With email, we can sometimes inconsiderate and too quick. We miss typos, accidently send to someone we didn’t want to, or hit the “Reply All” button and have all recipients see our response when we didn’t want them to.
We don’t always give a lot of thought to email composition, and that can sometimes lead to trouble.
Recently, a friend of mine was going through her superior’s email inbox to look for an email that was relevant to a project. Imagine her surprise when she opened up the inbox to find an email about her from another manager in a different department. Let’s just say he wasn’t singing her praises, and not for any good reason that she, her boss or her firm’s HR department could attribute.
Let me make clear that email is not the kind of tool to you use to reprimand anyone. The same advice we give attorneys about using social media—don’t post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times—applies to emails. Instead of talking calmly with my friend’s boss, this manager decided to put it in writing, only to have the object of his frustration see it. The results? Upset marketing and HR departments, and now a total lack of professional trust…something all departments of a law firm need.
Be very careful with your wording in emails. Even a bit of frustration could creep into your composition, and if the recipient decides to forward it on, then what? So keep your two cents to yourself, and don’t make a record of it.
If you have an issue, instead of writing an email veiled in tones no one but you can decipher, talk face-to-face. Address the issue in a calm matter. The thing about working with other people is that we all have different backgrounds and experiences, and our meaning can be misconstrued without corresponding body language and vocal tone.
Story update: I asked my friend what happened after her firm’s HR department talked to the manager who said some unwarranted things. She got an apology…an apology that this manager wasn’t aware my friend had access to her boss’s email. That was it. Not the type of conduct you’d want to see in your managers.