6 things you shouldn’t be doing with your work email.

We all love email … don’t we?

The notification, the popup, the vibration, the phone call telling you they sent you one; these are the many ways we get our emails today. And yet, given how ubiquitous it is these days, it’s amazing how many people still have no clue what they are doing.

Listen … I’ll be the first to tell you, do what you want with your personal account. It’s yours. But if you work for a corporation you need to represent yourself appropriately. I want to help you. That’s where this post comes in.

Across the world, spam filters cry out “Mercy!”, customers still get yelled at by people with a caps lock fetish and emails often lie dormant for weeks at a time. Below are the many ways we misuse and abuse our good old corporate email account.

Don’t use it to sign up for porn sites.

Or any other non-business related site either. I’m sure you want to receive the weekly ABC Distributing newsletter. If you have to do it, do so on your personal account. Frequently these newsletter lists can create spam, which can create unnecessary traffic, which can flood your in-boxes with unnecessary crap and leave less room for your communique’s with your boss. Hmm.. come to think of it, maybe that’s a good thing.

THERE’S NO NEED TO YELL AT ME. I didn’t mean to put the empty coffee pot back.


That meeting change you just told me about is important, I won’t disagree. What I don’t appreciate is you yelling at me. Can you imagine how life would be if we just went around yelling at everyone?




Listen, I can help you with your voice modulation issues, I’ll simply remove that useless caps lock key from your keyboard. Problem solved.


Text speak is great if you’re under 20 and need to drop a quick text-y while driving home. It has no place in the business world. The reason is simple. It isn’t professional. Just imagine speaking in a meeting like that: “OMG LOL! UR so funnnnnnnyyyy!” Business communication, unless it’s with close associates, shouldn’t be casual to the point where you need to save your fingers the extra typing. Show your peeps some PROPS and don’t do it.

Don’t use their when it should be they’re.

This post isn’t going to be long enough to talk about our endless grammar foibles. The Wall Street Journal talked about this very issue a few weeks ago. Here’s a quick blurb:

Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.

You can have the best idea possible but if you present it using a 1st graders grammar, your idea will fail… because people will laugh. Sorry but that’s true.

listen closely

I’m sorry did you email me? Can’t hear you. I’ll get back to you next month.

Hello? Hello? Are you there?

One of my biggest problems with email is how lazy it actually makes us. A phone call or face to face conversation can take minutes, or in the case of some people I work with, hours. It takes almost no thought or time to compose a quick email. I think that’s why we take receiving one for granted.

Not responding to an email within a reasonable amount of time is akin to me standing face to face with Sally and saying “Hey Sally did you get that report done?” and then for the next two weeks she doesn’t answer me. No eye contact, no verbiage, no hugs, no nothing. Besides the fact that our legs would be exhausted from all that standing, it would also be considered extremely rude. Whether your answer is “pound sand” or “I can’t deal with this right now” or “It was bacon and unicorns”, respond with something.

I really hate you.

It’s too easy misinterpret what you’re trying to say when the medium is text. Face to face conversations are so powerful. Take “I really hate you” as an example. It’s possible, with the right voice inflections, to say this to someone and have them laugh at you with a slap on the back, “You’re such a kidder Bill!”. In email, it’s bound to be misunderstood.

Don’t use email in the place of having a real conversation with someone. Despite our technological devices and social media, nothing beats a good old fashioned face to face conversation. When something really needs to get done, get up off your chair and go see them; especially if you really do hate them.

I’d love to hear what you think.

There’s my list. What are your business email faux pax? Feel free to leave some comments behind.


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  • Hans Peter Bech

    The first time I asked my organization to draft a set of “guidelines for a good e-mail culture” was back in 1998 – 14 years ago. I was running our operations in Germany then and my inbox was killing me. The guidelines were polished by corporate HR and distributed to the entire corporation. Did these guidelines make any difference. Yes, in Germany where they were made, but nowhere else.

    The issues you are addressing are certainly all valid and relevant. Changing peoples behavior on how to write, receive and react to e-mails is a huge challenge.

    • One thing I didn’t mention in the post was also getting people to actually open their email clients. We receive emails in many ways and some people try to avoid it altogether!

      I like the guidelines idea. We’re a small organization though so it would require quite a cultural change to get people to abide by the “rules”.

      I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting today Hans.

  • I have one that I wish people would do more of. I hope it fits with your points.

    If you are forwarding an email and you change the content as it relates to the subject line – then change the subject line so I don’t waste my time trying to get context.

    • Agree Mike. It would be like creating a blog post entitled “10 Great Craigslist Ideas” and the content is actually about ponies.

  • One thing I constantly hear complaints about in my company are the Reply All e-mails. When someone sends out a promotion congratulatory e-mail or something of similar nature, too many people respond Reply All and everyone gets tons of e-mails saying ‘Congratulations Judy!!!’ While it’s funny sometimes, it’s mostly annoying.

    • Good one!

    • That IS a good one Jessica. You’re so right. I want to remove Reply All from everyone’s Outlook. There has to be an add-on for that somewhere.

  • Great common sense tips Bill. Not only are these great reminders from a professional standpoint but they also resonate greatly from a time management perspective. I often wonder why someone could have 300+ emails sitting in their email inbox. Is it real important correspondence or is the majority of it just noise? Discipline is key. Thanks for the post.