You’ve heard the following age-old rule of workplace etiquette: Do not send angry emails. This article aims to make an argument against that rule, and arm you with a series of tools in your venture to channel emotion into productive output. An email which rises emotion out of its recipients can be effective in kick-starting a stagnant working habit. Just as much as angry emails can hurt your reputation, your progress in developing relationships, and other’s trust in you; they can also help you get work done faster, raise your perceived know-how at work, and bring your team closer to you than before. Angry emails simply need to be done right.
The reason people tell you to step away and take three deep breaths prior to sending out a vengeful email response, is because executing poorly will cause damage in the long run. Limiting self-destructive aspects therefore, is the first step to writing an effective, yet emotionally charged email.
Limit Self-Destructive Aspects
You are probably well aware that electronic communication will always remain on the record. Everything you write will be used against you under the right circumstances, so tread these waters carefully. Let’s get this out of the way: Do not use any unprofessional language, curse words, or demeaning comments in your emails. Your emails should be written and formatted with the same language and style that you typically write your emails. Begin with the usual “hello,” and end with the typical “thank you.”
Another self-destructive aspect of emails are comments on the personal aspects of your recipients. Never comment on anything other than the situation at hand, and how the actions of your recipients are preventing work, tasks, and milestones from being completed. Angry emails can serve a beneficial purpose if you make it clear that you are more upset with the task at hand being incomplete, rather than at the person who is responsible for keeping the task incomplete.
Set Sights on the Overall Goal
To whoever you send your angry email to, always know how big their stake is surrounding the subject you’re writing about. Find common goals between yourself, your team, and the recipients of your email. When you combine the goals of opposing sides into one, it creates a feeling of solidarity between the two sides of your angry email. People are less likely to retaliate when they are reminded that you share the same goals as them.
When you forget to include this step in the writing of an angry email, your recipients’ will for letting their own goals be heard will rise and you will be more likely to get an email back from them listing all of their desires just as you listed yours. Limit this urge of theirs by calling out their goals in your initial emotionally-charged email. Let them know that you are fully aware of what they care about, disarming them in a sense, and thereby encourage their understanding of your position.
Always on Your Team’s Side
In the corporate environment, you will have a team that you work among at any given time. These teams may change based on the various tasks that you are assigned to, but always remember that you are part of a team in anything that you do. When writing an angry email, make sure that you show your willingness to fight for the benefit and success of your team. If your team is being treated unfairly, stand up for them.
This rule is important for those who are in leadership positions. You will constantly find yourself in a battle of ideas, timelines, and issues with leaders of other groups in your corporate environment. Never send angry emails to your team members, no matter how bad their mistakes turn out to be. However, if someone external to your team is trying to hurt your team’s reputation, output, or camaraderie in any way, then respond quickly and with force.
Close With Next Steps
This is the most important part of sending an angry email and making sure that you are successful in doing so. After you have let your thoughts be heard on the subject, you should offer next steps toward resolving the matter at hand. People who read your angry email will thereby notice that you are trying to get the work done rather than simply hurt a bunch of people’s feelings. Close your angry email by listing the things that your recipients should do for you and the actions that you will take around the issues mentioned in this email as well.
Never intend for your angry email to be the final piece of communication you have with somebody, as some would call that burning a bridge. Mention that you will be looking forward to speaking with the recipients of your email again and that you hope to resolve all issues at hand as soon as possible and move forward. Do not get attached to your emotions at the time of writing your email, be willing to let go and forgive after you’ve voiced what was on your mind.
Prepare for the Retaliation
This step is related to the first step in the process, if you’ve done a good job of limiting the self-destructive aspects of your email in the first place, the retaliation to your email will be lessened. However, there are people who will take this opportunity to tell you exactly what they think as well – which can be a benefit for you. If they haven’t read this article, they will likely be sloppier than you in their retaliation to your email.
If their retaliation gets too personal and attacks you on things outside of the professional realm, then you have the capacity to call that out and get them in trouble. If they address all your points logically and show you why you are wrong, admit any of your mistakes quickly. Other reactions to your email will fall somewhere between those two scenarios. If any questions are asked by your superiors, use the task at hand as your savior. You were simply trying to get the work done, and eliciting emotion out of the people who have a stake in this work being completed can help in getting it done faster and with higher quality.