Angry work emails are not cool. But sometimes, they are inevitable.
Occasionally, I use emails with a less-than-pleasant tone to express disapproval and frustration to my boss.
I work with a scholarly publisher; our work includes publishing timely publications of our academic journals. We publish over 40 journal issues per year. The need to get publication issues on time is crucial since delays will adversely impact our journal metrics.
Therefore, you can understand all the production’s havoc in getting things done and published without delay.
I make it a point to send a congratulatory email to the production team every time a journal publication is completed. I know how difficult the team worked. Other than a fixed salary, they don’t get any other tangible rewards (we work in the government sector), so at the very least, verbal recognition should be appreciated.
I will also make sure that I cc the email to our new boss (new in the post, but not new in the organization) so that this boss would, in turn, respond with an acknowledgement. I expect nothing fancy. A short response with “good job, team!” would suffice.
What is disappointing is that this acknowledgement rarely comes. At first, I thought it is simply a case of oversight, but it went on until, one day, I decided to “break this pattern.” So came the angry email idea.
Nonetheless, while anger is part of the cause, I needed to write something that would resonate and change my boss’s behavioural pattern. Something that is understandably driven by anger and frustration, but at the same time, would not reflect me as a total psychopath.
So, I wrote the following:
“Working to get a journal published on time takes a lot of time, energy and resources. It is hard work.
The team works around the clock to ensure that the KPIs are met and that the team’s goals remain intact.
But there seems to be no appreciation or whatsoever from your end every time we publish. At the very least, you should acknowledge your team’s dedication and hard work.”
What happened next?
My boss apologized, and the pattern broke the way I would want it to be. And we still remain friends.
Table of Contents
So how to write an angry email, sifu?
So how do we go about writing angry emails to our boss? Here is what I can suggest.
1. Write the email, save as a draft, leave it for a while
Sure, you can start writing that email, and when you begin, probably all the swearwords you learned since 8 years old come into mind. So, if needed, include these swearwords.
Structure the email, as usual, to make it look like, well, an email. There is a subject, salutation, body and closing (+ the official signature style if your organization requires).
Keep it short, concise, straight to the point.
Save the draft. Leave it. Get a cuppa of joe.
Come back later (one hour, two hours, and so on).
2. Revisit the draft
After calming yourself, come back to your draft.
By now, you would notice how much emotion you’ve put into your email draft. As you have become more rational, it’s about time to do the fixing – remove swearwords and phrases that sound as if you’re going to kill someone or those that make you look like a complete psycho.
Once this fixing is done, your email draft will sound a lot nicer.
There is also a likelihood that after you have calmed, you decide that the email is not necessary at all. You will thank yourself for not hitting that Send button earlier.
3. Ask yourself: What this email should do?
Look again at your email content. What kind of action is this angry email supposed to do? Make your boss overturn an unfavourable decision? Let your boss know of your disapproval (expressing frustration without the need for the boss to take certain action)? Get your boss to apologize?
Asking yourself this question will be critical to give yourself another round of assessment to see if the email is still absolutely necessary.
4. Keep the email short
An angry email should be kept short. A concise email will get the point across. It shows that you care for a certain, specific matter that needs prioritized attention.
A long email will give your boss more room to deflect the point you’re trying to get across. And if in case there is no avoiding writing a longer version of an angry email, ensure that there are clear headers/sections so that when the time comes for the reading and understanding part of this process.
5. Think about the risk
Think about the risk and the possible consequences of your action.
Check if there is any company policy that might put you in hot water in the aftermath of your screaming email.
Also, think of the subsequent relationship between you and your boss. In my case, I do not harbour any personal feelings towards my boss. My intention is, you know, pure (LOL) so that the team gets due recognition for their work.
Lastly, angry emails are a necessary evil. You would wish that you never need to use them. We all do.
When you have to do it, keep it simple, concise and professional.