“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”
Hi In Hot Water,
Imagine the following scenario: You are a hiring manager for a major corporation and are looking through application materials to hire a summer intern. The position that you are looking to fill is extremely prestigious, and there are hundreds of worthy applicants vying for the job. After comparing logistic data (resume experience, references, etc…) you have narrowed your search down to just two applicants. Both applicants have the appropriate skill set and are virtually the same. However, after interviewing each separately, you see that one sends you a well-thought out, professional email, and the other sends you quick, informal message laden with spelling errors. Who do you choose?
Easy decision, right? Of course you would want someone professional for the job. It may seem obvious, but many of our peers have forgotten the importance of emailing. In an article , “Why Employers Say Millennials Can’t Get a Job”, relations manager Jeff Dunn highlights the one thing that people our age forget when applying for the workplace: writing skills. According to Dunn,
“Writing skills—people don’t write as much as they used to. They’re texting, so they forget to write in complete sentences and articulate their written skills professionally.”
Though this is a broad statement, it does shed light. Consider social media posts. I did this. Here is a picture of me. I went here. We don’t consider our audience because frankly, we don’t have to. Not considering how we sound in a professional environment (sending an email at work for example) can lead to us being “tone deaf” in the work place. Another way to say that would be we don’t think about how are messages are being received.
Now, you seem like you care about your job, which makes it all the more frustrating when people are upset with you. Below, I have highlighted some classic errors that we have all made (myself included) when drafting a professional email:
Mistake #1: Not Considering Your Audience
I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. Every email is a reflection of who you are. As stated in my previous blogs, every single thing that you post/send/etc… is a reflection of your personal brand. By considering who is reading your email, you are more likely to sound professional and catch anything that may be construed as offensive or vulgar (even if you didn’t mean for it to be). For example, saying “chairman” instead of “chairperson” may come off as sexist to female employees even though you did not intend it to be.
Here’s a little trick that I use to help: think of your dream job. Now, imagine that the hiring manager or CEO for your dream job is reading your every email before you send it out. Is he/she impressed? If not, then you may need to consider some revisions.
Mistake #2 Grammatical Errors
Nothing is worse than spelling errors. In her article for Forbes, Alison Griswold admonishes that more and more millennials lack basic grammatical skills in the workplace. That makes those of us who do check over our work for errors all the more valuable. “If you want to impress others, you will always try to use language correctly.” The image below indicates common grammatical errors that we all make and how to fix them:
Mistake #3: Be Brief!
Managers are not english professors, nor do they want to read an essay every time you send them something. Be brief! Determine what you are trying to say before you write out your email and then get to the point. If you cannot determine the point of an email in the first two or three sentences, then you probably have too much. Unclear emails are the best way to ensure that your messages never get received.
For more advice on how to write a satisfactory email in the workplace, I highly recommend About Education’s article here. The last piece of advice that I have for you is not to panic. Everyone makes mistakes, and it is not too late to salvage your relationship with your coworkers. By being aware of the common mistakes above, you can ensure that you never do them again. Good luck and thanks again for the email!