I get a lot of wonderful fan mail. But the nasty emails are the ones that you can really learn something from. Take this one (please!), that I received recently:
“You are an idiot; the main thing wrong at my workplace is management. Same as the last job. It would be nice to be treated as an equal in all areas, not just when I come in late once every two years and get dinged for it. Most punks half my age don’t know what work is, just a bunch of whiney spoiled brats with greasy spiky hair. I deal with hundreds of slackers too lazy to click three times to find an answer or listen to a front end message to call the write extension for help, including most of all “management”. What a bunch of losers. 50% of my coworkers have at least two years on the job and are clueless.”
I guess you could call this a target-rich environment, because there is so much to comment on…
Let me start with his opening—“You are an idiot.” What a great way to motivate your reader to want to keep reading what you’ve written. The problem is that most of us forget that old rule that you’ll always get more with honey than with a smack on the butt—at least that’s what my mom told me when I was just a little sprout.
If the game that you’re playing is to be self-righteous and burn every bridge, then of course lead with a vicious attack targeting your reader. Heck, throw in a choice vulgarity while you are at it. However, if you’d like to see something positive come from an interaction, stick to the facts and you just might get your reader to listen to what you have to say. Just a thought.
I do like that he blames management for the problems at this job and his last one. After personally responding to over 50,000 emails from bosses and employees, you don’t have to convince me that there are a lot of bad bosses out there. But there is a point when you have the same problem following you around from job to job—where you have to ask what is the “common denominator” here? And more importantly, there is the “it takes two to tango” rule—how do you contribute to the problem? I always try to ask these questions before I attack someone else.
Then there is his diatribe on the “losers” he is forced to work with. Again it’s all, “they do this,” “they do that.” Okay, you are thinking that I’m beating up on this poor guy. But to me this is the greatest example of why the workplace is getting so nasty and difficult to maneuver through; because this guy isn’t alone. There are so many people out there screaming “they, they, they” when, ironically, they could probably be happier and learn more if they spent more time exploring “me, me, me.” But we can only make this leap when we are thinking rationally and able to muster some real introspection, something few of us have any time or inclination to do any more.
I know that work is tough; even demoralizing some times. But I do think it’s interesting that in just one paragraph this guy attacked me, management and the losers he has to work with. Wow, isn’t this great energy that you’d like to spend 40 hours a week with? Again, it’s too easy to blame just him. The important question is to look in the mirror to ask, “What baggage do I bring to work each day?” And, “How hard is it to put up with me on a daily basis?”
Then there is the key reference that explains the entire diatribe, “Not just when I come in late once every two years and get dinged for it.” The guy clearly got busted for something he did wrong. Rather than acknowledging his mistake, he goes on a rampage to expose every “wrong” and “loser” in today’s workplace.
And that’s why this is the perfect email to sum up everything that is wrong with work. Because rather than taking a slice of humble pie about a mistake, he goes on the attack. So throw stones until your heart’s content—just remember by doing so you blow the opportunity to begin the journey toward a better workplace.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.