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 can relate to your problem all too well. Sometimes, when I would text my girlfriend I would be really short and use abbreviations because I was busy. She always thought I was mad or upset at her for something just because of the way she would read my messages, when in reality there was nothing wrong, thats just how I would text. I realized that it is not about what I would say, but rather how I said it. This definitely applies to your situation since everyone you send an email to takes offense to how your saying what needs to be relayed. The tone you use in your email communication is essential in order to be regarded as a professional and to maintain and good relationship with your peers.
One of the most important reasons as to why it is essential to use tone in your digital communication is that it adds your own personality to the message. You are writing the message, right? Make it sound like you! According to Printwand.com, they say that “not only does this make your copy more engaging, it allows the consumer to feel emotionally attached to your brand”. Adding your own personal tone to your emails will help the recipient connect and understand your message. Utilize tone to make your emails sound like as if you were speaking directly to them. If you are writing in a dull tone, chances are you are not going to be taken too seriously or will either offend someone (in your case) at the workplace. Add some personality to your message!
As you start to utilize your own personal tone more, different people are going to respond to different tones, so it is important that you can be flexible in the use of your tone. The website netmanners.com makes a good point by saying “your mother will perceive the very same bold and red in an email differently than the same bold and red used in an email to a new acquaintance. Your perceived tone will differ based on how well someone knows you.” The last part of this quote pertains exactly to your situation. You are at a new job where your coworkers do not know you very well, so when you use the wrong tone, or no tone for that matter, people are going to assume a few things: 1) you have no idea what you are talking about, 2) if you come off as rude in your emails that you are probably the same when you are not behind the computer screen, and 3) that you flat out just do not care about the work or your coworkers. Its about branding yourself in the workplace to establish your credibility and so that people look to you as a power player in the office.
My last piece of advice for you is to know your audience. You will be contacting different people for different reasons, whether formal or informal, and so there are different tones for different types of conversations. The people over at DirectTutor.com state that “analyzing your audience and the purpose of your message is the key to successful business writing. As well as helping you decide what content and how much detail to include, it helps you apply the right tone in your writing”. Being able to channel and apply the right tone in your writing will invoke a very positive response from the recipients of the email. If you want to know more about the various tones and when to use them, you can look here. This is the best advice that I could give anyone on this subject, because I struggled with it myself. I hope you found this helpful!