Death by email

She was ticked off. Really angry and frustrated.

Having just spent 2 days compiling a report, pouring over raw data and turning it into something meaningful, she had just been told it wasn’t needed.

Not only was it not needed, the work had been done by someone else…last week.

It wasn’t so much the wasted time that angered her as it was that she found out by way of a passing comment in the hallway that someone else had been tasked with the same work by the same person. That same person who had sat in the team meeting and talked about looking for efficiencies and avoiding duplication of effort.

Fuming, she sat down to write an email to express her anger. Something that would convey her disappointment and annoyance, in a way that clearly made ‘them’ know she was incensed.

Dear Vanessa,

I hope you had a really good evening and enjoyed your netball training.

If you have a moment, and you’re not too busy, I was wondering if you have some free time where we could possibly meet to talk about a way to maybe reduce the double up on certain programs of work please.

I have a few ideas that could potentially make things easier for us. I know that you’re swamped at the moment but I can hopefully help you out.

Thanks for your consideration.

Kind Regards,


Not quite the venomous reply you thought, huh? If you’re anything like me, you’d have expected a subject line something along the lines of “What a stupid waste of my time!!!!” 🙂

But in the end, the above email is just as challenging as one that would have spat virulence at others. Being passive in your communication about a challenging situation is as unsupportive as being aggressive. Not only are you depriving the recipient of clarity, but you’re also robbing yourself of respect.

This very topic came up in conversation with a colleague late last week. Her original email was lovely and sweet, but it didn’t convey her true intent. It ducked and weaved around the issue without explaining it, confusing the recipient more than inciting an opportunity for positive conversation.

Your voice is worthy. You have a strong contribution to make to your team, whether you’re the leader or the newest recruit. Communicating with a passive, submissive tone has its moments, but will only get you so far. It is a tool for use, definitely, but it has limited benefits as you move forward in your command and leadership journey.

Instead, communicating with intent, for a purpose and in a respectful way will garner faster results where all participants come away with a sense of esteem and achievement.

Think about what you want to say in the context of managing an incident. Clear, accurate and relevant written communication is extremely important as many of your team will be located in places a face to face discussion can’t take place. You need to ensure that your intent as a Controller is easily understood and actionable, with little room for ambiguity, yet still conveys respect. In times of stand-down, when we are communicating in a less time pressured environment, the same general rules apply.

My inbox is always full. Death by email has quickly overtaken the old death by PowerPoint. Grabbing my attention in a sea of electronic communications is not easy. Need some tips on how to make your emails jump out of the crowd? Nagesh Belludi has some great suggestions to help strengthen your written communications. Check out the article at:

What does your written communication say about you? Is your intent to be liked? Or to be respected?

One thought on “Death by email

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  1. Mastering email filters is a quick way to cut through the crap and concentrate on what you have identified as important


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