Why Do Email Messages Seem Angry Or Rude?

For many, email adds to workplace stress and hurts job performance as well as office morale. Let’s look at why.

We love email because it’s so quick. And, it will help make us look good by correcting our spelling and grammar –  if we ask.Stop Angry Email

But email is unloved for many more reasons. Here’s a partial list that the attendees of my last Email Etiquette Training created.

Unloved Email List

  1. We get too many email
  2. We are cc’d on many we don’t need to see
  3. Many email ‘seem’ rude, abrupt, bossy or angry
  4. People expect an immediate response
  5. People send incomplete thoughts – all day long
  6. Many email messages are large blocks of text that are hard to read
  7. People don’t use spell check, pay attention to upper / lower case or use punctuation
  8. Email are sent without the attachments
  9. Email are sent to the wrong people
  10. People send junk email / email jokes etc…

… and the list goes on.

The risk to our reputation is terrifying. With only a quick scan of the ‘Unloved Email List’ we can feel the aggravation, stress and impatience many of us feel toward email an its senders. It’s a wonder we still send email instead of picking up the phone or walking down the hall.

Now, I think we can agree there will always be customers, suppliers or co-workers who are intentionally aggressive; workplace bullies even. But I believe this is the exception rather than the rule.

I feel most of the aggression and resulting frustration we feel is not intended. So until we win the lottery we have to figure out how to do a better job of building respectful and profitable relationships with everyone.  I believe that means a combination of two things:

  • Learn how to respect each other (which may need communication training)
  • Learn how to use technology which includes email etiquette and phone etiquette rules (which almost certainly needs etiquette training)

It may seem funny to train someone on email etiquette or how to use the phone and voice mail… but I don’t think it should. Let’s consider – most of the technologies we use today are new to us.

I know I didn’t study email etiquette or phone etiquette at school. And when I first started working I was sent on Excel training, Outlook training and many more courses. So why hesitate at taking email etiquette or phone etiquette training?

All day we try to build relationships and share information with our customers, co-workers and suppliers by email and phone.

Let’s take a look at what I mean using two examples.

Example I:

It wasn’t much more than 10 years ago that if you wanted to give someone some information that you had to either book a meeting or pick up the phone. What does that mean?

Back then we were having a one-on-one conversation with ONLY the right person. We were also able to use verbal and non-verbal cues to determine the emotional state of the person we were speaking with and if they understood. We were also not distracted by our smart phone vibrating on our hip.

Example II:

The wide distribution of voice mail is also not much more than 10-15 years old. I still remember the outcry when my Scotiabank office peers when it was installed. The primary argument was how impersonal it was.

Today, most voice messages are either too short with scattered information, or they ramble on and on – a series of fragmented thoughts.


So that’s how I think technology is impacting how we build loyal, trusting relationships. What do you think?

I don’t want to leave you empty-handed so here are a few of my email etiquette Do’s to help alleviate stress you may be feeling.


  1. Do write a relevant Subject line
  2. Do use a friendly greeting, be polite and courteous
  3. Do pay attention to Cc… when replying
  4. Do demonstrate your Core Competencies and Brand Value

My Question to You:

Let me leave you with one question.

How do you think technology is impacting how we build loyal, trusting relationships?

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

6 Responses to Why Do Email Messages Seem Angry Or Rude?

  1. It feels like technology is redefining trust, at some level.
    On one side I’m in ‘loose contact’ with far more people than I used to be.
    On the other hand, connections seem to have less commitment.
    I try to keep a ‘soft gaze’ on these changes because overall I believe in where we are going, and I know the tools we are using are under development (currently underdeveloped), so they don’t provide the full feedback range that I’d like to see.

    For instance, I’d like to know ‘eyeball’ tracks on my emails–which parts people read–what they get hung up on–and where they give up! Eventually, technology will tell us this–and when it does our communication will again shift/change.

    At the end of the day it will always take effort–and commitment–to build loyalty, trust, and real relationships. Whatever tools we have can only get us there faster–they can’t change the ultimate outcome.

    -Bryce Winter, Brand CEO Coach

    • Bruce Mayhew says:

      Excellent perspective Bryce as always. Thank you for sharing.
      I agree most people are likely in ‘loose contact’ with more people than ever before… and that’s where the white noise we experience all day long in our inbox comes from. Much of that contact is either unfocused because we’ve learned to be more shot-gun in our communication approach… or it is not relevant to us (perhaps we’ve been caught in the excessive Cc… net).
      From my experience, I would suggest the ‘eyeball’ on your email is most often sitting within the first paragraph. After that many people lose focus or, if you’ve identified a task for them to do, they will jump on it and the rest or your message will be at risk of being unread (and I don’t mean ignored).
      I believe it takes a combination of commitment, awareness and skill to build loyal, trusting and committed relationships.

  2. Jim Brady says:

    I find it a little more than anoying trying to communicate with someone by email when a simple phone call could eliminate two,three or even four emails going back and forth. Email is fine for identifying specific information but it fails when trying to solve problems. People don’t seem to read the complete content of an email therefore this contributes to excessive emails on one subject.

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Email Etiquette Tips & Team Training « Bruce Mayhew Blog: Business Communication

  4. Pingback: You Need Stress – Really! | Dr. Scott J. Duggan, Ph.D.

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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