Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Never Send An Angry Email

One of the many problems with email is that it is almost impossible to recall once sent.  Putting your feelings down is a good way of venting – as long as it isn’t sent. The problem is that pressing the send button is almost an automatic response, done often without thinking. And that can get you in trouble.

I remember early in my career (long before emails) a client really screwed me.  I presented a couple of ads to him in the normal course of business.  He approved them after some discussion and then told me that we should go together to present them to his supervisor.  I made a nice presentation, but the supervisor hesitated; I could tell that he was about to make negative comments.  Almost before he said anything, my client actually said, “Paul wanted me to present these ads to you, but I never liked them.”  It was an actual lie.  Presenting the ads to his supervisor was his idea.  There was nothing I could say since I had to protect my client.  The supervisor killed the ads.

I was furious.  In those days there were no computers or emails.  I went back to my office and took out a yellow pad and scribbled an angry note (to myself).  It was a great way of venting.  I then threw out the scribbled note and calmed down.  But that was then.  Today, most of us don't even have yellow pads to scribble on.  However, emails, despite being emotionless, can often communicate the negative feelings coming from the writer.

In fact, I have known at least three or four executives who have been terminated or did not get a job because they sent angry emails. The anger is either subtle or overt, but nevertheless, the message reeks of fury.

In one case, I saw the email from a person who felt that human resources rejected him without passing him on to the hiring manager; they gave him no reason for the rejection and told him he was dinged before he left his first interview..  He copied me on his thank you note which was astonishingly rude (He had been rejected for a job because his background did not include all the things required for the job – naturally, this information was not given to me when I got the specs). I was appalled by the language he used, which was angry and inappropriate.  I would never deal with this candidate again and the person he sent it to blackballed him.  That was many years ago, but the HR manager recently remembered the incident and the person and a few weeks ago, reminded me of it.  Once scorned, people have long memories.

The best advice I can give is that if you have to type something, do it in word rather than in email.  Then wait at least until the next day.  Then re-read it, edit out the anger and send it – if you must. Composing in word, provides an extra step and will force you to reread your communication.  It is important to decide what action you expect the email to elicit  if it is sent.  If it is angry enough, it could cost you a job.  By keeping the tone civil, you may save yourself a lot of aggravation.  

Does anyone have a similar story to share with my readers?


  1. Excellent advice Paul!
    I once got a call from a client demanding that a particular media rep be removed from the business. When I asked why, the client sent me a copy of an email the media rep sent to his boss, complaining, in vile language, about the client. Turns out as the rep was composing the note, he wanted to check the spelling of the client's name, so had Outlook autofill it into a cc. And then he forgot to remove it.
    Another lesson.

    1. Thanks, Matt. When we wrote real typed letters, the sender could call a friendly person at the receiving end and ask them to rip it up without opening. And usually they would cooperate. But once sent, emails are unfortunately forever. And it is too easy to press send. it is almost an auto-response,

  2. A good post from “Gummby” and take his advice … When in the heat of emotion and responding to somebody at your keyboard, first put what you want to say in WORD. Then read, re-read, and edit. And then, leave it alone (not sending), till the next day. Then read, re-read, and edit again - ultimately deciding if actually “sending” serves any constructive purpose for YOU in the first place. Because, God knows, I’ve launched a few errant missives in my day that I wish I could take back.

    1. Thanks for reiterating my last paragraph. It helps drive my point home. By the way, Gumby is spelled with one n.

    2. Paul ... Your last paragraph and point was SO important, which is why I focused on it and reiterated it in my commentary. Meanwhile, after all our years together, I certainly know "Gumby" is spelled with one "m". It was a typo I could have avoided had I taken your advice. LOL ...


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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