How to Avoid Sending Upsetting Emails to Your Coworkers Effectiveness Institute

How to Avoid Sending Emails That Upset Coworkers

A massive block of text with no paragraph breaks. Emojis. Every other sentence punctuated by an exclamation mark. Each email flagged as “High Priority, Follow-up Today” or consistently includes requests adorned with “ASAP.” Terse, robotic responses. 

Each of us has email-related pet peeves. They’re small in the grand scheme of things, but when we’re receiving dozens of emails a day, they add up to make a rather consequential impact on our work, and, ultimately, on our work relationships. Further, email etiquette becomes even more important as an increasing number of organizations transition to remote workspaces

Emails to 4 Types of People

Some email best practices are rather universal, but the real challenge with emails—as with any interpersonal form of communication—is that no single format works exceptionally well for everybody. Each of us has different social preferences and habits. While every person has unique goals, family history, social customs, or work experiences, understanding and identifying a coworker’s Behavior Style can help us avoid sending upsetting or frustrating emails. (With practice, your emails may even become delightful gifts in your colleagues’ inboxes, in contrast with the more thorny ones they receive from everybody else.)

Behavior Styles are patterns of conduct we exhibit which tend to be fairly predictable. Our Behavior Style informs the way we make decisions, interact with others, and orient ourselves when tackling challenges. It even manifests in our body language, tone, and word choices. Put simply, each of us tends to display a certain set of traits and behaviors that form 1 of 4 primary Behavior Styles: Analyzer, Controller, Stabilizer, and Persuader. Each of us tends to exhibit one of these as our primary mode of interaction with others, while having a secondary style which colors our behaviors as well (e.g. Persuader-Controller or Persuader-Stabilizer). 

[Want to know what your Behavior Style is? Take our Behavior Style assessment.]

Understanding the strengths, driving needs, and blind spots that accompany each of these types can unlock profound insights into our relationships. By identifying another person’s Behavior Style we can have a good sense for what they want in an email—the combination of elements that will deliver them what they need. 

As you employ the Behavior Style framework in your emails, you’ll soon notice a shift in team culture, organizational effectiveness, and an improvement in the quality of your relationships. (Although geared toward emails, these same guidelines can also be applied to texting and phone calls.)

When Emailing Analyzers…

Analyzers are thorough, perfectionistic, and factual thinkers. For these reasons, they are often considered the brains of the operation. Their work is typically well-thought-out and accurate, for they enjoy figuring out the “best” approach. 

They prefer emails that are detailed, company-compliant, and take into account all possible scenarios or relevant information. Provide them with all the pertinent specifics and then allow them plenty of time to process it. Be sure it is organized and minimizes grammatical errors but skip the emojis and emotional expressions. Do not apply time pressure or leave expectations ambiguous. Give them an opportunity to verify the accuracy of your information. 

Analyzer,

Milton Vanderlind, from Dawes, Davies, and Davidson Associates plans to pick up a package from our office on Friday, March 13th. He didn’t specify whether he’ll be here in the early afternoon or later. It’s located on my desk and has a sticky note on top with his name on it.

Can you help ensure he gets it?

If you’re not going to be around the office Friday afternoon, I can ask Alexandra to help get the package to him. If Milton doesn’t stop by the office before we close, you can leave the package outside our front door, out of the footpath so it doesn’t accidentally get stepped on. 

The note on the box includes my phone number so Milton can text me when he’s picked up the package. 

If he doesn’t pick it up on Friday afternoon, I’ll be by the office Saturday morning and will take it inside to guarantee it doesn’t get damaged or stolen.

Thanks,

Your Coworker

[Read “Developing and Fostering Team Creativity”]

When Emailing Controllers…

Controllers are results-focused. This makes them seem less concerned with the needs of others, more independent, competitive, reserved, and even aloof in relationships. For this very reason, it can appear that they do not like people or care about emotions, but this is inaccurate. They want to make things happen. Get things done. And then their sociable side will come out. 

