Take a Deep Breath and Count to Ten…or More
The problem is that e-mail isn’t the same as a face-to-face conversation. Ever read something once and dashed off a quick response only to go back and reread the e-mail later and realized you missed the point? Makes you feel stupid, doesn’t it? Fortunately, these mistakes happen to everyone and others on the thread usually figure out what happened. It’s not career threatening.
Ever dashed off an e-mail when you’re irritated? You go back and read what you wrote and realize that you sounded like an ass. Maybe not career threatening, but enough of these and it will certainly be career limiting. Good communication skills are a prerequisite for any marketing role.
How about dashing off an e-mail when you are angry? You just got a really annoying e-mail from a colleague and you feel compelled to set the record straight with this guy. It’s for his own good!
Stop! Depending on who your colleague is and the clout they have, this can be career threatening. At the very least, it gets in the way of getting the job done.
Don’t just count to ten. Let an entire day pass. The chances are good that you’ll realize that any escalation of the conflict on your side is irrelevant. Anger passes on the other side too and by the time you get around to responding to the e-mail they’re probably feeling a little sheepish about their original tone.
A former colleague sent me a nasty note once. She accused me of bias against the French because I didn’t understand her accent. As I recall it was the phone line that was poor that day. I ignored the e-mail and neither one of us ever brought it up again. Since then we’ve become good friends. (I have a suspicion that she doesn’t even remember it and I’m not going to bring it up!)
If you do need to respond to an e-mail, wait at least a day and respond factually. No clever comebacks. Anything other than a mature, professional, e-mail can easily stir up conflict.
Finally, if you absolutely must set the record straight, do it over the phone. At least there won’t be an electronic record of you making a fool of yourself.