photo by M.C. Lester

"It takes much more skill to write something thoughtful than to just be mean." Mary-Louise Parker

Before you send that pissy email putting someone in their place or giving them what-for, answer these questions:

  1. What do you want to accomplish, besides making them feel like crap, making yourself feel superior or teaching them a lesson?
  2. If “teaching them a lesson” is your purpose, is there a more effective way to do that?
    a. How do you respond when you get bitch-slapped by a colleague? That’s what I thought.
  3. What are the odds that the recipient of this email will:
    a. Do what you want?
    b. Care?
    c. Tattle?
    d. Be above you on the corporate ladder, or in league with someone who is, at some point?
  4. Are you risking some valuable political capital you might need later?
  5. Will sending this prompt, stoke or seal your reputation as a hot-headed arrogant coworker?
  6. Could you get more and better attention – not to mention the desired result -- by taking a different tack?
  7. Do you have your facts straight?
    a. You don’t want to be the guy who flames the wrong person or bases your response on bad information, do you? (Hint: The only right answer to this one is no.)
  8. What will the fallout be if the recipient forwards this to his/her network?
    a. What do you mean you don’t think that would happen?
  9. How would your most-respected colleague, friend, family member think of you if they knew you did this?
  10. Don’t you have some actual work to do?

Here’s the trick with these questions: They usually slow you down enough to get you out of frustration and freak-out and back to – if not the land of milk and honey – at least the general vicinity of sanity and civility. So you’ll feel less like deploying your poison pen and more like doing something that will better serve you and your work and your career.

Maybe you still need to send an email or press a call (in person or on the phone), but you’ll be in a better frame of mind to do that for maximum long-term gain. Or maybe you’ll realize you don’t need to respond with anything more than a simple request to try it differently next time and here's why.

Remember what my grandmother Memory always said, you get more with honey than with vinegar.