Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / JAN. 17, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Minding Your Manners – Too Busy to Send Polite Emails?

Richard (not his real name) is a good natured, easy-going guy – but there is one thing that puts him in an evil mood. Rude emails.

Since he works in IT support, he might just be in the wrong job. Richard gets rude, demanding emails on a daily basis. He works for a large organisation – one filled with stressed, busy people. Hidden behind their computer screens, these same people are a lot brusquer than they would ever be face-to-face. There are days when, if Richard receives a polite request from someone he feels like messaging them back to thank them.

Just this morning Richard received the following email:

Richard,

My computer is running VERY slow. I think it’s got a virus!!!!!!!!!!!!! When can you come and see me? I need you to take a look at TODAY.

Sarah White

It might not seem overtly rude, but the email makes Richard see red. Although resigned to the lack of detailed information provided, the lack of manners is something he just can’t seem to overlook. “Where’s the greeting? Where’s the ‘please’ or ‘thank you’?” he rages. “Doesn’t she know that using capitals is the email equivalent to shouting? Didn’t her parents teach her manners?” At least Sarah found time to type her full name!

If you work in administration, this complaint probably sounds all too familiar.

Or maybe, you are one of the offenders; one of the individuals that has Richard reaching for the anti-acid to calm his boiling stomach.

Being on the receiving end of rude, abrupt emails can take the pleasure out of your working day. You always start emails with a ‘Hi’ or ‘Dear’ for more formal emails, and finish them off with a ‘thank you’ (if you have requested something) and a ‘regards’ or ‘kind regards’ – yet many people you exchange emails with appear to think these are unnecessary.

Catching more bees with honey.

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think there’s any excuse for rudeness. I love getting polite emails, and when I used to work as an administrator and as a personal assistant, those who showed manners in their emailed requests always got the quickest response. Even if I was snowed under, I would make a real effort to please those who treated me with respect. Those who barked orders at me got ignored until I had time to do their bidding.

It pays to treat those in service roles with respect, but over the years it has stunned me how many people let themselves get carried away on a cloud of self-importance and stress. Somehow, we forget that there is a human-being at the other end of the ‘send’ button.

What about those who take offense anyway?

You won’t always win people over with your email style – no matter how polite you are. Even if you have impeccable email manners, there will always be those who will find fault. I will never forget the man who emailed my boss to complain after I used an exclamation mark in an email. I thought I was just being enthusiastic and friendly – he thought I was SHOUTING at him! Just one example of how easily something as innocuous as punctuation can completely alter the tone of an email, and cause offense.

It’s also an example of how tense and fraught our working lives have become. Even an exclamation mark in the wrong place can send some people over the edge!

Rude emails, aggressive demands and abrupt responses seem to be part of our daily working lives. Now that most of our communication at work is done via email, it’s all too easy for us to get caught up in our deadlines. However, don’t forget that a little grace can take you far in life.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy.”

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