A few years ago, I used to have a colleague who travelled a lot. He was notorious for emails written at 3 am from some airport lounge ripping into someone who had made a mistake (even if only in his eyes when considered at 3 am). He copied people in, too, so even when they weren’t aimed at me, I got to vicariously experience the b*llocking.
Eventually I learned to note the time and date stamp and discount anything sent by my colleague after about 6pm. But before I learned that, I had a number of experiences of half an hour of completely wasted time as I either got indignant at the ridiculous email, or (more frequently) searched my soul for the reason I had stuffed up so much (I’m a bit of a perfectionist, at heart).
I was reminded of this experience a few weeks ago when I got another of those emails from a colleague in my new organisation. After I’d calmed down, I realised that email was the main problem here.
My colleague had got some emailed b*llockings during the day about an issue. I was part of the reason for the emails (just the proximate, not the ultimate cause). So I was a natural target for lashing out, when the stress got too much.
I’d forgotten what it’s like, and this whole experience has made me reflect on the damage that thoughtless emails can cause. I’ve probably sent a few of my own recently, even though I’m constantly resolving to communicate only by phone or face to face. The temptation to dash something off without putting myself in the recipient’s shoes is strong.
The loss of productivity and long term trust in the organisation is great.