Sonya, is a Sales Manager in a Pharmaceutical company, a position that had taken her over 10 years to attain.  She prides herself on her

communication skills but at her appraisal meeting, she was told that her formal and blunt emailing style needed to be more ‘friendly’.   She was very surprised and argued that the quantity of email that she had to deal with each day, meant that each one had to be actioned quickly, and with no real time for pleasantries. 

Which leaves the question:  could formal and blunt email messages be taken by the recipient as a form of cyber bullying? The answer is, ‘No!’. Cyber-bullying is writing with the intent to humiliate an individual by publishing adverse comment about him or her.

Although Sonya never does this, nevertheless her style of writing which is terse and short could be taken by the recipient as ‘unfriendly’ – which may not be termed ‘bullying’ but will nevertheless not make her addressee feel valued.  Each time someone were to receive an email from her, it would seem like she is giving a directive or a command.  Now, you may say that is what she is doing.  However, I would say to you that there are better ways of getting the most out of others and that is not by making them feel that they are automaton.  People like to feel valued and appreciated for not only what they do but who they are.

So where is the line between a direct and blunt, personal management style and bullying behaviour? 

Many of us receive over fifty emails per day and our aim is to try to clear our inbox as quickly as possible, but in our haste, we may write in a way that can offend or which can appear as  unnecessarily abrupt.  When emailing, we very often ignore the usual courtesies that we use when writing a letter. Many times emails are received, and written, with no subject header but just the bare message, with the result that the words often appear to be harsh.

 Do you remember the days when you would receive a letter by mail with a handwritten signature – instead of one that was scanned electronically?  Unfortunately, such personal correspondence is now a thing of the past.

 So what can you do about it?   

  • Never answer email if you are angry or emotional. If you wish to ‘let off steam’, then do so but put the email into your ‘draft’ box, as you may not wish to send it in the morning!
  • When you have written your email, read it as if you were the person receiving it.
  • Try and use words or phrases such as ‘I appreciate’, ‘you have done a great job’, ‘many thanks’, ‘you have done really well’, etc.
  • Don’t copy in your emails or texts to the whole office when you don’t need to!
  • Don’t send out emails late at night and set a poor example for working long hours
  • Don’t make your messages ‘high-priority’ unless it is really urgent.
  • If you need to be direct with someone – think of the words that you say BEFORE you write them.
  • If you have sent an email and are not happy with what you have written, then pick up the phone and tell them, in advance.
  • When have finished the email, then read it as if you were the one who is about to receive it. If you are happy with it, then send.  If not, then revisit.

 If you manage your emails and texts correctly and give praise at the appropriate time, then when you need to criticise, there will be a balance.   

 We tend to forget that once an email has been sent, then it is there for all time.  We cannot retract what has been put down on paper but we can use the ‘old fashioned’ means of saying ‘I’m sorry’ if upset has been caused.

 Key Points

  • Emails & texts show no emotion
  • Give appreciation in your emails
  • Electronic messaging needs care

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