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Workplace Email Etiquette and Tips

Just Say No! Emailing Under the Influence

The instant gratification of email makes life easy — except when it doesn't. All of those "reply all" emails are risky to begin with, but you already knew that. And if we're learning anything about the convenience of our email, hopefully we're all learning a thing or two about the drawbacks of the same instant send-and-receive system.

But here's a little more in the way of email education. There is a legitimate explanation and good reason for not firing off the angry emails we may wish to write in the heat of the moment. According to thought leader Linda Stone, formerly of Microsoft and Apple computers, there is a "phenomenon" that occurs while under the "influence of computing." Stone points out that there is "even a physiological trigger pulling us into e-mail shootouts," and she's coined it "email apnea." So, the same computer access that makes our life easier at the click of a button can also jeopardize our jobs and our credibility.

Learn more about emailing under the influence after the jump.

When we fire off an email, we're full of emotion, especially if we're reacting to an email we've just received. As Stone notes "we hold our breath while cranking out e-mails." During her research, doctors confirmed her suspicions — "when we hold our breath the brain is momentarily oxygen deprived and hits the flight or fight response, fueling a more emotional reaction to the words shooting out of our fingers."

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Long story short, you're likely to say something you'll regret later. A better option is open a new email and type it out — just don't fill out the recipient address. Vent your frustrations through and hammer it out on the keyboard, but don't send it to anyone. Let it hang out in drafts or delete when you're done, but you'll get the same satisfaction of getting it off your chest, without the repercussions of firing off a note without thinking. Also, always remember that not everything is really how it appears in an email. You can't always assess the tone in an email, so don't jump to any conclusions about what's written. All caps are a common mistake, not always intended to be abrasive, and deciphering humor or sarcasm can be even harder — so remember to consider that on both ends of an email dialogue. When in doubt, follow my guide to of what to consider before clicking send.


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Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
I've been charged with a couple EUIs... but never at work. Why would someone either be drunk at work, or checking work emails when drunk? Maybe it's not the booze, maybe it's the stress of bringing work into your personal life that makes a person fire off a response they'll later regret.
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