Your Attitude May Not Be the Problem

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,

As a millennial, I fully understand how difficult it is to create a substantial connection to our generation along with other 355b160egenerations in our working environment. First and foremost, do not take their distant companionship as a blow to your
personal character; instead, consider how your emails may be the root of 355b160ethe corporate hostility you are sensing. In a short amount of time, I have realized that along with the simple framework and organization of your business emails, it is absolutely essential that you pay attention to the tone of your writing.

According to tone is considered the attitude or approach the writer conveys through a written piece of work. The underlying voice of the author often mirrors personal beliefs about the audience or subject that can either benefit or hinder how the writer is viewed amongst their colleagues. We millennials stand at the forefront of technological communication and it is necessary that we pay close attention to how our tone is executed along with how it may be perceived by the targeted audience. Often times we are completely unaware that a specific tone is illustrated in our written communication and therefore I completely understand your frustration surrounding your situation.

I can specifically remember an instance during my freshman year where my tone was perceived in a way that completely contrasted my intentions. I developed an email that included constructive advice on our group’s collaboration seeing as though we were not getting a proper amount of work done in the time we were granted. My hopes were that this email would allow us to decide on a method to complete our project; instead, it lead to a blame game where I was the bully. With consideration, I realized I was completely tone deaf in my email. I disregarded the emotion and tone I was emanating and this caused confusion on my overall intentions. After learning from this incident, there are certain strategies I would incorporate today that I would not have thought about in the past.

Emphasize Clarity

My first piece of advice is to clearly communicate your point through the configuration of your email. To emphasize particular sections of information, use short sentences. Brief sentence structure is easier to read and easier to comprehend, eliminating confusion on the subject matter. To extend comprehension, add supplementary information to explain difficult material. A lesson in Business Writing reiterates the importance of clear sentences because in the corporate world, working in an accurate and timely manner is indispensable. Unwanted confusion can also lead to an immense amount of hostility because it calls for further instruction that is often mistaken for criticism or a controlling attitude. I know that structure may not appear to be the root of your problem, but the offensive nature of your emails may simply stem from overall confusion.

Pay Attention to Word Choice

Another thing that may provoke aggression is mislabeled blame due to word choice. Over the years I have realized that written communication can be problematic because your audience cannot see the body language or emotion you exemplify. This means the writer needs to be articulate in choosing the correct words to state their ideas or arguments. One simple rule to follow is to use I statements. “I have been having trouble understanding your blog posts,” is much less threatening than “Your blog posts are confusing.” Addressing the situation in this format also eradicates an attack on the receiver and instead puts responsibility on you. With this, please realize you are not saying you are wrong in your thinking. Alternatively, it says they are not necessarily mistaken in their viewpoint and it ultimately uncovers the situation without an aggressive approach.

Eliminate Personal Bias

Above all, I learned not to let my personal beliefs and values interfere with the task at hand. All to often we let subtle biases come in contact with our professional work. The General Medical Council explicitly states that everyone must be contacted considerately, fairly, and without discrimination. Though you presumably had no intentions of offending anyone with personal opinions, I encourage you to closely analyze your writing and make sure it is clear of indirect bias. It is of chief importance that emails be kept professional and the assignment assigned gets accomplished for the sake of the company’s reputation or survival.

A new job can be daunting especially being the “young grad” on the unit, but I encourage you to apply the information above to create a professional tone for your corporate emails. As a general rule, do your best to dispose of confusion and blame and scan your final product for personal opinions that may collide with those of your colleagues. Though emphasis on proper tone is often neglected, it is extremely important when it comes to partnership and networking in big business settings. I wish you the best of luck in establishing your voice amongst your acquaintances.

Good Luck!

Megan Foster


6 thoughts on “Your Attitude May Not Be the Problem

  1. First of all, I like how you described the importance of tone. This is an aspect that is often overlooked, but it essential to read the email through the eyes of the reader, and not just yourself. It is important to examine this and make sure the tone works to get the point across effectively. Your example of a group situation was very helpful and relatable for me, as we all have been in a similar situation. I also liked the way you set up the post, with an intro section and then subheadings highlighting your three main points. You seem to be using your own advice in your post, which in of itself reiterates the importance of the message. The only problem I found was the random numbers before “the” in the beginning. While just minor proofreading mistake, professionals do place a high level of importance on this and it can be a deal breaker depending on the situation. Otherwise, a well-structured and informative post.

  2. Hi Megan,
    Good job on your post! It was very clear and provided many useful tips to keep in mind when writing business emails. I especially liked the fact that you quickly jumped into the topic of connecting with other generations in the workplace. Your advice to In Hot Water seems very thought out and well organized on your blog post. I also liked how you brought in important background information from other sites such as, and highlighted only the main points. Overall I really enjoyed your post, and thought that your angle on the topic was especially helpful in regards to helping In Hot Water improve his business writing skills.

  3. Hi Megan! I thought your post was overall well done but I especially liked how you began by asserting your credibility as a millennial as well. By immediately relating to the reader through the common sub group of millennial you relate to the reader and put them at ease. I also liked how you addressed the issue right off the bat in your title, no dilly dallying here. This direct approach is prevalent throughout your post and makes the information you present easy to read and understand. Overall Well done! I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

  4. Hey Megan!

    I enjoyed how your personal anecdote was not at the beginning of the blog, but near the middle. While it is always fun to start of a blog read with a short story that is personal to the author and draws in the reader, it was neat to be provided with background content, then your anecdote and then strategies on conveying tone. The structure for this blog was a nice change of pace! In addition, I felt that your strategies were very relatable to your and In Hot Water’s situations. I especially liked your mention of paying attention to word choice, as I think that was a key problem for you in your misrepresentation of tone when emailing your group members freshman year.

    I am sure I will see you around soon ☺

    Tessa Snow

  5. Hi Megan! First off, I thought that you did an amazing job throughout your entire post. The way in which you organized your thoughts was very effective and made me want to continue reading your blog post from the get go. I especially liked the section of your post where you talked about what had happened to you during one of your group projects. That same exact situation has actually happened to me as well and it all originated from an email that was sent to my group that was clearly interpreted very wrong from everyone involved. So I’m glad that I’m not alone! The other part of this post that I really liked was the section in which you discussed eliminating personal bias. It is so easy to let your personal beliefs and opinions be incorporated into your work, which isn’t always bad, but when working with others it is important to not let those interfere and ultimately impede the progress of the task at hand. Great post and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  6. Hi Megs! I like that you address that tone has changed over time and that millenials have a different view of tone. That the way we communicate and the tone that we use may be more present online because we are the primary users but that is does not necessarily extend into the workplace. I like that you used your experience as a group leader that needed to give out constructive advice and how your tone made the situation worse. I think that we have all been in that position and had an unclear idea of what to do. I also liked that you suggested to eliminate personal bias because I think that could be the sole reason for some my own personal tone problems. Great job this week!

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