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,
I myself have too struggled with communication with others due to a problem in tone. My mother and I get along very well, one might even say we are best friends. We talk on the phone each day and rarely encounter problems leading to issues or fights in our relationship. However, when I communicate via text with my mother, I become very anxious as she writes strictly composed texts with periods and very little emotion. I, on the other hand, write texts full of emphasis as I hope to communicate my excitement through my writing. Over time, my mother and I have been able to understand each other’s texting styles and the differences between the two, but initially I always thought she was angry at me or in a poor mood when I received her texts. We have now both learned that we can communicate with each other in our own way without feeling offended, and she has even attempted to include more excitement and enthusiasm in her communication. So have no fear, there are certain things you can do to improve your tone in your emails and in turn change the way your co-workers treat you.
Diplomacy, Tone, and Emphasis in Business Writing has outlined how create an effective tone in your writing to co-workers that will make them feel valued and of importance. Two of these points especially stuck out to me.
- Remind Your Reader What is in it for Them, Especially When Asking for Help
It is incredibly important for your reader to realize that by performing a certain task, they will be rewarded or that they will have greatly helped the company. Let them know that in their area of work, they have the control to make the work as they would like to see it and in a way that will benefit everyone.
2. Ask (when you can afford to hear no) and Thank Your Reader
Readers will react in a more positive manner when they feel they have a choice on whether to do something or not. If they are asked to attend a meeting instead of feeling forced to attend, their morale will most likely be higher.
Setting the Email Tone expertly explains how to create a pleasant tone within the first sentence of an email. The greeting should be happy and friendly, something along the lines of, “Good morning, Leadership Team, I hope you are having a great week so far.” The initial upbeat and positive tone lets co-workers receiving the email feel that they have been doing a good job and are not in any trouble. By personalizing who the email is being sent to (i.e Leadership Team), workers feel that they are being directly addressed.
In addition to all of the above advice, there are different tones to be set for different types of emails. Appropriate Tone in Business Writing gives great examples for how tone should be different in regards to the content of each email. If you are writing to an employee or coworker telling them that you have to deny their request, the email should be regretful and courteous, not rude and stern. However, if you are writing an email to an employee or co-worker awarding them a promotion or giving them a bonus, the tone should be appreciative and enthusiastic. You should let them know how thankful you are to have them working for or with you.
I hope this information is of some help to you, In Hot Water. I know writing emails can be difficult and may seem daunting at times, but I know you can do this!