||The Brazen Careerist
Five e-mails you should never
How many more investment bankers need to show up in
court before people stop incriminating themselves in writing?
E-mail is one of the most convenient ways to be impetuously
stupid, so if you are writing an e-mail you wouldn't want your boss
to read -- or the SEC or your grandma -- then don't send it.
Assume that everything you write via e-mail will appear
in the business section of the newspaper. Compose your messages
with care and pause before you send. Ask yourself, "Does this
e-mail make me look good?" Obviously, if you are about to lie
or cheat, do not send an e-mail to document your lack of ethics.
But there are some other, less obvious types of e-mail that won't
make you a felon, but they won't make you look good either, so don't
1. The you're-a-screw-up e-mail
If you need to tell someone he or she did a bad job, do it in person
so you can gauge the reaction. For example, if you open with "Your
negligence on this project cost the department $2 million,"
and then the employee starts crying, you probably shouldn't continue
in an extremely angry tone -- at least not until he composes himself.
Another reason not to reprimand via e-mail: people will leave this
type of e-mail in their in-box for weeks and reread it every time
they want to resurrect their hate for you. Talking in person helps
everyone to move past the conflict without sour residue.
2. The I'm-a-screw-up e-mail
Do not document your weaknesses. If you must apologize for botching
a project, do it in person so there is no e-mail record of your
mistake for people to forward around the office. The more documentation
you leave, the more your mistake festers in peoples' minds. And
for God's sake, do not send a mass e-mail to apologize. You will
invariably announce your screw-up to people who would never have
heard of it otherwise.
3. The blind carbon copy e-mail
This e-mail function is for people who are insecure, manipulative
and undermining of their co-workers. Even if you are this type of
person, do not announce it to everyone by using the blind carbon
copy function. Sure, only the people in the blind carbon copy line
realize you're using it. But all those people will understand that
you are not strong enough to let everyone know who's reading the
e-mail. If you feel compelled to use the function, ask yourself why.
Then get up off your chair, go deal with the problem face-to-face
and go back to your desk to send a more honest e-mail.
4. The joke e-mail
Even if it's the funniest joke of all time (which I am sure it isn't),
don't send it to your co-workers. Why make the announcement that
you read spam during work hours? You should be working. You might
think that telling a joke is a good way to establish rapport, but
a spam joke is unoriginal and impersonal and does nothing to make
you closer to co-workers who matter. Besides, if someone thinks
the joke is stupid, she will think you are stupid for sending it.
5. The Dear John e-mail
I am amazed at how many people break up via e-mail from the office.
I realize that some people are such dirt bags that they don't deserve
a nice breakup. I also realize that if you handle a breakup from
your office, then the pressures of work can distract you from the
drama of your personal life. But I am sure that there will be a
Web site -- maybe a new section on Match.com -- for people to publish
breakup e-mails. And your name will be mud in the dating world if
you are known for sending breakup e-mails from work.
The bottom line is that sending an e-mail is
like getting dressed in the morning -- both are ways to manage the
way people perceive you. The only difference is that if you have
a terrible outfit, you can take it off and never wear it again.
A terrible e-mail propagates in cyberspace and will seem, to the
original sender, to live forever.