August 8, 2018—Email has become a necessary part of life—but some days, it's a necessary evil. Almost everyone has opened an email that completely bums them out for the rest of the day. Now, a new study shows just how badly these ill-timed or rude emails can affect you and those around you.
Multiple things can go wrong
A key drawback to email is that the person who receives the message may sense hostility in the content, tone or timing of an email. This may cause that person to feel stressed, says a study in The Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Sometimes, an email bums you out simply because of the way it's sent. Two culprits include a non-urgent message marked "High Priority" or a time-sensitive message that arrives with no warning.
However, an email often creates conflict simply because it loses the sender's original nuance and tone. It may come across as rude just because it lacks context. Emails lack vocal tone and body gestures that help us understand the intent of a message. So, when we don't know, we often assume the worst and stress about it.
The long reach of rude emails
The study showed that the more negative emails a person received at work, the more stressed they tended to be. The stress from these emails even showed up in physical symptoms, like headaches. Negative emotions often caused people to withdraw from their work.
But these harmful effects went beyond the message receiver. The study suggested that workers who receive negative emails may pass that stress on to their spouse or other family members. It's difficult not to dwell on a rude email, especially over a weekend. And that negativity can radiate outward.
Think before you send
In order to ensure that emails don't unintentionally sound hostile, take greater care in your phrasing. Managers may even consider an email code of conduct. But if you do have something negative to say, email may not be the best way to say it. A face-to-face conversation is probably a better way to bring it up.
Remember: Communication is key. But not all of it works the same way.