Think Before You Click “Send!”

The problem goes way beyond selecting the wrong emoticon to express your feelings on a particular idea or piece of news.  And, it certainly involves  a more complex issue than what to include in your signature.  The truth is that the etiquette that you employ with your email communication in the workplace can have serious consequences for your career.  Are you interacting with your peers and supervisors in a way that could find you left out of the professional advancement that you desire?

Forbes magazine recently posted an article in which they asked two communication experts, Cherie Kerr, author of The Bliss or “Diss” Connection: e-mail Etiquette for the Business Professional, and Marsha Egan, who wrote Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence, to give their thoughts on some e-mail “don’ts.”

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

If you are engaged in a e-mail battle with a co-worker and there is no resolution in sight, do not take it upon yourself to copy your mutual boss on the correspondence and get his feedback.  You will lose a lot of respect and trust in the process.  If you need the advice of a third party, make sure everyone knows of your intentions.

When you send an e-mail, don’t call the recipient a few minutes later and ask if they’ve read it.  Instead, Egan recommends that you give the person a quick call ahead of time and let them know you will be sending something.  Then, trust that your message has been read.

I read that when Abraham Lincoln got angry with someone he would sit down and write them a letter.  He disciplined himself not to send the letters right away and in the majority of cases, he never sent the letter.  The process of writing the letter clarified his thoughts and diffused his anger.  I use the same tactic regularly with e-mail and have set up a special folder to save the scathing drafts so they don’t get sent accidentally.  When I do send the e-mail, I make sure that I “sit and think about it” for at least 24 hours while it is in my drafts folder.

Most of us use e-mail every day in our professional lives.  And, there probably have been instances in which we have all either received an e-mail that was questionable in its professionalism or sent something that we quickly regretted.  What advice do you have for proper use of e-mail in the office?

About the author


Joe Lavelle

Joe Lavelle is the Co-Founder of intrepidNow. Prior to that Joe was an accomplished healthcare IT executive and career coach with a record of successfully meeting the business and technology challenges of diverse organizations including health plans, health delivery networks, health care companies, and several Fortune 500 companies.

Joe is also the author of Act As If It Were Impossible To Fail, available on Amazon.


  • Joe,

    The beauty of email, in my opinion, is that it can be read at the convenience and discretion of the recipient – which is why it really irks me, too, when someone calls to ask if you “got their email.” (The silent answer being, “Yes I got it, but I’m not yet ready/able/willing to respond).

    Another big email faux pas is when you inadvertently reply to someone who really didn’t need to see the thread of conversation that preceded. This happened to me once, when, after a back and forth with a colleague who at some point called our CEO “clueless,” (and I didn’t disagree), the entire email thread was forwarded to the CEO beneath a question we needed answered. OUCH.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s made that mistake – right? :O


  • Good point about e-mail being read at the convenience of the recipient. Before Social Media, I used e-mail for things that needed queuing and my phone for things that needed my immediate attention. I have had to add Hootsuite to my queuing strategy to keep up with Social Media.

    And yes – I too, have made that mistake – once! Joe

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