One study finds more than 8 out of 10 of office workers rely on it to get the job done. How's your email etiquette? 

To: Tom (
Subject: Just a friendly heads up…


We nodded to each other at the water cooler earlier. I'm the guy who sits two desks down from you. I didn't have time to say this face-to-face because you filled up your water bottle so quickly, but just a heads up that your incessant leg movement in your chair is in all likelihood a distraction to pretty much everyone around you. I wanted to be considerate and reach out to you about it before I will be forced to report it to HR. As they say, "This is your first and last warning" - haha. But seriously. It is. 

Concerned Coworker


People in offices used to talk to each other. Now pretty much everyone just hunkers down at his or her screen and communicates via email. Most have been in offices where barely a word is uttered all day. Employees chat each other even if they're only sitting a few inches apart. According to a recent survey from Plantronics, a Fonality vendor, 83 percent of the workforce today sees email as an invaluable part of their daily success. And for remote workers - of whom there are more and more these days - email is one of a handful of tools that make their mode of work possible. 


A recent article in Forbes by TalentSmart co-founder Travis Bradberry described the unfortunate tendency among staffers to not exercise the same manners over email as they would in person. This is due to several factors. First, when you're drafting an email to a colleague you're annoyed with, you have lots of time to ruminate on it and create the meanest or most passive aggressive message possible. And second, when you're emailing, you don't have to look into a co-worker's eyes and see a human being there. Without seeing them face-to-face, you can project whatever horrid image of them you want onto your computer screen.

At the beginning of this piece we drafted up the kind of email that would get our blood boiling if we were on the receiving end of it. Now let's apply some rules of co-worker email etiquette from the Forbes piece to illustrate why this message sucks - and how it can be improved:

  • A complete lack of sensitivity. As the Forbes article points out, "People online are still people (so take the time to feel what they feel." The email at the start of this piece doesn't do that at all. It mentions the leg movement problem without offering any sensitivity whatsoever. What if Tom has Restless Leg Syndrome? What if he has an anxiety disorder? By just highlighting something as a problem without trying to understand what might lie behind it, you become a first-rate email jerk.
  • A complete lack of emoticons. Do you feel emoticons are cheesy? That they're overused by millennials? Well too bad! If you're emailing - and particularly if you're complaining about something - you better lay on the emoticons or else you'll look like a total scrooge. Emoticons humanize you. "Hey Tom, could we chat when you have a minute? :)" See?!
  • Far too much unchecked anger. The email to Tom seethes with passive aggressive rage. It's clear that whoever sent it to Tom is on the verge of tattling, and they're putting all their fury out there for Tom to absorb. This is a weak and cowardly move. The right thing to do is wait for your anger to subside before reading whatever you've spat out. Have an email be the best version of yourself - not the most unfiltered. 

So follow these rules, or be the office jerk everybody talk about. Also, you know what's better than sending an email to someone who's irritating you? TALK TO THEM!!! :) :) :)

Some conversations are just better in person, by video conference, or by phone. Of course, a great unified communications and business phone system can help you reach out by phone and video.

For help with your communications strategy, contact Fonality today. 

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