inboxSomeone takes credit for your work.

A project falls short of its objectives. When the boss asks how this happened, your co-worker throws you under the bus.

Social ineptitude. Imperious demands. Hostile feedback.

The workplace is replete with surprises, and often they appear in our inbox. So how do you respond?

When my instructor for an Internet class was teaching us the mechanics of email, she emphasized a point worthy of all caps: NEVER WRITE AN EMAIL WHEN MAD!

I scoffed. Surely, I thought, she does not practice what she preaches, but she maintained her stance against every challenge thrown to her by her students.

She pounded the message so deep that I started to come down with a sense “uh-ohs,” as I mused over the many emails I’ve had to write stressed and under deadline. I would never be dumb enough to communicate something I’d regret and have it immortalized in written documentation. But tone does not translate well over email, hence why we sometimes use unbusiness-like emoticons in our non-work emails.

“Sorry, I’m unavailable to assist with your project at this time,” written in response to an email requesting immediate help may read more like, “Too bad jerk. Do it yourself. I’m busy.” Interpretation depends on circumstances, and to some extent, your reputation in the office.

Just imagine how hard it is to respond to an email sent to your whole team by a co-worker who just stole a project from you that could lead to a hefty commission. Or in a similar scenario, your co-worker dumped a project on you that will take up your whole weekend, and he didn’t even consult with you.

Dearest readers, how do you respond to an incendiary work email? Do you take time to cool off? Do you type away, hit send and consequences be damned? Make phone calls instead? What happens when you respond while angry?

Please share your experiences and teach us how to handle workplace email transgressions.