I’ve always worked for large international companies. Since this requires me to interact with colleagues all over the world, one of my main methods of communications at work is through email. Over the years I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to communicate effectively over email, which is so important because it is too easy to take an email the wrong way and misinterpret the sender’s tone or message.
In my first role in the energy industry one of my mentors taught me how to write polite emails. She would always get what she wanted much quicker and with more friendly service than her counterparts, and one day she copied me on one of her emails to request a well file. In the email she wrote:
May I please request the well file for well ABC 123 delivered to my office by tomorrow?
Thank you for your help.
I was so impressed with how clearly and politely she communicated. I understood why people were happy to help her quickly. Ever since that day I have emulated her email style, and I have noticed a positive response to it.
When I’m requesting something that isn’t in someone’s day-to-day responsibilities, but I need them to help me with an important task I make sure to word my email directly and kindly. People appreciate emails that are short and to the point, but still written in a polite manner.
I’ve been the recipient of plenty of emails of the where people are requesting something of me outside my day-to-day responsibilities. When I get these emails I have one of several reactions depending on the tone of the email. If the email was direct, clear and polite I usually try to work on the request as soon as possible. The sender clearly put in the effort to write me a kind email, so I like to respond appropriately.
If an email I receive is a rambling and vague request I usually mark it to come back to it later, sometimes in several days. It will take me extra time to interpret what they are asking for, and some days I am very busy with my daily work load. If that is the case, I often put off the rambling emails until I have more time to read it, try to understand it and respond. I don’t rush to respond to these emails.
If the email is very pushy and has what I interpret as a rude tone, I often get upset. The sender may not have intended to have a rude tone, but that is the problem with emails. It is all to easy to misinterpret the senders tone and intention. Sarcasm and tone don’t translate in email. Using all caps is often interpreted as aggressive and yelling.
There has been several cases where I’ve received what I interpreted as a rude email featuring things such as all caps and pushy wordy. I sometimes allow emails to flare up my own temper and I’m too quick to respond with my own snappy email in return.
Every time I’ve replied to quickly to a “rude” email I’ve immediately regretted it. So now I have a two-hour minimum reply time rule for these kind of emails. I’ll write a response but wait to send it for at least two hours and sometimes up to 24 hours, if I felt especially heated about the situation. Usually when I come back to the email in a few hours I realize that I’ve overreacted and possible misread the tone of the sender. I usually then can respond with a kinder more productive email in return.
Another common email issue is when people carbon copy (Cc) too many unnecessary coworkers/managers on the email. When sending an email, it is proper to put the person (or people) you are addressing the email to in the To: line and put additional people who may need to be informed about the email, but are not directly involved in the email in the Cc: line. It is important to use Cc very sparingly, if at all.
There have been several instances when I have been emailed and my manager is Cc’d for no apparent reason. Managers do not have to know about day-to-day conversations between co-workers and sometimes I find it insulting when people feel they need to Cc a manager into an email chain that doesn’t require their input. The person may not have meant to insult me by going over my head to include the manager, but it happens none the less and can be avoided by not including the Cc.
Work emails can often be tricky to get right. There’s so much room for misinterpretation. I prefer to call someone or visit with them in person to sending emails for that reason, but often emails are necessary. When I do send emails I try to make them brief, direct, polite, and kind. I try to leave little room for misinterpretation of my tone. When I receive an email that initially seems offensive to me, I wait a minimum of two hours before responding to make sure I am not misinterpreting the email and sending a response I’ll later regret.
Have you ever dealt with rude emails at work? How do you deal with the situation?