Now, I’m not ripping on everyone at Boeing. I’ve met and worked with folks from Boeing in my career and they are good people. Some employees, though, made some poor communication decisions regarding the 737 Max that have now gone public. Some lines pulled from Boeing employee communications:
- “Would you put your family on a MAX simulated trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.”
- “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”
- “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year.”
There are a few lessons I have learned during my career about emails:
- Don’t put anything in the email you wouldn’t want on the front page of the paper (or CNN)!
- Would your mother approve of what you wrote?
- What if the CEO read this? What would they do?
- Would you say this out loud in a company meeting?
Apparently, a handful of Boeing employees didn’t get these tips. They also weren’t aware instant messaging is instant only in reading and responding, but gets recorded and saved.
We’ve all been subject to that angry email. I’ve sent a few in my day and a couple came back to bite me. I have also received nasty emails that impacted my relationship with the sender.
Here are some email rules I’ve used for myself and coached others on. When faced with a “touchy” or possible contentious email situation where emotions may run high, consider these points before hitting send:
- Hit “Reply to All” and delete the recipients. Write the email, read it out loud, and listen for what doesn’t sound appropriate. Delete the email and write it again. Repeat until it’s unemotional, to the point and drives action and/or decision.
- Hit “Reply to All” and delete the recipients. Write the email. Then, sleep on it. You don’t have to respond to the email immediately (unless you’re being asked to).
- If one or two people, grab coffee, lunch or a beer. Face-to-face or a phone call is a much better method of discussing than email.
- Ask a friend or trusted colleague to read the email before sending.
- Try to understand the other person’s intent. My guess is they’re trying not to piss you off (maybe they are, but you can take the higher ground).
- Keep the language in email PG. Avoid profanity.
- Use “We” and “Us” language, indicating we’re a team trying to solve something. Using words like “You” or the person’s name may come across as blame.
- Take a walk before typing a response. A 10 walk can help clear your head and craft a more appropriate response.
- If the email string is getting long, emotional and seemingly out of control, call a meeting immediately. Talk it out and email decisions.
- Be the bigger person. If someone is unprofessional in an email to you, take the high road.
We all send and receive hundreds (sometimes more) emails per week. About 99.99% of them are going to be routine and relate to daily business. But, just one email can come back and haunt you, destroying your reputation and possibly impacting your career. Though we’re not perfect in our email responses, avoid making mistakes that could have long-term impact.