Back in the BE (before email) days, we communicated at work in one of four ways:

  • Perfectly typed Memorandums (with a carbon copy)
  • Handwritten notes on personalised tablets (“From the Desk of Janine“)
  • by Phone
  • or – gasp – In Person

If you were pissed off at a co-worker, you would either confront them in the ladies room, or march over to their desk to give them a piece of your mind. You rarely wrote a note, because when royally PO’d, one’s ballpoint Bic had the tendency to rip through the paper.

All of that changed with email. Now, when mad at your coworkers you can fire off countless emails with neither thought nor proofreading.

It wasn’t easy for me to learn to “confront” people. I grew up in a family – and culture – where we didn’t confront, we controlled. But working for 20+ years I’ve learned that it’s far easier, and constructive, to take a deep breath, knock on someone’s door and ask, “do you have a minute?”

I currently work with a woman in her 30s who has a habit of hissy fit by email about once every 8 weeks (or maybe it’s 4 weeks … is there a full moon today?). She’ll stop by your desk and have a pleasant conversation, then two minutes later will send out a confrontational email, ripe with spelling and grammatical errors.

Today she fired off 4 increasingly abusive emails, then she stomped around the floor, pouted, and complained to anyone who would listen. Midway through the afternoon I heard from someone on another floor that I was a mean, horrible person because I didn’t do “X” … that was a mistake. I’m not going into any details, but suffice it to, she was in the wrong.

Honestly, I don’t have time for this type of crap. It’s not just the emails, it’s the time wasted responding to unintelligible communications, the people coming to me to complain about her behaviour, the anxiety, and the disruption to the team. More than that, it makes me question the courage and abilities of management. This particular person has been a ‘problem child’ since the day she was hired. But she’s young, and according to the guys who hang around her desk, she’s ‘hot’. Silly me –  that makes up for her ineptitude and bitchiness.

But before I allowed my blood pressure to increase this afternoon I decided to deal with this rationally. That meant taking guidance from Kathy Bate’s character Evelyn Couch in Fried Green Tomatoes. Girl, you may be young and perky, but I’m older, stellar in my job and have seniority.

My days are too long and life is too short to spend a moment reading or responding to hormonal emails from a woman who is behaving like a cow.  So my Tawanda moment didn’t come with smashed bumpers, instead it came in a calm and strategic conversation with one person who I know has courage, and influence. The thing is, none of this was necessary … pick up the phone. Come over to me and talk, I don’t bite!

But still, part of me wants to go all Tawanda in the Winn-Dixie parking lot 😉

Does anyone else find that communication is getting worse – not better – with all the communication tools? How do you deal with it in the workplace?


7 thoughts on “Warning: Surly Emails Can Have Ramifications

  1. It’s a real problem – not only do you miss things like tone in emails, which often causes you to misinterpret, but with the email filter people think they can say whatever they want. I’ve had co-workers write nasty emails to me and copy my boss to make me look bad. Luckily I’m no longer at that company. It’s very stressful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it really is stressful. Although I felt calm about it last night and had a clear conscience, it still woke me up at 3 am. I’m sorry you had to experience this. It’s no fun dealing with unpleasant coworkers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Emails leave a paper trail. Face to face is your word against hers. I think I would opt for face to face, especially if I was the attacker. Lol! Glad I work from home…~Elle


    1. Seems crazy people still continue to put their anger into emails. I keep a file of miscellaneous emails that may come in handy one day. I added 4 yesterday. Of course the other benefit to face to face is that at some point you can easily say, ‘I’m sorry.’

      And yes, you’re fortunate to escape this side effect of working in big offices!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel your pain. I work in a profession that seems to attract the passive aggressive type, especially in management. Because I’m very direct, my former supervisor called me belligerent for pretty much not praising his every suggestion. I had the audacity to ask a question. You may have to set the example and go to her office and confront her each time you get one of those emails. She’ll probably be scared and won’t send any more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s not only at work! I had a close friend who didn’t talk to me for 6 months because she misinterpreted something I had done. The funny thing was, I was getting married, resigning from my job and moving to another state so I didn’t notice until another friend told me. I was speechless. Had she just said that I hurt her feelings I would have explained and apologized. Instead she endured 6 months of “hating” me. Our friendship never did return to normal. Today she would have slammed me with innumerable silly emails (or been snarky on facebook) and I would have contacted her to “talk.” Conversation (and confrontation) is a dying art.


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