Rude emails from colleagues have us all shaking our heads

by Gabi Anderson Courtney


Last week Sunrise on 7 ran a story on rude emails at work and I have to admit, they did a pretty good job summarizing the details on what counts as rude and why.

Unfortunately, I recognized every single one of their points from my professional life. The good news is, I have some tips and tricks on how to deal with people who have no intention of being civil with their co-workers.

So, let’s see the dreaded list, with two bonus points from my own experience.

1. Skipping the pleasantries

It takes a couple of seconds to address someone properly in the beginning of the email, and maybe add a couple more to incorporate please and thank you. So why do some people skip these basic details when writing emails?

Some people try to justify it by saying that it saves them time, and trust me, it is an extremely poor excuse. No matter what your position is within the company, it is important to show people respect, let it be the cleaner, the CEO, or anyone else.

When getting an email of this sort, simply reply with incorporating all aspects of a professional email, addressing the sender properly and adding all aspects of pleasantries. This generally does the trick.


2. Marking emails urgent

The boy who cried wolf. The more someone marks emails urgent, as time goes by, the less serious people will take it. Marking an email urgent will not magically put your email on top of the recipient’s list, not alone on their to-do list.

Only mark emails urgent if they really are, and if it really cannot wait, make sure you follow up with a call.


3. ‘Thanks in advance’

People use this phrase as a pressure tool; it makes the recipient feel that they have no choice or say in what is requested of them.

An email with directions from a supervisor will not include this phrase, as they are very well aware that you take directions from them, and work instructions are not up for negotiation. On the other hand, a co-worker asking you to do them a favour (switch shifts, cover them for being late or leaving early, etc.) can include ‘Thanks in advance’. This is a psychological trick, and the real meaning is ‘I don’t even expect a reply, I just expect you to do this for me.’

Ask yourself a question; is this something that you have to do, and if the answer is no, is this something that you want to do?

If the answer to both questions is no, simply politely decline. It is simple as that.


4. Copying in everyone

Oh boy. People copying a lot of people in on an email does not happen because it is necessary. Most of the time it happens because the sender wants either praise for something, or calling someone out for something and again, to get praise that they have discovered an error.

These people are generally insecure and if you are the target of these sort of emails, the best way to fight it is to hit ‘Reply all’ when you respond.

They expect you to run scared and reply only them, which would only give them more ammunition for later.

I used to work with someone like that and let me tell you, I had a lot of fun with it, even though she was my supervisor at the time. She used to jump the gun and send emails with all sort of accusations cc’ing everyone in without even knowing what’s going on. I used to reply to her – cc’ing everyone in who she did – and it always ended the same way. Her calling me asking why I cc’d everyone in, once I came out on top. My reply was always the same; telling her that as she cc’d everyone in, I believed that she thought it is important that these recipients are aware of the situation. When she lost her little game on all fronts, her reply was usually that I was difficult. Translation; you won’t let me humiliate you, therefore I don’t like you.

Don’t give into temptation to reply only to the person who sent the email, even if you made an error. Whatever you have to say, hit ‘Reply all’ and have your say.


5. Information overload

Every organization has a hierarchy and there is a reason for this. There is information that you need to know and rely on to do your job to a high standard. You do not need to know everything that happens where you work.

When a supervisor asks you to do a task, they will provide you with the information that you need to complete that task, but they might not give you all the information.

When asked to set up a base PowerPoint presentation with a particular colour scheme, so someone from Marketing can just pop the text and pictures in later, you will not need to know the yearly marketing plan and budget to complete this job to perfection.

So, when getting emails with way too much information, it can be really confusing.

If you are on the receiving end, the best advice I can give you is to try to decipher it and concentrate only on the details that are important to you.


6. Poor grammar

There is simply no excuse for this. None. Every device and program has spellcheck. Use it. Using poor grammar in work emails (and any other email as a matter of fact) makes you look uneducated, basic, and out of place. There is really not much more to say about this.


7. Unsolicited emails

If spam is not welcome in your private inbox, it should not be welcome from co-workers in your work inbox either. Management sending a fun email to lift employees’ spirit every now and then is acceptable, and can make the difference between a cold and rigid work environment and a fun workplace, but there is a limit.

I used to work with someone once who used to send pictures of her cats to all the management team. We were not close, simply worked together and I was astounded to get so many cat photos via the work email.

Let me make this very clear; even if you have a close relationship with someone at work, this should be done via your private email and only to people who you are close to outside work.

Unsolicited emails are a problem.

Sending personal and often private information (or photos) via the work email can make people very uncomfortable and is not acceptable on any level.


8. Telling people how to arrange their own work area via email

Here’s another fun story. Working for a company in the past, my direct boss, who has been with the company for a lot shorter time than me, sent me an email requesting that I stop using capitals in folder names that only I use. The folders in question contained drafts and documents in working progress, and they were to be used only by me. He said he simply does not like capital letters. Why was he looking in my folders is a mystery, but then to tell me how to work on my own projects to the point to require that I don’t use capitals, was simply crazy. Micromanagement at its worst.

Today I let people do their job the way they want to. I tell them what the end result needs to be, but I let them get there on their own.


Not sure who to attribute this quote to, but it is one of the smartest things I heard regarding emails.

‘Email like it will be read in court someday’.

Like a professional, like a person who respects their co-workers, and someone who has no other agenda but to be the best at what they do.