What To Do When An Email Exchange Turns Ugly

How to deal with a conflict at work in the form of an ugly email.

What To Do When An Email Exchange Turns Ugly

Many of us have had to work with colleagues who escalate petty matters into an office conflict by sending an email, with every member of the team in ‘cc. There are also some colleagues who use the mail to fill in all the drama, because they are unsure about their conviction in a real face-to-face conflict.

Then there are some who use the email because the alternatives would require scheduling a meeting, making a call, or simply getting up from the chair. After all, one of email’s most winning virtues is convenience. However, when you’re on the receiving end, these emails feel inconsiderate, unnecessary, and self-important.

So, how does one deal with an email exchange turns ugly?

Pick up the phone

Try avoiding responding to an ugly email. Your response will only feed as a stimulus to escalate the matter further. It was also set an unfortunate precedent, and the sender may do it again. So, pick up the phone to sort out the matter, or to schedule a meeting.

If you must reply, be assertive

If situation warrants that you have to reply to the email, then do so after giving it a considerable thought. It is important to respond and not react in a hurry. If the sender was crass or rude, it does not mean respond in same fashion. For example, if you receive an email that’s objecting your point of you, you can reply by saying ‘There seems to be a misunderstanding here, i shall be happy to speak and clarify’.

Donna, Harvey's secretary in 'Suits' has to often diffuse tension between Harvey and Louis.
Donna, Harvey’s secretary in ‘Suits’ has to often diffuse tension between Harvey and Louis.

Image Credit: Movie – Suits

Defuse the tension

Start on a positive note. This will diffuse the tension, and also keep the floor open for genuine resolution, instead of a pointless blame game. You can start by saying, “I would like to find a solution that works for both of us. I think a conversation will help us get there.”

Focus on the facts

Getting a hostile email can be daunting. But it is important not to take it personally. Keep the conversation professional, and concentrate on the facts in the mail. A logical resolution will may be lasting, and help to avoid such behaviour in the future.

Email can be an efficient and convenient way to communicate. But when digital communication leads to conflict and slow decision making, it’s time to get out from behind the screen and have a dialogue

Read Also: Why You Should Write Emails And Letters With Better Punctuation