More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
E-mail: Workplace 'emotional hazard'
Nov. 17, 2006
by Dana Knight, Indianapolis Star

E-mail is a tricky thing. For every message you send, there is a 50percent chance the intended tone of the e-mail will be misinterpreted, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"I've given up e-mail as a casual form of communication altogether," said Dusty Riggins, a technology manager.

Yes, even a tech geek has found fault in this form of workplace communication.

Riggins says if he needs a file from someone or a time for a meeting, he will send e-mail. If he needs to ask the boss why a project was done a certain way or a co-worker to help him, he reverts to old-fashioned talking to the person.

According to the journal's research, the tone in e-mail is difficult to determine because senders assume the emotion in their message is obvious because they "hear" it in their minds.

The receivers, however, can't read minds and interpret the message based on their own moods and expectations.

It's safe to say e-mail is an emotional hazard in the workplace. It turns offices into high schools with workers gossiping about he-said-she-said kinds of things.

It also leaves hurt feelings and confused souls.

Even worse, it sucks the true value of face-to-face communication right out of the office.

One misread message can turn into hours of lost productivity, said Judith Glaser, author of The DNA of Leadership: Leverage Your Instincts to Communicate, Differentiate, Innovate.

"What happens is, it puts the focus on the inside, instead of the outside, catering to clients and customers," she said.

Glaser offers a few tips for using e-mail productively:

? If you are going to send an e-mail that is questionable, have a trusted person read it and see what tone he or she interprets.

? If you're e-mailing to get something off your chest, write it in draft form. Don't send it.

? If a serious situation is connected to an e-mail, sit with the message an hour before sending it. Take a break, then reread it.

Even you may interpret it differently from what you originally intended.
Emails are great BUT nothing beats face to face, being able to see someones facial expression, body language , Ive had loads of misunderstandings by email, sometimes you can think someone is being cold when they are not,,

? If you're e-mailing to get something off your chest, write it in draft form. Don't send it.

I neally always do the above:)


Even the most benign written messages can be interpreted differently if read by a trusted person prior to sending.

What appears to sound one way to one person can sometimes carry an unintended nuance.

But let's face it, even in a face to face meeting, one can mis speak.

Granted facial expressions can usually clear up the situation, but I feel that in an ongoing email or forum style relationship, one's established reputation should give the receiver of a questionable message the benefit of the doubt.

If the relationship is important, then a follow up saying something like,

"We've always been honest with each other....did you really mean......?"

How would you handle an email situation where you felt the recipient was offended by your unintentional remarks?
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.