Email can serve as an early warning system. If you get a nasty gram from a boss or client, think about whether it is an indication of underlying unhappiness about the relationship or your performance — is there trouble in paradise? Discern the level of threat:
LOW: The most benign interpretation is that the email was not intentionally critical or rude. Tone is lost in an email. Find out, but not by email. Pick the phone or talk face to face. Acknowledge that you want to understand the intention and facts behind it. Do not be tempted to fire off a heat-seeking email missile in retaliation and don’t just hit the delete button– take time to seek out the person and win a friend.
MEDIUM: A medium threat means it’s time to pay attention. Can you tell yourself that it’s the sender’s problem? Yeah, maybe, but if this person has an impact on your future — now it’s your problem. Emails are performance records. For a medium threat you need to get to the bottom of the issue by talking in person, go the extra mile to solve it, and then send a written followup. You’ll lose if you make it your goal to be right… the client (or boss) is ALWAYS right. Not dealing effectively with a mid-level threat can lead to:
HIGH: If this is not the first hostile communication and/or the meaning is absolutely clear, the sender is unhappy with your performance, there are two likely scenarios:
- you need to fire this person from your life, or;
- you are danger of getting fired yourself.
Make it your quest to cut through whatever obstacles you can thus keeping your compensation in place until you turn the relationship around. This also buys you time if you decide to move on — and to do so on your own terms.
Question: Would less email and more in-person communication improve your performance or your relationships?