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Stupid Boss Watch: An Open Letter to Email Abusers


By Ken Magill

Dear supervisor who hasn’t got the sense to realize how destructive criticism delivered via email is:

The following is a scenario I have witnessed many times. A colleague receives an email from her boss telling her what a crappy job she did on something.

Was the job truly crappy? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

What matters are the results: A serious amount of lost productivity.

First, she fumes for a time over what she has just read. It is at this moment that her productivity has ground to a halt.

Then she begins typing furiously. And typing. And typing. Then deleting, and then typing some more.

What is she typing? A response to your idiocy, that’s what.

Because of what you sent, every sentence she types has to be crafted exactly to answer you, rebut you, without sounding insubordinate—no easy task when one is pissed.

Then she shows the email to a colleague. If she’s smart, she doesn’t send the email to the colleague. She brings the colleague over to her computer, sits the colleague in front of her screen and asks the colleague to read it.

“First read the email [idiot supervisor] sent me, then read mine and tell me if you think it’s okay,” she says.

There, moron. Now you’ve got two people being unproductive because of your idiot piece of email work.

What is more, if your email is really entertaining, it’ll make rounds inside the company as people share your breathtaking jackassedness with one another.

I once worked for a publisher whose emails were often so over the top, they ended up being companywide entertainment. If it were possible to add up all the man hours wasted reading and ridiculing this guy’s emails, the figure surely would have been staggering.

But back to your email. Not only is the person who received it going to be unproductive while she responds to your message, she will be unproductive for at least the rest of the day.

Way to go.

And here’s the thing: This lack of production is entirely avoidable. It’s called a face-to-face meeting. You can deliver the exact same criticism face-to-face without the same productivity-killing results.

Think a face-to-face meeting takes too much time? Then you’re a self-important gas bag. It means only your time matters when arguably, the time of all the little do-bees who report to you is far more important.

And if they’re in a remote location, even a phone call is better than an email for delivering criticism.

Oh, and one other thing: Abusive emails can be printed out and put in a folder. Send enough of them and they become actionable.


Ken Magill


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