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Passive-Aggressive Email Phrases to Avoid

Published on Tuesday, 21 Jun 2016

It’s incredible that email is now the main channel of communication in the workplace, yet so many people still seem to commonly commit email errors such as replying to all unnecessarily or sending emails to the wrong recipient. Unfortunately, along with the other pitfalls to email use, corporate professionals are also guilty of overusing passive-aggressive email phrases in their correspondence, much to the annoyance of their colleagues. 

Here are some of the top passive-aggressive email phrases to avoid and why if you want to stop offending your peers in the office.

“Thanks in advance...” This commonly used phrase usually follows a request and annoyingly implies that the recipient is already locked in to help with the request. No one liked to feel like they have been essentially locked into a commitment they didn’t make for themselves. If you continue to make requests with the assumption that everyone else will be agreeable, you will soon have a reputation for being pushy or bossy, neither of which descriptions you should be striving for in the workplace.

“Can I send you...” Unless you are sending a physical object through the mail, there is no point in sending an email simply to ask to send a follow-up email. By asking permission, you force the receiver to basically promise that they will commit their time and attention to whatever you may be sending. Plus, you waste their time with two emails. Just send what it is that you want or need to send with a full explanation. Your colleague will appreciate the brevity and forwardness.

“I hope you don’t mind...” This statement means you’ve done something you know you shouldn’t have done without permission or authorisation to do so first, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, and are now (sort of, but not really) apologising for it. This is a horrible way to work and is extremely unprofessional.

“Checking in” or “circling back...” Both phrases are often used by those who are micromanagers who don’t trust that others are doing their jobs well. It pretty much indicates that you need to know and monitor how everyone else is progressing with their work. This feeling of mistrust or lack of confidence in your team’s abilities will eventually lead to problems in the future so stop checking in. Find ways to discuss next steps instead, as it implies progress and a forward-thinking attitude.

“I want to make sure that you’re aware...” This passive-aggressive phrase is usually found in a follow-up email regarding a topic. It can be misconstrued as a jab at someone for not paying attention to something that you deem important that they may not. The phrase can also sound condescending, like others wouldn’t have been able to learn or be aware of something without you pointing it out to them first.

“I’m looking forward to...” Whatever it is that you’re looking forward to, you either force the recipient to respond positively or make them look like bad team players. Again, don’t automatically take it for granted that everyone else is eager to work with you or help you with your project. The only time this phrase is truly acceptable is when something has already been agreed upon and you’re following up to indicate your excitement.

“Let me clarify...” This is perhaps one of the most infuriating phrases we see in the business world. Communication should always be clear and succinct. If it requires the need for further clarification, you didn’t do your job well the first time in explaining the issue. However, by using this phrase, whether intentional or not, it turns it towards the reader, subtly implying that the misunderstanding or need for more details is their fault. Often times, this phrase comes off mean or condescending and should be erased from the office lexicon.

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