Can you imagine how beautiful life would be if our email inboxes always overflowed with happy messages, praise, and warm compliments? Unfortunately, this is far from reality, especially at work.
In the real world, most of us must deal with problematic correspondences from current clients and responses from prospective clients. Moreover, things can get worse if we find ourselves on the receiving end of a stinging email from the boss. It’s even more stressful if we have to respond on short notice.
Undoubtedly, email still ranks as one of the most widely-used means of workplace messaging. Therefore it’s crucial we know how to deal with these situations professionally. The way you respond to workplace situations, especially explosive ones, can considerably affect your career, either positively or negatively. Indeed, the skill of answering workplace correspondence is an art. Countering an angry email may also be called a science.
Fortunately, we can take practical steps to deal wisely with these instances.
Pick To Whom You Will Respond
A barrage of questions may already be ringing in our minds. Should we respond through the line supervisor? Do we ignore the angry tirade? Should we cower under the desk and wait for things to run its course? Or, should we pick up courage and face the boss directly? Time to take a deep breath and decide. You have to pick somebody, and you shouldn’t drag your feet.
Avoid Impulsive Reactions
One of the most significant advantages of using email is that you don’t have to answer the moment you get the message. Often, you can afford to take your time with your response. By all means, avoid a knee-jerk reaction. Take the time to step away from the desk, let your mind cool off, and grab a glass of water.
Reread the email from your boss. Is the tone as hostile as it sounded when you first read it? Most probably, they allowed raw emotion to dictate what was written and sent out. It is unwise to respond with the same emotional energy. By countering with a calm tone, you can keep the situation from elevating.
Examine Your Role
Once you can calmly examine the email, it’s time to have a candid conversation with yourself regarding the merits and demerits of the case at hand.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Was your initial reaction to the scathing email justified?
- Is it possible that you made a costly mistake that upset your boss?
- Could it be that the boss is having a bad day, and your small mistake was an excuse for them to unload?
Keep in mind that the workplace can needlessly turn into an explosive minefield. Once you know the circumstances that fueled the scorching message, you will be in a better position to react more objectively. You can determine whether you need to craft an apology letter, confront the boss in person, or whether you need the help of a colleague to put out the fire. Take responsibility for the mistake or faux pas and be solution-forward, not defensive.
Keep the Response Brief and Professional
As noted before, your initial interpretation of the boss’s intent may be wrong. In sending a response, keep the message brief and concise. Avoid the temptation to dispatch a veiled reaction based on what you think the boss meant. The email should be designed to carry a compact message. If your boss is already annoyed, having to sift through excuse after excuse can only add to that annoyance.
This does not mean that you should send a one-sentence reply, though. It means if the boss criticized your presentation and demanded proof of statistics, you should respond by offering the stats instead of defending your own credentials. There is a better chance your boss will be more forgiving if you provide what is requested.
It may be wise to ask your boss a few practical questions in your email.
“What action is necessary to solve the problem? Could you suggest a way forward?” This encourages your superior to contribute thoughtfully to the solution. It shows you respect your boss’s position and dissuades them from berating or belittling your efforts. It also shows them that you are willing to correct the error and find a solution.
Seek a Colleague’s Intervention
Is your email confidential? If it is not strictly confidential, consider seeking help from a trusted coworker on the best way to handle the matter. It might be that a colleague knows just how to handle the boss when angry or irritated. Who knows, your immediate supervisor probably knows the angry party personally and can help cool things down.
Consider Meeting With the Boss
Emails are undoubtedly convenient. Of course, you may think it is easier to reply to the boss’s email by sending a counter-response rather than facing him one-on-one. This does not mean that it is always the perfect channel of communication, though.
Depending on the circumstances, it could be better to set up a face-to-face meeting instead of replying by email. Yes, whenever your boss sends you a disturbing email, make sure you remain undisturbed. Act calm and craft a respectful and professional response. This will work best to promote your career interests. If this means that you need to see them in person, be brave, and set up that meeting.
Many times, when people deal with deeply emotional emails, they are prone to feel the frustration and anger of the sender. It is easy, initially, to feel that the strong email contains much more than it actually does. Do not assume what your boss means when they send the email. If you have to ask them to clarify the problem in your response, do so. Do not jump to conclusions. Take time, instead, to craft a professional response. Always assume that the present email was not meant to be personal. Thus, never let the tone of a seemingly enraged email message from your boss derail you from carrying out your duties.