Don't Make These Email Mistakes!

Have you ever gotten an email that made you want to lose your cool? The Public Speaker explains how to maintain professionalism and avoid embarrassing email exchanges that might get you into hot water. 

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #261

Kelly Blazek, a Senior Communications Executive and head of a popular local job bank listserv, received an email request from a recent graduate named Diana Mekota, Ms. Blazek felt the requester was asking for too much--so she dashed off an angry response. Unfortunately for her, the reply quickly went viral..

These are excerpts from what she wrote:

"Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky."

"Wow, I cannot wait to let every 25-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job."

"You're welcome for your humility lesson for the year.. Don’t ever reach out to senior practitioners again and assume their carefully curated list of connections is available to you, because you want to build your network.”

Her response was picked up by several social media blogs and caused a huge backlash for Kelly Blazek. She offered an apology, but the damage had already been done.

I’m not taking sides here; I could probably do an entire podcast on what Diane Mekota did wrong, too. But right now I want to talk about how to keep your cool in emails and protect your reputation.

Don’t Respond When You’re Frustrated

I’m sure we’ve all received an email or two that has made us angry. I think I receive at least three hostile emails a month! Just don’t respond to these when you’re frustrated. You are bound to react emotionally, and you’ll probably end up regretting it.  

I try to make a game of it. I have a running contest for “worst emails,” and when I get a real doozy, I send it to several people. By making a game of it, it helps me to get some distance from negative emotion, and sometimes I even end-up laughing about the messages.

Take a Break

Sometimes, the distance takes the form of a break. Take time to gather your thoughts before you dash off a response. If you must, draft your response--but do NOT hit “send” until you’ve calmed down and re-read your message a day later.

It is so easy to come across as cold or angry without realizing it, so it is important to read your response with fresh eyes. or talk to someone else about what you have planned to say. They may help you shape your response.   

Also, during the break you’ll want to consider if your response will make a difference or not. Will responding help the receiver or the situation in any way? If it’s a one-time issue, never to be repeated, it’s best just to leave it be. Or if no matter what you say, the situation can't be changed, then it might be best to let things rest without a response. I know that is probably easier said than done!


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.