Don’t Hit Send - Communicating Emotionally in the Workplace
What do you do when your emotions are out of balance with your professionalism? Communication tools for email self management in the workplace.
Diamonds aren’t the only things that are forever. We live in a world where every communication is permanently stored in the electronic firmament. When we are particularly conflicted, upset or angry, one of the most damaging moves we can make is to blast out a fiery round of email communication based on our temporary burst of emotion.
How many times have you been faced with a situation that put you or your team in an uncomfortable situation? Perhaps you felt like blame was unfairly placed on you in a meeting or you were criticized for something completely out of your control. Perhaps you overheard conversation that has you worried something bad is going to happen.
As long as professionalism supersedes our emotions, the professional documentation of events can and should be one of the proper tools in our arsenal. As a society however, we have developed a tendency to rapid-fire CYA emails after every perceived conflict – covering ourselves in protection from any possible, yet still unforeseen, consequences.
What we forget when we are hit with an emotional ‘whammy’ is that every person witnesses a similar event using a different filter. We all have a different perspective. What you perceived one way, likely everyone else in the room perceived in a vastly different way. This is not simply observational, there is science way more complicated than I can explain to support me. It goes something like this – men perceive events differently than women do. Young people have a different frame of reference than older people do. Those who report to you will be worried about different issues than those to whom you report. All of this means that each person is feeling something just a little different than you are.
So what was the trigger that set you off into an emotional tailspin?
And what do you do when you realize your emotions are out of balance with your professionalism?
Option 1 – Assess your timing
Ask yourself if the email you want to send absolutely must be sent immediately. In most cases, the sense of urgency you feel is emotion, not an actual business necessity. Some reasons for an email to go out immediately would be:
An imminent deadline change
Information you are requesting by close of business or by the next day
You had already committed to send the information immediately.
Anything which does not have a 24-hour window of urgency needs to wait until you cool down. If necessary, draft and save until later when you can review, edit and make sure your content is free of inappropriate emotion.
Option 2 – Ask a trusted advisor
If you still feel the email needs to be sent but are still unsure if it is professional, have someone else proofread for you. Note: this is NOT an opportunity to spread gossip, rehash the situation or escalate the tension. Like your email, keep the request professional and stick to the content of the email.
Option 3 – Practice the art of extreme self-management
If you must send the email, and you know you are still feeling emotional, and you believe that it is not in your best interest to have anyone else proofread for you, then it is up to you to take out any emotional verbiage that could be misinterpreted yourself.
You edit, edit, edit until you have edited yourself back into professionalism.
Then, and only then, are you ready to press the send button on your communication.
Ernest Hemingway has a famous quote about first drafts – to avoid the use of profanity in this article, I will let you look that quote up yourself. Suffice it to say that the moral of this article and the quote is this: don’t let your emotions create a situation requiring damage control and misunderstanding. Once you hit send, your control ends and you can not get it back. Time is your ally when emotions run high. Learn to identify when you need to take a step back and give yourself the gift of distance.
Erica McCurdy is a practicing Divorce and Business Development/Transition Coach in the Metro Atlanta Area with over 25 years of business and consulting experience. You can find out more about her divorce practice at www.McCurdyLifeCoach.com and her corporate practice at www.McCurdySolutions.com