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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

Hostile Emails at Work

Emailing in Business CommunicationIt’s a common, maddening occurrence: You innocently open an email from a colleague, customer or boss only to suddenly feel ambushed by its contents. The sender blames you for a problem you didn’t create, unfairly accuses you of sabotaging a project, or negatively interprets something you said. Even worse, he or she cc’s the email to your superiors.

As you stare at the offensive message, your vision blurs. You feel blood rushing to your face. Your heart beats faster. Your stomach drops. Your strongest impulse is to render justice by striking back.

Though it’s hard to remember, you do have a choice in that moment. You can either react out of anger, and fire back a harsh retort, or you can close the infuriating email, and calm down.

Which do you do? Our survey reveals that the usual response is to get ticked off, and retaliate. You then get into a battle with that person that can last for weeks at a time.

Opportunities to take offense in the world of email are high. Email is a form of communication without buffers, interpreters or pauses. The cc mechanism lends itself to either “tattling” on your co-workers or being told on to your supervisors.

But if your goal is to resolve workplace conflicts without hurting your reputation, reacting in anger doesn’t work. Why? Because you’re likely to send your first (and worst) thoughts to the recipient. Angry email responses injure the relationship, and damage your credibility.

The first thing to do when an email makes your blood boil is to calm yourself down. Draft files were created to hold (and filter) our angry e-bursts. Why is it that so few people are able to answer hostile emails in a cool and professional way? Because the temptation to immediately “fire back” an email when you think you’ve been attacked is very strong.

The next time someone sends an e-missle your way, take whatever steps you can to cool down before responding. We recommend: closing the email, getting up from your desk, stretching, taking a few deep breaths, splashing water on your face, or walking around your office floor to collect your thoughts. If you can cool off, you’ll have a much better chance of responding in a calmer, more professional, more effective way.

By Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley. Used with permission. Visit their website: http://www.ksquaredenterprises.com/

Need help in this area? Working With You is Killing Me, hosted by Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley, provides the antidote to becoming “hooked” by a toxic co-worker, showing exactly how to take responsibility for addressing the problem and put a stop to it all.

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One Response to “Hostile Emails at Work”

  1. Keri O'Brien Says:

    I whole heartedly agree with the tactic of calming down before you respond. I would also suggest that where possible and appropriate, tackle these people head on.

    Remember people who send these sorts of emails are often bolder in their email than they would be were they speaking to you face to face or over the phone. They may not be comfortable with communicating their concerns verbally so use email to say what they wouldn’t otherwise be able to say out loud. Email offers people a sense of anonymity and they feel they can hide behind their computers while venting their frustrations or concerns.

    So – flush them out.

    In my experience, somebody who sends a rude, abusive, or accusatory email is unable / unprepared to repeat those words face to face.

    I’m not suggesting that you hunt the person down and confront them in a hostile manner, that would only damage the relationship further. But I do recommend seeking the person out either over the phone or face to face and approaching them in an open, convivial manner with the intention of addressing their concerns and agreeing a way to move forward.

    Once a resolution has been reached, ‘reply all’ to their email thanking them for their time and reiterating the outcome of your discussion. This not only documents that you responded to their query but also highlights to management who may have been cc’d what a consummate professional you are.

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