How to Respond to Rude, Passive-Aggressive Emails

Have you ever received an email that reads:

  • AS I TOLD YOU, MANY TIMES ALREADY, this project is ready for immediate review.”
  • I’M NOT SURE WHY YOU’RE NOT UNDERSTANDING but we can’t do it that way.”

We’ve all gotten those emails. They’ve either left us feeling perplexed, angry, or vindictive. Or all three. Sometimes those emails can ruin our day and take a toll on our overall workplace morale.

Responding back to those emails in the same tone or even trying to one-up the sender will only take you down to their level. So here are some tips on how to handle those emails that have your eyes rolling.

Tip #1: Give it a minute.

Don’t respond back to the email right away. It’s 2018 we get it, you don’t like to have emails in your inbox and when you see an email in there you want to read it and then get it out of your inbox stat. Emails that strike an emotion of anger or annoyance need time.

When you give yourself time to think about how you’re going to respond you’re more likely to respond in a professional and emotionally mature way. It’s OK to email back after lunch or later that day. If it’s not pressing you can even email back the next day. It’ll be okay…..you’ll be fine.

Tip #2: Lead by example.

Be a role model! Show that snarky emailer how it’s done. Respond back in a professional, emotionally mature way. Take the high road. Don’t join in on someone else’s issues.

Tip #3: Pick up the phone.

There are a lot of people who have what we call…email balls. Meaning in an email they feel confident to be unprofessional or rude because they’re behind a keyboard. One way to snap someone out of their snarky email comfort? Call them! It’s easy……here’s an example:

“Hi Bob, how are you? Oh good! Yeah me too!  I figured I’d pick up the phone and chat with you about our last email. Yeah, sometimes it’s so much easier to chat it out then to go back and forth via email.”

Sometimes simply picking up the phone and chatting instead of emailing will keep any hot-button topics from getting heated in the first place. Picking up the phone can also disarm any snarky, passive-aggressive vibes someone’s throwing down.

Tip #4: Always be kind.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Kill’em with kindness. This is the BEST way to break a Snarky McSnarkerson down. Maybe not right away but, over time, kindness will win. No matter what someone says in an email or on the phone. You can never go wrong with just being kind.

This last tip leads us to:

Remember you don’t know if someone is going through a rough time in their life or if they’re having a really bad day.  So giving the email some time before you respond, leading by example, possibly picking up the phone and always being kind, you can change someone’s mood, make someone’s day better and inspire your workplace to MEAN more to you and others than JUST a paycheck.

Get in the conversation! In the comments below tell us how you handle snarky, rude, passive aggressive emails.

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