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When a Colleague Sends You a Snarky Email, Talk to Them in Person


Email can be an efficient, convenient way to communicate with coworkers, but too often people hide behind it to avoid or deflect conflict. When someone sends you an email that’s argumentative, or that’s even a passive-aggressive attack, don’t respond in kind (especially if that’s what you feel like doing). Instead, reply and ask to schedule a call. Send a text message if the issue is time-sensitive: “Got your email, let’s talk. Would 2 PM work for you?” It’s even better to talk to the person face-to-face if you can. Diffuse the negative tone by stating up front that there seems to be a problem and you’d like to solve it together. As you try to find out what’s behind the snarky email, stay calm and avoid making judgments. Clearly, something is bothering your coworker, so show them that you’re on the same side and willing to listen to what they have to say.


-Maureen McGuire, PhD

mmcguire@mcguire-consulting.com

Adapted from "When an Email Exchange Turns Ugly," by David Maxfield

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