We hold these truths to be self-evident: Email sticks around. Pretty much forever. In a click, it can be distributed to your best friends, your worst enemies and your boss. So here are some don’ts to remember:
1. Don’t write when your angry. Or drunk. Or even tipsy. Ask anyone who has. You’ll be sorry in the morning. Sending a “toned down” message won’t help people forget what the tuned up you is really like.
2. Don’t copy the world. Don’t even copy everyone on your team or committee unless they need to know. A recent Randstad USA study found that one of the most annoying email habits is hitting “Reply to All”. It’s worse than being really loud on the phone. Don’t do it. Be thoughtful.
3.Stop using email to CYA. Everyone knows when you’re sending an email for “political” reasons and no one likes it.
4 Don’t sneaky BCC. Sneaky BCC’ing occurs when you’re purposefully not letting someone know that someone else is privy to the message. Smart BCC’ing is when you do it to protect the confidentiality of addresses or when everyone in the office is getting the same info and you don’t want to waste their time with a giant glob of addresses. Mark my words. BCC in a sneaky manner and you’ll get caught. All the recipient has to do is hit Reply to All. (See above.)
5. Don’t use email to speak your mind. If you must speak your mind, pick up the phone to have that conversation. You’ll be less likely to say stuff that you’ll wish you hadn’t. Also, according to research to be published in the Academy of Management Review, recipients read emotions into emails that aren’t intended. (Now that’s what I call breaking news!) A neutral message is perceived to be negative in tone according to the research, and a positive message is perceived to be simply routine. Just think how your negative message will play.
6. Don’t get sucked into another’s crisis or negativity. Some people are just dumb. It’s not our job to be dumber. Refuse to be sucked in. Consider responding with, “That’s an idea. Let’s talk about it at the staff meeting tomorrow.” It is an idea; you’ve not said it was good.
7. Don’t scream. Using all caps or putting words into a bold font is not only annoying, it’s ultimately self-defeating. You may feel good for the moment but your histrionics won’t motivate them to do what you want. They may, however, give your reader a good laugh.
8. Don’t hide behind email. Some situations just need to be discussed by phone or in person. Even if you and they prefer email, don’t rely on it when tensions are high. It’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with another human when emailing. When you see their eyes or even hear their voice, most people remember that their goal isn’t to win the argument, but to win them over. It’s too easy to forget that in email.
What are your suggestions for dealing with negative email emotions? Post them!