Increasingly at work – especially if you work from home – we rely on emails to communicate with our colleagues and employer. But there are times when an email just isn’t a good idea.
We all have our own likes and irritations about office communication – particularly email. But a poorly judged email can easily cross a line from just annoying to potentially embarrassing or harmful – just like these (remember the justified outrage when a leaked email revealed that a political advisor had described 9/11 as a ‘very good day’ to bury bad news?!!)
Six emails you should never send to your employer
So what can you do? Obviously, you should always practise good office etiquette and common sense, but to help you avoid some of more common professional communication slip-ups, we reveal six emails you should never send to your employer if you want to keep your job.
1) Never email to avoid a difficult conversation
If you need to have a difficult conversation with your employer, do it in person. Not only is it polite and good etiquette to break bad news or have tricky chats face-to-face, but by looking your employer in the eye when you broach a thorny topic or break bad news you can judge how they’re taking it and react accordingly.
So unless you have a really good reason (such as you don’t work in the same office), ask for a personal chat to tell your employer that you want to resign, would like a pay rise, need to negotiate flexible working arrangements, or that your latest project hasn’t delivered the results you wanted.
2) Never say ‘I’m sorry’ by email
If you need to apologise or resolve a conflict, again do it face-to-face. It’s easy to misread someone’s tone in an email, and what is meant as conciliatory or genuine remorse can come across completely differently.
It’s much better to have a chat in person, where you can read each others’ body language and tone of voice, and be confident that the right message is getting across.
You can also assess just how upset or angry your employer is, and whether your apology or words of comfort are working – and if not, change your approach.
3) Don’t email when you’re angry
It’s very quick and easy to fire off an email in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later when you’ve calmed down and had more time to think.
So never email your employer when you’re angry – however justified you may think your feelings are, or keen you are to get them off your chest. (You only have to read what happened when one man emailed the love of his life in a fit of anger to realise it’s not a good idea.)
By all means make note of your feelings, and even draft the email you want to send at that moment (it’s best to do this in Word so you don’t accidentally press send!), but then put it away. Give yourself time – a few hours or a day – and come back to your email when you’re calm.
If you still feel just as strongly, then write your email then. But ensure that it’s measured and rational. And if you ignore our advice and DO send an email when you’re all fired up, here are some tips on how to try to undo the damage.
4) Never forward emails without checking
Before you forward any email to anyone, scroll down through the email and make sure there is nothing that will upset anyone or get anyone into trouble – and not just the person you’re sending it to right now. Consider what anyone who may receive it in a chain in future may feel.
This is especially important if you are fowarding an email to or from your employer – you really don’t want to get someone else into trouble, or worse get yourself into trouble because you accidentally embarrassed your boss.
One of my colleagues once emailed creative amendments to a client. But rather than start a fresh email, he simply forwarded the latest version his manager had sent him.
Unfortunately, that email included a string of emails between the creative department in which his manager had been very rude about the client. Let’s just say the situation didn’t end well for anyone!
So as a rule, read through to the very end of any email you’re forwarding and check there’s nothing that may upset anyone. And unless there’s information in the long chain of previous emails your recipient may need, it may be a good idea to just delete them.
5) Don’t email your employer everything
As much as you may want to keep your employer in the loop at work, simply CCing them into every email you send on important projects is lazy, and could come across as lacking in confidence.
Your employer won’t welcome a barrage of emails they don’t have time to read, and will suspect that the reason you are sending them may be to cover your back – that you’re not confident about the decisions you are making so are including them as an insurance policy, hoping they may spot any errors you make.
Or worse, they may think you wish to boast about the work you are doing or to show up another colleague.
If your employer asks to be included, that’s fine. And there may be occasions when you feel it’s appropriate to CC them into an email. But otherwise, keep them up to date on progress separately, if and when they ask.
6) Don’t air your dirty laundry in emails
You may need to ask for the afternoon off because your child has diarrhoea or you need a smear test, but does your employer really need to know?
Equally, if you’re having problems managing childcare, unless it’s something your employer can directly help with, keep it to yourself.
Try to keep emails professional, and present a calm, collected front – even if underneath you’re panicking. Your employer depends on you to take problems away from them, not bring them fresh problems of your own.
So do your best to resolve issues and make arrangements yourself, and keep then informed on a need-to-know basis. So they see you as reliable and in control – even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. (If you need help writing the perfect email, try using the BIFF method.)
Think before sending!
Whatever you decide to email your employer, it’s always a good idea to read before sending to check you’re happy with it – preferably when you’re feeling emotionally balanced!
Not only can you check you haven’t misjudged the tone or included anything you shouldn’t in it, but you can check for any spelling mistakes or silly errors too.
Follow our tips and you should continue to enjoy a positive relationship with your employer and colleagues – and be seen as professional, in control, reliable and sane!Hannah Martin