Arré Checklist: Office Emails and What They Say About Us


Arré Checklist: Office Emails and What They Say About Us

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

After spending eleven long years in the corporate world, I’ve acquired a lengthy list of pet peeves that could power a weekly column for years to come. Right from annoying lunch habits to toilet etiquette, there is no dearth of things that can go wrong when people as different as chalk and cheese have to cohabit for eight hours a day. But of all the things that got my goat, emails were on the top of the list. Emails are like personality tests and not everyone comes off with passing marks. In every office, there is a small but distinguished group of worker ants who write emails that’ll make you want to bang your head against the wall, and yet others who make you wonder what they’re smoking. Email senders come in all shapes and sizes, and their emails will tell you just how far you should run.

The Soapbox Emailer

Everyone knows the golden rule of email correspondence: Two “Tos” and six “CCs”. If you somehow feel the need to involve more than eight people (eight people!) in your conversation about anything whatsoever, please reconsider either who you are, or where you work. Remember, when that email about paper clips snowballs into a heated argument involving 15 people (coloured clips vs metal pins, fascinating stuff), every new person receiving it is going to scroll down to see who started this shitstorm. Do you really want to be that guy?

The Overdramatic Emailer   

I’ve often wondered what is going through the mind of someone when he/she adds an exclamation point or puts the subject in all-caps. Is it a crisis? Are we on the brink of a nuclear war? Has the office cafeteria run out of idli? No? Then take that fucking exclamation point out of my face. No one cares. And if you’re in HR and you are about to send a mass email about Holi celebrations marked “High Importance”, please, stop. No one is coming to that thing. Just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

The Serial Emailer

Dude, if you sit two seats away from me and want a file, stop emailing me. The last thing either of us needs is one more email, and we could all do with a little more normal conversation in our lives (not the kind where you come over for a file and stay until you’ve learned all about my neighbour’s girlfriend’s cat). It’s a good time to give a special shout-out to those people who will request something on email, then come over immediately and tell you that they’ve requested something on email. Do you not… Can you just… But it’s so…

Why are you like this goddammit?!

The Passive-Aggressive Emailer

These are the people who will have every conversation face-to-face, except an uncomfortable one. While giving negative feedback or asking for something to be changed, they will choose the written format – because why would you speak to someone and convey something nicely when you can write a passive-aggressive email and leave them wondering WTF is going on? Classic phrases include:

“Thanks for this. Next time though, can you make sure…”

“As I mentioned two weeks ago, this is not what we need :)” (Bonus points for use of smiley face. You sir, are the doyen of passive-aggressiveness.)

“I could be completely wrong, but I am certain that this is in fact incorrect because of the eleven reasons I have written below by wasting forty minutes of my day.”

And so it goes. Please, dude, just do the old-fashioned thing of pulling the person aside and yelling at them. This way they can do the old-fashioned thing of cussing you when they’re out for a smoke break.

The Spam Friendly Emailer

No one minds a little humour in the workplace. But are you the meme-a-day dude? Every time you read an interesting article in the newspaper, are you forwarding it to your whole team? Has it been six months since anyone replied to one of these emails? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, please slow down and take a deep breath. Understand that no one is reading what you send, and that instead of being Bhavesh the Tech Guy and Cricket Fan and Coffee Friend, you’re now just Bhavesh the NaMo Enthusiast. When you quit, that’s what they’ll talk about at your farewell, and maybe they’ll buy a cake that says “Bhaiyon aur behenon”. Is that really what you want? No? Well then dial it down, Bhavesh.  

When it comes to emails, there is just one simple rule to follow. Do you absolutely, critically, definitely, just have to send this email? When in doubt – don’t. Give the rest of us a break. Maybe we can all have a few extra minutes a day to check MissMalini on the sly.