He entered my office with a look on his face that was both quizzical and bothered. He was wondering why he was here. In front of me was an email with no four letter words, no inappropriate nouns or adjectives, but lots of capital letters. He was 24 years old, a hard-driving and successful sales person, and he saw capital letters as a way of conveying how passionate he felt about what he was saying. Of course, the person who had received this and everyone on his team viewed this as yelling. He made it through that conversation, but only lasted about three more months in the organization.
In a recent post by Jason Diamond Arnold (see post: http://ht.ly/35a5N) he chronicles the process of using restraint and time to pull the emotion out of an email so that it does not result in damage to a relationship. It is a good message and a reminder of how to know when you have crossed the line and show some restraint by NOT hitting the send button.
Let me go one step further – NEVER send an email where the message contains anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, or has the sole purpose of holding someone accountable for actions. Write it, read it, think about it (I recommend 24 hours), and in the end if the feeling is still there get on the phone or walk over and deal with it. I have a file full of email arguments that are great material for Dilbert, but would make you shake your head because they all involve executive level leaders.
If you are a leader and find yourself wanting to write one of these emails to your company/department – here is an alternative.
- Write the email
- Share it personally with your leadership team – what you see, why it frustrates you, and what you want to see.
- Ask for their input – Are your observations accurate? What might you be missing? What will it take to correct this?
- Listen (this is an important step so I thought I would bring it up twice)
- Thank them for their input – and make a decision on next steps – If moving forward with a message to the organization is important, enlist the help of someone else to craft a message and agree (as a team) what the follow-up will be from everyone in the group.
Correcting mistakes or redirecting the actions of many is important to the success of your organization. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Emotionally charged emails are the wrong way. stop it! (see – no caps, and you still get the message)