Emails Are Not the Place for Sarcastic Criticism
Elena, Contract Admin, for a civil contractor in Woodburn, OR, told Session 2 of Turbo's Leadership Development Lab:
"I'm the Contract Admin for a growing construction company. I'm included on all the emails that involve public agencies and private companies we work for and all the companies that work for us as subcontractors. One particular agency was being a little more difficult with every piece of documentation that I was submitting. No matter how thorough I was, he kept asking for more details. Then he asked that we detail them differently than we have ever done for any of our other clients. We've even done work with this client in the past and used our normal process, not this special detailing he was requesting. I was getting tired of his work taking up so much of my time.
"One day the Project Manager from this agency sent still another email to me, a Project Manager in our company, and a few others. Once I read that email I thought 'Here we go again.' I hit the Respond button, then added a smart remark, complaining about this agency and their Project Manager. Seconds after hitting the Send button, I realized instead of forwarding this email to my company's Project Manager, I had responded to the very person I was complaining about! Boy, did I have egg on my face.
"I learned firsthand that day that Criticizing, Condemning, and Complaining can backfire. I learned NEVER to put critical comments in emails."
We are hearing stories every day that remind us email is not the place for smart aleck comments. Email comments are beyond our control once we hit the Send button. Emails can be printed out or forwarded by the recipient. There is no way for you to make sure private comments won't be made public for anyone in the world to see. So, take it from Elena, never, never put the 3C's in writing, especially in an email. If you don't say critical things about others, you won't ever have to worry about what you have said or written being repeated or forwarded. You will be a great example to follow. Others will respect and admire you as a true professional.
When the class heard this talk, we all knew what Elena was talking about. I thought I saw one or two people slump down in their chairs. We have all made the mistake of saying critical things about others, things that we weren't really proud of and we wouldn't want them to know what we have said. Criticism in any form is bad enough, but putting the 3C's in writing, putting them in an email is double dumb.
If you must put criticism in writing,
go to the ocean shore, write in the sand
and watch the waves wash it away.
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