We’ve all been there. That moment when a coworker has done something unbelievably stupid. That feeling when a boss has forgotten about a vacation request. That experience when a customer is angry over something completely beyond our control and venting his rage at us.
There are many times when we our acquaintances and business relations cause us frustration and we, quite understandably, feel the urge to express our anger with them in a loud, boisterous way. Unfortunately, doing so can very easily become unproductive or even make the situation worse. It’s important to remain calm, especially in professional settings, so the next time you’re thinking about writing an angry email ask yourself: Is expressing my anger really going to help me resolve this problem?
If the answer is no, then you should consider these Dos and Don’ts for writing a more productive “angry” email before you send something you might regret.
Do Take a Deep Breath
Relax a little. Whatever has you upset, it’s probably not the end of the world. Take a deep breath and gather your thoughts. You may have every reason to be angry at the person you’re about to email, but you still want to approach the situation with a clear mind.
Don’t Be Brash
As upset as you may be, try to refrain from cursing out your coworkers. You’re angry at one of them now, but you still have to work with these people on an ongoing basis. If you come off as too mean too often you can quickly sour the relationship, which might lead to even more problems down the road.
Do Explain Why You’re Angry
Did your coworker forget to file an important report? Did a customer complain about your product without bothering to read the instructions? You probably have a good reason to feel frustrated, so explain what the person you’re emailing did wrong.
Don’t Dwell on the Fact That You’re Angry
You have every right to feel the way you do, but don’t rant about it in your email. Express your concerns in as polite a way as possible. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so try explaining that your reader did something wrong without biting his or her head off over it. It may be appropriate to mention that you’re upset, particularly if the person is a repeat offender, but don’t let that be the focus of your email.
Do Read It Out Loud
Read your email aloud to yourself. Does it sound like the type of email you would respond positively to if you received it? If not, try making it a little more polite and you may actually encourage your reader to do better next time.
Let’s take a look at an example of angry email that would elicit a negative reaction from its reader:
“Jerry, what the heck were you thinking?! We needed that TPS report to be completely filled out by 4 PM today and you still haven’t sent it.
Did you even start to work on it yet? This is really going to mess up my schedule tomorrow! You’d better get it finished or you’re going to regret it!”
This email was very clearly written by someone who was angry. There are a whole lot of exclamation marks being thrown around, as well as some rather threatening and belittling language. If you were Jerry, would you react well to reading this email? Probably not; you may even get defensive and fire back an angry email of your own.
Now here’s an example of a more thought out email regarding the same issue:
I noticed that no one has received the TPS report yet. We’re already getting toward the end of the work day and we’re going to need the report for tomorrow morning’s meeting, so I just wanted to check in and make sure everything was okay.
If you could have the report filed by the end of the day it would be greatly appreciated, and if you’re having any trouble please let me know so we can take care of it ASAP.
This email is much less angry and a fair bit more formal in nature. There aren’t any threats, and it doesn’t read like the rantings of an excessively angry person; however, it does convey Carrie’s concern over ther report and reinforces the urgency of finishing it before tomorrow. Carrie even implied she could help Jerry fix any issue that might be causing the delay, putting a helpful and polite spin on an email about a problem that’s upsetting her.
Perhaps a time will come when you really do need to let your reader know just how angry you are, but that shouldn’t be your first reaction to an issue. Try following these dos and don’ts and you’ll find your emails will communicate your real needs more effectively.