It is YOUR Job to…

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 20, 2009

bad emailsIf you have worked long enough, chances are you must’ve heard this from someone – perhaps your boss, your boss’s boss OR (heavens help you!) your colleague. If it’s the latter, welcome to the “real” corporate world!

It would still be a bit bearable if you verbally “hear” such a thing from your colleagues… imagine receiving it in an email addressed to you and copied to other colleagues! That bakes… and takes the cake, in my view. Without further ado, here’s the event that inspired me to write this post, today.

A while back, when I was working for a client, I saw an email from a colleague of mine in another department addressed to another colleague (I was CC’d on this email) which read something like this.

“I don’t know why <some complaint>. Everything is always sent at the last second. Being the way it is, I should have gotten this <some expectation or demand>. I shouldn’t have to <do something>. It is your job to inform me of this. Going forward, I expect you to <some expectation>.”

I looked at this email and just smiled. After all, it was a classic.

Clearly, the sender was triggered to respond the way s/he responded by the request that was made of him/her earlier.

Clearly, the sender was in a “Crunch” situation and the request to him/her just nudged him/her over the edge… and

Clearly, it was totally Unclear to me what the real underlying issue the sender was facing to shoot back such an email.

Don’t get me wrong, the email was fantastic as it again reminded me of What not to write in emails!

Here are 6 (of my) “Insights” from this email:

  1. Be very careful of assertions you make with the usage of totalitarian words. Why? Because it’s really hard to prove. Take, for example, the usage of “Everything” and “Always” in the statement “Everything is always sent at the last second” implies literally everything the senders have sent to this person has been last second. If that were the case, I have every bit of empathy for the person’s situation. The problem is, I don’t think this assertion can be backed by enough proof to make it a fact.
  2. Be careful of using words like “Should” or “Should Not”. They usually imply a judgment or an assessment that someone has passed just in concert with their opinion alone.  They also imply a black and white view on a situation; which closes more possibilities than it opens up. For example, “I shouldn’t have to … “ is just the person’s opinion. Maybe there are situations where it makes sense to do what s/he is saying s/he shouldn’t have to.
  3. Try not to send “Feel Good” emails. This is a tricky one. It’s tricky because you have to assess how you will feel after you hit the “Send” button. If the answer is “Really good”, then give another thought to which part of you would feel really good. Your EGO or YOU. The difference is stark.
  4. Do not be “Trigger Happy”. OK, I understand you are frustrated. Fine. Type away your email as you please. You may even consider typing it ferociously so that your keyboard clacking can be heard in the next room. But, when you are done blowing off your steam; take a minute to proof read your email before hitting the “Send” button. Most likely, you’ll hit the “delete” button if you do re-read it even once! Remember… once sent, it’s sent and chances are it will be read pretty quickly.
  5. Telling someone what their job is in this manner is not only rude but also derogatory. Would you like to receive such an email from your colleague? If the answer is NO (I am betting on it!), why write this to someone else? Not only is it rude but it will only get you the opposite result of what you intended. Guaranteed. Besides, would you want to cooperate with this person once you read this email? Hell, no!
  6. Check your “TO” and “CC” list. If there is anyone on it except the person you are addressing this kind of an email to, you just made the matters worse! You not only made disparaging remarks to them directly, you did so PUBLICLY. Regardless of how convinced you may be that this is a good thing, it’s not. Because it does not give out a message of your authority (yeah! The one that you assume you have on others), the only message it gives out is how badly you need to go to email school.

FINALLY, if you really, absolutely and without fail have something to say to somebody that is on the lines of “It is your job to… “Please do yourself a favor – DON’T write an email! Instead, you might consider picking up the phone, calling the person directly and starting with “I really think we need to work on this together and here is how we can coordinate effectively… “.

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