The employee sarcastically joked with his co-worker about the four day work week and free lunches. Unfortunately, he said this in an email that was seen by other employees that only saw those four words. They did not understand the sarcasm that they were shared between two friends. Sarcasm is invisiable in an email.
The email was forwarded to Human Resources, because someone thought it might be from a disgruntled employee. Human Resources immediately called the CEO and had a meeting about what they should do. All of a sudden, this employee’s complete email history was being reviewed by an IT Director upset that he had to do this and of course was looking for reasons to find problems instead of being unbiased. His work history was being evaluated and because there was a workplace shooting two weeks ago in another part of the country, the overzealous Director of Security was looking for anything that could be considered a threat. Finally the Human Resources Director was agreeing rather than the voice of reason because she felt ganged up on.
This once outstanding employee was under the microscope and when a fellow co-worker was interviewed about their OPINION of that person, it came out that they heard other derogatory and possible other hot button words that indicated they had an employee in need of some counseling.
What was it the other employee said? “I heard that he was either getting a divorce or he broke up with his girlfriend.”
The I.T. Director found emails that he believed, based on his experience as a computer professional (no actual college education or classes in social or psychology) indicated that they had a disgruntled employee here. What did that email say? “My Boss is never around” “I could do my bosses job,” and the big one that was highlighted out of context “I am sick of this place.”
The assortment of emails were taken out of context but when broken down and highlighted, these statements were actually talking about non-derogatory incidents. “My boss is never around” was in response to a question if the employee knew if his boss used the company workout room. “I could do my bosses job,” is a statement every person has said, especially when spoken to about if they had ambition to move up in the company. “I am sick of this place” was not even referring to the employment, but working in his cubical with no windows.
Now broken down, who has never said things like this at work? But when you put it in the context of an email, you lose the opportunity for sarcasm, facial expressions, body language and of course understanding someone’s personality.
99.9% of the readers of this article really don’t know me personally. But that .01% that do, understand that I have a sense of humor and can use sarcasm. If I say, “I really hate writing for a living,” really know that I am being sarcastic, but some of you will reply “than why are you doing it?” Some of you are going to stop reading all together feeling angry by my statement.
The point to all of this is hopefully that when you’re at work, you will learn to understand that in our new world of email and texting, there are new rules to communication and they involve both modern terminology and old school regulations. You could say our communication style has evolved to the next level or slumped down?
- THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Do not use sarcasm in your professional communication. You should even try not to use it in your personal email/texting communication because if I had a nickel for every person that I have known who has been insulted by an email/text/social media posting that was meant as sarcasm…well, I would be paying someone to type this for me.
- AOL, LOL,OMG,LMAO,TIGO,IIHAN,WIWAYC,DYGMP?…..yeah you understood some but probably not all. Do you get my point?
- Keep professional emails short. If you want to write your version of War and Peace, than do it on your time. Most people come into their office/desk and will find dozen’s if not hundreds of emails waiting for them. Just like a good magazine article, if the point is not made in the first few sentences, I am onto the next article. But do not make it so short that your reader feels they just read a mystery.
- DO NOT, repeat DO NOT CAPITALISE EVERY LETTER…. In modern electronic terminology, that does not mean you’re trying to get their attention, what you’re doing is yelling. I did not make up this rule, I was schooled on it.
- Do not put :) or ;) other emoticons in your emails. Even professional texts should keep them omitted.
- Finally, it’s a twist on what our Mother’s probably told all of us: NEVER TYPE ANYTHING THAT YOU DON’T WANT EVERYONE TO SEE. If you have ever seen an email or text that has been forwarded or worse REPLY ALL…. Yeah, be careful what you type and remember, just because you send it to someone in personal confidence. If it’s on a computer, it’s no longer personal.
With these rules in place, remember that professional communication in this modern world of LOL and LMAF, we still need to maintain a level of professional courtesy and standards among our communication. Because the last thing you want to have is the S.W.A.T. Team surrounding your cubical because you thought it would be funny to type a joke at work.