At some point in your career, you’ll encounter a situation that will lead you to bite your lip to keep from saying something you might regret. Whether it's a serious mistake by one of your coworkers, a colleague says something insensitive, or you get disciplined in a way you don’t appreciate, there will be something that will bother you to the point of anger. The last thing you want to do is send an angry email in response without thinking it through.
Most professionals have enough experience with emailing while upset to know they should avoid it. Yet, the joy we receive from venting via email in the heat of the moment is difficult to ignore.
Instead, try the following practices to help you channel your anger and maintain professionalism to help foster constructive dialogue about a potentially negative situation.
Draft an email (without a recipient) for tomorrow
This method satisfies the strong urge to let off steam, which is critical at the time. Yes, ranting is good, and typing out the email's content may be rather therapeutic. The trick is to avoid putting a name in the (To:) field to prevent accidentally sending it. Instead, it allows some time to pass and lets you cool off. You’ll give yourself the chance to talk yourself down from the cliff, reassess how you want to address the matter (maybe asking them to grab a cup of coffee would be a better approach), or soften some of your phrasings. Furthermore, the issue could be rectified, and your email may not be required after all.
Have the draft reviewed by a trusted friend
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to let it all out", you can send it to a trusted friend for review. This provides objective feedback from a trustworthy advisor. The quality of the input is only as good as the adviser, so choose someone who is recognized for their neutrality, discretion, and sound judgment.
Grab a cup of tea to switch the mode of communications
During times of tension, email is not always the ideal medium of communication. Back-and-forth angry emails, on the other hand, are a perfect recipe for aggravating an already stressful situation (or creating tension where there was none previously). One of my previous teams had a ground rule that said, "No email volleyball." When an email has gone back and forth on a specific subject more than three times without resolution, one side must pick up the phone and call the other person to settle the matter." It's remarkable how much a well-intentioned face-to-face talk over a cup of tea can resolve, clarify, or smooth over.
Ultimately, thinking about your audience, purpose, content, and tone is necessary for crafting an effective email that will not only yield its desired result but also demonstrate the character and thoughtfulness behind the person writing it. So, the next time you want to send an angry email, take some time away and return to see whether you still want to send it. Most likely, you will not, and you will be able to take action that will help repair rather than wreck things further.
Do you have any other tips on how to deal with communicating at work when you are angry? Let us know in the comments.