Misunderstandings at the Office

E-Mail's Brusque Tone Brings an Old- Fashioned Backlash at Some Firms

Cites consultant Kerry J. Sulkowicz
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Just before heading out the door one afternoon, [Jessica Lipnack] said she got a call from her lead investor saying that he didn’t like a phrase in one of the slides. Lipnack dashed off an e-mail to [Carrie Kuempel] along these lines: “Hey here’s some feedback from Bruce. Just one person’s opinion, but he thinks [this phrase] looks too trivial.”

In the Vault survey, 37 percent of respondents said they hated the smiley face and 63 percent said they didn’t. Lipnack said she uses smiley faces only with “e-mail mavens.” But she thinks that people may get over their aversion to the little guys once they’ve experienced enough confusion–people like Bonnie Barhyte.

Barhyte, vice president for international training at the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, has seen humor misfire in her organization. After the academy held a drawing to reward a lucky employee with free tickets to an event, congratulatory e-mails flew around the office. One jokester remarked in his e-mail that the drawing must have been rigged. He was baffled at the angry responses. “Some people thought that this person was really accusing people of having rigged the drawing,” Barhyte recalled.

Written by Sarah Schafer