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Stop and think when seeing red

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The majority of us have done it: sending an email in a fit of anger, not quite realising at the time that the best course of action would be to stop, take a few moments and review the situation later. If we did, chances are most of those emails would not be sent.

Many of us have been on the receiving end of such anger. Perhaps a client has been unhappy that you advised them to invest in a certain product some time ago and, now the stockmarket has plummeted, decided you are the person to blame.

Perhaps you are a recruiter and the candidate you placed hates the job they accepted and now blames you. Or maybe you are a trainer and one of your trainees failed their exam. Guess what? The easiest person to point the finger at is you.

Sometimes there may well be some blame to be apportioned but regardless of that fact it is important to remember how to control ourselves in our moments of anger. We put our kids in time-out to calm them down; sometimes we need to put ourselves there too. Walk away from the keyboard.

It is very easy to scream and shout at someone via email; far easier to rant and rave behind a screen rather than in person. But if we would not say something to someone’s face, should we be saying it in an email?

I think most would agree that it is wrong to send an abusive email to anyone regardless of circumstance but people still do it. Some do it habitually whereas others do it in a one-off moment of madness.

Either way, you have to ask yourself: is it wise to send an abusive email to someone we do not actually know thinking that it therefore does not matter?

The financial services profession is very well connected: there is always someone who knows someone who knows someone. They could be the next person who interviews us. They could be our boss in the future. They could be someone who is very well connected and our name might just crop up in conversation one day as an example of someone who behaved in a way that they should not.

I am sure most would agree that there is absolutely nothing wrong with emailing someone if we are unhappy with a product or service we have received. In fact, any good customer-facing company would be glad we had emailed them so that they have the opportunity to put things right.

But there is a difference between an outraged email full of ranting and expletives, and a well thought-out email with constructive comments and feedback.

It is worth remembering that an email can be saved forever, unlike a conversation that cannot be re-played. A badly thought-out email sent in the midst of anger could damage the sender in the long term. Best to think twice before clicking send.

Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training

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