Last week I reminded myself of a simple lesson.
It’s nothing complicated, but it is easily forgotten in the heat of the moment.
(Which as you’ll see… is part of the problem.)
Things at work have been stressful recently, and not helped by bouts of insomnia.
I’d arrived at work early and decided to jot down my thoughts in an email. I wanted to highlight some problems with process that were making projects more complicated than they needed to be. But the way I worded my email made it sound like I was being critical of specific people.
To some extent I was aware of this, and I hovered over the Send button for a few seconds before thinking “Fuck it!” and clicking.
This was a mistake.
It’s fine to write the angry email.
It will probably help you get clarity on your feelings.
But here’s the trick…
Don’t send angry emails without letting them sit in your “Draft” folder for at least an hour.
That way your feelings will have a time to cool down, and your rational self gets to have a say too.
Before I go any further: this isn’t about personal emails, which can be a beautiful place to express your thoughts and feelings.
This is about the office, the studio, and your boss…
Things you shouldn’t do in work emails
- Don’t write things you wouldn’t say to people’s faces.
- Don’t write anything emotionally ambiguous. Emails have a nasty habit of being interpreted in exactly the way you didn’t intend them to be. Even smilies can be misinterpreted ;-)
- Don't write essays. No-one wants to read epic emails. The "5 sentences or less" rule is a good one.
- Don't ask open-ended questions. If you're suggesting a meeting, include a few possible time slots. If you're pretty sure what the answer will be, provide the information to accompany it.
- Last but not least... don’t gossip. Keep that for out of hours, face-to-face conversations.
This all sounds obvious, I know.
But I have friends who’ve been fired from jobs for gossiping about the boss using work email.
Guess who had access to the email system? Guess who had them ushered out of the building the next day?
So, I’m writing this as reminder to myself.
The next time I write an email in anger, I’ll be sitting on my thoughts for a while before hitting send.
(PS. If you’re wondering, the email I sent in anger didn’t get me fired. But it did toe the line of what you can acceptably say by email, and a heated conversation ensued. It’s worked out for the best though… sometimes a crisis is the best way to fix things.)