Email is a wonderful communications tool and it has enhanced interactions on a variety of levels. Many people are able to use email effectively throughout the day in both business and personal capacities. However, email is not the same as talking face-to-face with another person. Despite advancements in technology, there is still something about personal interactions that is hard to duplicate. Email is a great asset, but it can also be fairly dangerous if misused or abused in the workplace. Therefore, here are a few thoughts on things to avoid saying in email at work.
As a general rule, people should be careful about using email when they are angry, frustrated, or upset. Human beings do not always enjoy interpersonal conflict, and unfortunately email gives people an opportunity to essentially lob verbal hand grenades from behind a cubicle wall or office door. The challenge with online discussion is that tone and meaning can easily be misunderstood. When people take things the wrong way, it can cause an escalation of conflict that could have been avoided if people would have communicated better. Therefore, people should be careful that they do not “fire off” an email that they would not have written if they were calmer.
Conclusions and accusations
Another thing to keep in mind is that certain accusations and conclusions should be avoided in email, unless people are absolutely sure. Again, when people “say” things in an email, it can feel a bit differently than a verbal dialogue. If people go on too much of an offensive, people can feel a need to defend themselves, which can lead to a very ugly “email war.” When this happens, other people can get “copied” on emails, and drawn into a conflict that they might want to stay away from.
Co-workers are still human, and on some level people will interact on a personal level. However, people should be careful that they keep non-work dialogue to a minimum. Some organizations monitor the email exchanges of their employees, and if people are spending too much time emailing back and forth with their friends at work, it can lead to discipline or even job loss.
The bottom line with email communication is that people have to think through their emails and try to imagine a scenario where they would like to have that email back. Email is nice, but it is also a tangible record of transgressions and it has come back to “bite” people in the past. Therefore, people should check themselves before sending off a fiery email. In addition, they should be careful about who is copied on the email, so that their communications do not spread too far into cyberspace.