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Email Don'ts....Keeping it Professional

If all email is to believed, I am sure we have all been multi-millionaires a hundred times over thanks to the generosity of some long lost relative, or that poor persecuted prince from Nigeria.  The advent of email communication has improved workplace efficiencies and provided for instant access in a remarkable way, however it also comes with its share of headaches, such as scammers and spammers.  But what do you do when the email in question is not from some high ranking Nigerian official looking for your assistance in accessing $26 million, but from a work associate?


Okay, it is unlikely that a work associate will send you a phishing scam email, however it is highly probable that at some point during your career, a colleague will send you an email that will have you shaking your head and thinking to yourself “did they actually just type my name into that ‘To:’ field, and send this email to me?”  While a huge fan of email myself, if not for email the 200+ emails I receive a day this communication would be coming in via phone and fax (shudder), I occasionally find myself facing down an email communique that can only be described as downright unprofessional.

Case in point:

  • Inappropriate jokes – while I consider myself to have a great sense of humor, and love a good joke, if I have only met you once for a brief five minute discussion in a business setting, that likely does not warrant me a spot on your jokester email list.  Wait at least until we meet for a second time.
  • Requests for financial support for your daughter’s Girl Guides cookie drive – if we are on friendly terms, by all means email away….use discretion here.  A good barometer for this: if I don’t know enough about you or your life to know that you even have a daughter, then it is probably wise to leave me off the request
  • Foul language – just don’t.  There were 470,000 entries in the 1993 edition of Webster’s dictionary, so I am fairly certain you can find a myriad of alternate words that are not four letters.  Emails are forever, they can be forwarded, they can be printed out, they can be shared with entire contact lists, so conduct yourself accordingly.
  • ALL CAPS RAGE – avoid the use of all caps, which is akin to shouting at someone.  There are much more effective and professional ways to communicate your displeasure.  A woman in New Zealand was actually fired back in 2009 for her email style sins, which included the use of all caps and red text (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-10322998-71.html).
  • Proof your emails.  While I cut some slack for those sending emails on their mobile devices, I am still an advocate for reviewing your emails for accuracy and spelling prior to hitting send.  I will completely dismiss a resume or job application that comes in with typos in the email cover note.
  • I recently received an email invitation to a new church opening from an individual I met once three years ago…the sentence “if you are not into building faith in God/increasing your own inner peace/light, please completely disregard this email” was actually used.  No further elaboration is required here.
  • Not sure if that email is too harsh/irate/inappropriate?  Step away from it for an hour, or vet it through a brutally honest co-worker.  Once it’s out there, it’s out there!

Email is not a passing fad, it is here to stay (or will continue to evolve with new social media tools).  Observe the common sense rules of ‘netiquette’ and type away!

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