the beginning. Additionally, acknowledge when they’ve doing something to help you and be sure to give thanks when needed. Being polite and considerate is a way to bring warmth to emails.
As you previously mentioned, you’re at a big firm. Keep your emails professional by not making jokes or trying sarcasm out. People either will not understand what you’re trying to say or take it as a lack of professionalism. This is a corporate job and you need to treat it as such. Don’t use any cuss words or slang. You’re coworkers might not have heard certain slang words and may even be offended by them. There’s a time and a place for those, and the office is neither. Reread each line in your email and ask yourself if people could interpret them differently.
In an article titled, “Don’t Type at Me Like That” it addresses the reasoning for people misinterpreting emails. The advice it gives is to not assume everyone is in the same mood as you when you write the email. This is completely true, if your boss is having a bad day and receives an email with a million questions from you, it might seem as if you’re attacking him/her when really, you’re just trying to do your job proficiently.
Keep it Concise
You should be keeping your emails short, sweet, and to the point. Make sure that you only say what you need to stay. Don’t get off track or add personal antidotes. If you go through your emails with a fined tooth comb, there shouldn’t be a lot of room for misinterpretation.
Bad News Bears
Don’t give bad news in emails ever. In an article by INC.com, it was pointed out that while emails need to be professional, there is a certain informality about them. This makes telling bad news show a lack of respect and professionalism. (I know, so many rules to be professional!) Also, keep in mind, emails can’t be erased like conversations, and if somebody gets bad news from you, they may interpret it worse than you intend. Face-to-face confrontations are better for bad news.
Don’t Annoy Them
It’s easy to worry if somebody got your email about the meeting change or their responsibilities on the next project. Don’t worry, they are professionals, and so are you. Focus on your job and they’ll focus on theirs. Don’t email them again unless you are genuinely following up on something. Additionally, don’t give them one word answers like ‘k’, ‘ok’, or ‘yeah.’ Don’t waste your time and don’t waste their time with an email like that.
Finally, I think it would help you a lot to read my last advice letter on emailing here. I laid out some email advice for another corporate job. Soon you’ll be just like Jay-Z!