Whether you’ve simply had a bad day or you’re nearing your breaking point over something that has happened in your office, composing a thoughtful email to discuss what’s going on is rarely a walk in the park.
However, ensuring your points get heard despite your current mindset is vital in order to rectify what may be going on and come out on the other side.
That’s why we had a handful of business leaders and C-level executives share how they handle composing a work email when angry—follow these tips and you’ll be able to execute a clear and concise email with ease and finesse.
Try to use “I” statements
“Do not use an accusatory tone, but explain your concern by explaining how you feel and using ‘I’ statements,” explains Robyn Flint, legal researcher. “Also, be sure to include ideas and information about how you feel the situation could be changed.”
Flint suggests looking to change the negative in a productive way that benefits both yourself and the company.
Be honest (to an extent)
Breanna Gunn, an online business strategist who has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs scale their businesses to 7-figures sustainably suggests avoiding direct blame while being honest. “In my experience, the best way to deliver bad news—be that your hours are too long, you don’t get a lot with a certain co-worker or that you’re not feeling challenged enough in your current role—is by being honest,” she says.
“Essentially what you’re doing is taking the blame for your own frustrations and asking your superior for clarification around how to proceed. Using this process lessens hurt feelings and sets you up for handling the situation in a mature way.”
Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve
“The way I handle email communication when I am angry is to ask myself what am I trying to achieve,” says Emma Debeljak, who has worked with B2B and B2C organizations worldwide and across industries, from Spain to Hong Kong. “This is how we operate when we’re not angry and defining a clear answer to this question—writing it down even—can help you get centered even when you’re worked up and can guide your email towards productivity as opposed to venting.”
Write, revise, and send in the morning
According to Aleksandar Hrubenja, Co-Founder of Modern Gentleman, the most important thing is not to act in a rush. “Acknowledge that you’re angry, and be extra careful with the send button. Angry email stays there permanently, and it’s important not to be in the heat of the moment when making permanent traces,” he suggests.
Read what you wrote several times before you send it and if there’s time, you should sleep over it and continue the email conversation in the morning. “The heat will cool down, and you’ll be able to see how much of a problem the boss, colleague, or the situation poses.”
Acknowledge the other perspective
“Acknowledge the other person’s perspective or situation and attack” the problem, not the person,” Hrubenja adds. “And hold your ground, don’t go into passive-aggressive apologizing. Absolutely avoid using harsh, rude, or cuss words, no matter how angry you feel or whether you’re thinking of burning the bridges.”
Write your draft in a Word document
If you are determined to send an email, draft it without the sender’s email address entered or do it in Word, suggests Samantha Osborne, Marketing Strategist in Cincinnati. “If it makes you feel better, write everything you want to say. Then, take stock of how you feel,” explains Osborne. “Do you really still need to send the message? If so, it’s time to scale it down to be professional and share the key points that are important to address.”
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to be in the news tomorrow, anything you’ll regret later, or anything you wouldn’t say to their face. “Reconsider if you couldn’t just have the conversation face to face instead,” Osborne says.
If all else fails… wait until later
“My number one tip on how to write a professional work email when angry is: Don’t!” laughs Donovan Gow, Owner of House and Tool. “It took me years and much regret to learn this, but communicating in any way when you’re angry is rarely a good idea. That goes double for email where it’s impossible to see reactions or change your tone.”