Q: Dear Workplace Wonda, when communicating with a particular co-worker via e-mail, her responses come across as being very rude. I don't know if she doesn't like me, or if she communicates like this with everyone; but I find it extremely unprofessional. I've tried to take the high road and just ignore the responses, but it's difficult not to get drawn in. Help! How do I handle this?
Signed, Flaming Mad
A: Dear Flaming Mad, I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE SO UPSET!!!!!!!! Everybody knows the most effective and clear form of communication is through e-mail. Well, apparently not EVERYBODY! In the future, I'd suggest rethinking your question before submitting! Oh, and by the way, I plan to blind courtesy copy this to everyone, so, no need to respond.Signed, Playing the Flame Game
Workplace Wonda is just kidding! But how would you know based on my written word? You wouldn't. And that is the problem with communication in any form that is not face-to-face.
In truth, e-mail communication is one of the most misconstrued forms of communication. Just think about it. If I were communicating the above message face-to-face, you would see from my tone and facial expressions that I was using sarcasm and humor as a lead in to my response to your question. Instead, you are left to interpret my tone, intent, words, and emoticon I've used. You're probably thinking Workplace Witch would be a better name for me, right? Umm...that was a hypothetical question by the way. No need to respond.
How do we deal with perception when what is rude to the recipient might not be the intent of the sender? I have a suggestion. Pick up the phone. Better yet, stretch your legs and go on a face-to-face road trip. I know. I get it. It's so much easier and quicker to e-mail. And hey, can we get real? Dontcha feel a little bit braver, a little bit more clever, and a little bit more in control when you can communicate through cyber space? What better way to have the "last word." The problem is, if not careful, you could have someone flaming mad at you!
The following are a few bad e-mail habits that may cause an e-mail to seem rude:
1. Using ALL CAPS. In the e-mail etiquette world this is often perceived as "yelling" or "screaming". SO DON'T DO IT!!!
2. Using multiple "!!!!!" or "?????". This can be perceived by some as condescending, although most use it for emphasis. Maybe, just don't hit that button too many times!!!!!!!!! I mean, "!"
3. What? No hello? Sending an e-mail without a "Good Morning", "Hello", "Please", or "Thank You" comes across simply as a demand.
4. Copying everyone. This can be perceived as a means of "coercing", "embarrassing", or "telling on" someone in hopes of getting them to do what you want them to do. What are we, twelve? Let's all be big boys and girls and deal with issues maturely, before we tell Mom and Dad.
So, to answer your question. What should you do if you receive an e-mail that you perceive as rude? The following are a few suggestions:
1. Don't be "Send" happy. If you receive an e-mail that makes you angry, take a time-out before sending a response. Getting in a "flaming" war leaves all involved, a little charred. Flaming is to send a hostile, insulting, or, rude message online.
2. Give the benefit of the doubt. Recognize that e-mails can easily be misinterpreted and don't assume the message was sent with ill will. You could always pick up the phone or drop by the sender's office for clarification.
3. Kill them with kindness. Ask yourself, "Is it worth me getting upset over?" Take the high road and respond back in a polite and professional manner.
4. Say Stop. If the communication continues to be rude and nasty, inform the sender that you see a pattern in her or his e-mails that you are taking offense to. If it continues, you might have to discuss the emails with your own or the sender's supervisor. Good Luck!
SIGNED, WORKPLACE WONDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Sorry, I needed to get that out!)