Ask direct and clear questions. Present the facts and be efficient. Focus on the objectives, the “what,” and keep distracting stories or inquiries to a minimum. Make good use of bullet points and state deadlines. Also, no need for emojis and feelings.

Controller,

A package for Milton Vanderlind must go out this Friday EOD. He will be by in the afternoon to pick it up. The package is on my desk. Will you make sure he gets it?

He’s an important new client and could bring in a lot more orders, so we want to be sure he gets it today. 

-Your Coworker 

[Read “The Limit of Impact”]

When Emailing Stabilizers…

Stabilizers are the most one-on-one relationship-focused of the Behavior Styles. They need to establish a comfortable rapport before working together and will do whatever they can to maintain harmony between people. They are systematic and seek security. When reaching out to them, ask questions to get them to share their opinion. They are dependable and accommodating but allow them time to consider your requests or account for potential risks. 

Be warm and friendly in your communications. Emojis and well-placed exclamation marks can show that you’re somebody worth trusting (and a person concerned with feelings). If you’re too abrupt or mechanical in your tone, your email will likely leave them with a bad feeling. Where Analyzers prefer as many procedural details as possible, Stabilizers want to know what’s happening with you and how you’re feeling about any given situation. An emoji or a little emotional expressiveness will usually be well received.

Stabilizer,

Good morning! 

I hope you have a fun and refreshing trip to Portland this weekend. You deserve one after such a challenging past couple of weeks. Sounds like it will be a wonderful time (with surprisingly sunny weather as well). 🙂 

Since I’m not in the office today, I could use your help with something. Milton Vanderlind is going to stop by this afternoon to pick up a package. You remember him from our lunch a few weeks ago? I’ll never forget the story he told us about his son being on The Price Is Right. Hilarious!  

Can you make sure he gets that package when he comes by? It’s on my desk with a note addressed to him. If he doesn’t come by, I’ll pick it up myself on Saturday. 

Thanks! And just let me know if this is a problem.

-Your Coworker 

[Read “Do You Pass the Smile Test?”]

When Emailing Persuaders…

Persuaders are expressive and very relationship-centered. They are natural performers who love to engage a crowd and ensure everybody is having as much fun as they are. They are expedient and tend to speak (or write) as they think, letting their excitement and energy drive any interaction. 

Don’t hesitate to include jokes or gifs in your email exchanges. Emails can be productive and social. Provide them with ideas for taking action and then allow them the room to convert their own energy into outcomes. Do not jump right into the hard data or focus on bottom-line facts but keep the interaction fun. As with Controllers, they are not the most detail-oriented so don’t overburden them with information. Just give them what they need to know and be sure it’s delivered in a compelling or playful manner. Wit goes a long way with them.

Persuader,

We made it to Friday! 

It’s been a wild week and I can’t wait to blow off some steam. Looking forward to that Seahawks game. I’m betting they win by 2 touchdowns. What’s your guess on the final score? No way our defense allows more than 10 points!

I’m not going to be in the office today but I could use a HUGE favor. Milton Vanderlind is coming by during the afternoon to pick up a package. It’s either on my desk or the chair next to my desk. (It’s somewhere near my desk – LOL!). Can you make sure he gets the box when he comes by? He’s a really cool guy. I hope we’ll do more business with him. You should tease him about the Broncos a bit. He’s a huge fan!

Let me know if you won’t be around the office and I will find somebody else.

Thanks!

-Your Coworker 

Flex Your Behavior Style When Sending Emails

Each of us has a natural resting style when it comes to the types of emails we send. Further, we like to send the same kinds of emails we like to receive. However, if we can lean a little more into the Behavior Styles of others—which first requires being able to identify their patterns of behavior—we’ll reap the benefits of smoother, more meaningful, and productive interactions. 

Jeffrey serves as Communications and Marketing Director at Effectiveness Institute. He is also Editor in Chief of Erraticus, an online publication focused on human flourishing.

He is a former mental health professional and educator living in Cascadia.

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