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Sending Angry E-Mails is Suicidal
E-Mails and Politics
Clinton is not on the hot seat for sending angry e-mails. She just worked from home when she was the U.S. Secretary of State. 'Working from home' meant using her private email server and not government servers.
The debate might be political, but it highlights once again how delicate the whole email situation is. It's easy to type and press SEND but we don't know when sent messages will come back to haunt us.
Anger E-Mails Harm Your Career
We still send angry e-mails to co-workers and management despite all advice against it.
Millions of blogs, media articles and books have been written about how managers can use it against you to deprive you of a rightful promotion, use it as evidence in disciplinary actions or outright termination of employment.
Mobile phones are also a platform that is used to send work-related messages to one person or a group. E-mails are used as evidence at work because more often than not, your laptop or desktop belongs to the employer.
It is like a painter who drives an employer’s truck. The step ladder, paint brushes and the cloth he spreads on the floor when he is painting, all belong to his employers. They can demand the keys to the truck anytime.
That is why the laptop is the first thing management takes from employees they are investigating. If they use a desktop computer, management stops them from going near it. Worse still, they can tell security and front desk not to allow certain employees into the premises.
E-mails as Evidence
We are using the term management loosely because managers also find themselves on the wrong side of company policies that might lead to suspension or being fired.
Once the company confiscates the laptop or desktop computer the affected worker used, they might sit down with human resources and the legal department to sift through e-mails and use them to build a case against the worker.
Canada for example. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which is owned by the government, is in the news this summer (June 2015) for firing Evan Solomon, a host of one of its radio and television shows for using his position as a journalist to enrich himself, through a partnership with Jim Balsillie, an art dealer he met through working for the broadcaster. Solomon denies the allegations.
‘E-mails between them show a giddiness about the future,’ wrote the Winnipeg Metro daily newspaper (Weekend Edition, June 12-14, 2015, P. 12). How the Torstar News Service that broke the story got hold of the e-mails is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that the e-mails had a big part to play in the CBC’s decision to let Solomon go.
Emails have been used by both employers and employees as evidence in the following cases:
Alleged sexual harassment
Alleged wrong dismissal
Alleged gross misconduct
Heat of the Moment
Managers, because they are closer to company policies send less anger e-mails than employees.
Employees send more because of either a long history of injustice for an example, training younger employees who eventually get promoted over the people who trained them or fraud cases where employees steal money because ‘everybody does it.’ Such employees might argue that they are punished because of race or because they are women.
Workplaces are not church choirs where everybody gets along in order to win the regional choir meet. They are very stressful environment of dog eat dog, to put it strongly.
Avoid Sending Anger E-mails
The best strategy is not to send any e-mails at all, but knock on the door of co-workers or managers with a polite request,’ ‘Do you have a minute?’.
That does not happen in the real business world because like at home, people don’t talk to each other anymore. They text each or use Facebook or Twitter. Finger power is more convenient than mouth-to-mouth or face-to-face interaction.
You might avoid sending e-mails but circumstances might force you to respond to certain e-mails that you perceive as an attempt to tarnish your reputation.
Tips to Protect Your Reputation
If you feel a potential anger boiling like a volcano, the best thing to do would be to:
Walk out of your office to the bathroom to talk to yourself in the mirror. From there, visit the co-worker/manager who sent it. Acknowledge the e-mail with a smile and tell the sender that you are want to address its contents immediately for the good of the company and working relationship.
This surprises them and their anger might be abated, or they might be apologetic and say their e-mail was not accusatory or defamatory. Imagine what would have happened if you had also responded in anger?
If the e-mail makes you real mad, take a coffee break and cool off. Better still, respond to it the next day.
Ask for advice by calling a meeting of ‘experts’ in the company to clarify issues in the e-mail. This way you are covering your back. You are avoiding addressing them yourself in the heat of the moment.
Leave the toxic environment and meet the person who sent the angry e-mail outside the office, share your brown bag in the park, or buy something from the food truck on the street. You might be surprised that the person who sent the angry e-mail has family or financial problems.
Potency of the Written Word
Unless there was a tape running, what you said, when and why might be disputed or even thrown out of court in legal proceedings as ‘hear-say evidence’ but what you wrote down is more indicative of your actions and intentions.
That is why it is important to have a cooling off period of a day or so, to think about how you respond to e-mails design to belittle you. You cannot take back what you wrote, especially in these days of statements or indiscretion going viral at a click or swipe of mobile devices.