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The Do's and Don'ts of Sending an Email When Angry

It's so easy to react when we are disrespected or minimized. That reaction frequently takes the form of an angry email. Be careful one email derails your career. Take a moment to respond in a manner that prevents self regret...

Sending or responding to an email can have a significant bearing on your success at work. The ability to mean what you say, say what you mean, and stand behind what you say can all become a fork in the road of your career.

Writing an email (when you're upset, frustrated, or angry because you feel wronged, minimized, disrespected, or marginalized) is a critical skill for internal and external communications, career advancement, and organizational success. And it's particularly true in this remote-workplace explosion.

When your emotions are high, you will want to convey all your thoughts and feelings regarding a situation to ensure you communicate your perspective. When you feel like that, you should DO THE OPPOSITE! Keep it brief…organized, sequential, and bullet-pointed. The more succinct you are, the less likely you will unconsciously include thoughts, feelings, or tone you will regret later.

If you must get deep into the weeds, understand that it will likely derail the email by confusing your intent and meaning. Stick to the salient points only! So don't allow your (sometimes justifiable anger) to effectively muddle your messages, confuse your boss or colleagues…and in essence, derail your career. Your ability to write in a way that effectively commands your readers' attention will help in every aspect of your job—and polish your professional reputation.

Remember the following basics of writing a compelling, angry, but professional, work-related email:

  • Begin by clearly stating your intent, and make sure your intention is positive.

  • Be honest about what you're feeling.

  • Write the email in a separate document, so you can edit, re-edit and get a chance to calm down before you send it.

  • Do not enter the email addresses until you are sure it's ready to be sent. (The last thing you want is to send something you later regret)

  • Read it out loud. You may decide to tone it down if you do.

  • Have it read by your spouse, partner, or close friend. They know you best and understand how you want to represent yourself.

  • Write it when you're angry because the information is top-of-mind at that moment, but NEVER send it when you're still upset. Wait at least 12 hours if possible. Things look very different the next day.

  • Support each salient point with undeniable facts and specific examples.

  • Avoid judgmental words or phrases such as "ridiculous," "obviously," "unreasonable," and "don't make sense."

  • Avoid absolutes such as never and always.

  • Try to end with a solution.

  • Try to end on a positive note.

  • In short, apply the basic journalism principles of ABCs: accuracy, brevity, and clarity.

"Put it to them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."

Joseph Pulitzer

By Duane K. Andrews

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