10 Things You Should Never Say in a Work Email


There was a time when email was not a part of your everyday work life. That time has passed. Status updates, memos, internal correspondence — almost everything comes by email now. This is the paperless office. However, with increased speed and efficiency comes a serious drawback: Everything you write can be monitored, forwarded, or printed out and shown to anyone, at any time.

An email is not fleeting, and if you say the wrong thing, it can haunt you. So if you regularly use email at work, here are 10 things you should never say.

1. "I Hate This Place."

You may very well be seething because of a recent decision, or corporate restructure. However, airing your grievance like this in an email could really come back to bite you. Even if you say it tongue in cheek ("Man, they gave us free donuts again today, I hate this place!") it could be taken the wrong way. By all means: vent! Share your frustrations with trusted coworkers, and your close family and friends. But never send out an email to someone telling them you hate your employer, or your job. Because when it's time to lay someone off, who better than the person who hates working here anyway?

2. "I'm Calling in Sick Tomorrow."

Unless you are genuinely sick, and have a feeling you won't make it in the next day, this is not a phrase you want out there. It basically means "I feel like a day off, screw it, I'll just take a sickie." Although many of us have done this at some point in our careers, it's not professional and it puts other people at work in a bind. They have to cover for your "sick day," and the company has to pay for it. Flaunting abuse of a sick day is just a bad idea, and if HR picks up on this, or the person you send it to takes umbrage with it, you could be in trouble.

3. "I'm Looking for Another Job."

When times get tough at work, or layoffs look imminent, the first course of action for many people is to start looking for another job. There is nothing wrong with that — your employer will not be the one paying your bills if they dump you, and you need to take care of yourself first. However: looking around is one thing… but admitting it, especially in an email, is something else. You may think that if people do think you're looking for work elsewhere, they'll do anything to try and keep you around. Maybe even give you a raise, or a promotion. That rarely happens. Most likely you will be looked upon as a troublesome employee who is not giving the job your best effort.

4. "[Name] is So Hot."

Any kind of talk that could lead to proof of sexual harassment, even if it seems completely innocent to you, is not something you should be putting in an email. You do not want this ever being shown to you as a reason you were inappropriate at work.

5. "That's Not My Problem."

This may be completely accurate. Someone may give you a task to do, or a problem to solve, and it really isn't your problem. But, don't say that. The instant reaction to that phrase is "Well, that person isn't much of a team player" or "They don't care about the company, just themselves." If it is something you cannot help with, say it in a more understanding way: "I really wish I could help with that, but it's outside my area of expertise." If you can help, and it will not eat up too much of your time, then help. But never say "It's not my problem." You look dismissive and unhelpful.

6. "I Don't Care."

You may mean it. You may be displaying a little sarcasm. Either way, don't say to anyone that you don't care. At the very least, it makes you look uninvolved, even if you were trying to be nice. "Hey, what color should we use on the new product line?" "Oh, anything is good, I don't care." Well, you should care, even if you were trying to empower another employee. Find another way to be easygoing, without saying you don't care. And if you mean it in more of a "I don't care about this place or this job," you should definitely shelve that. Would you want to keep someone around who didn't care about the business or their projects?

7. "I Got Really Drunk Last Night!"

Well, that may be, but a work email is no place to talk about it. These days, especially with social media and everyone having a camera on them at all times, corporations are very wary of how you represent yourself in public. You are, after all, their employee. As such, and it varies from company to company, you are representing them at all times. Being off-your-face drunk may have been a blast, and many of your friends and co-workers may have been there too, but don't admit to this in an email. To be fair, there's really no need to be discussing non-work related events in a company email anyway.

8. "Delete After Reading."

Whatever you're about to write, if you need to preface it with that, you're on very shaky ground. It's most likely you're about to be disparaging, or to say something very sensitive that could get you and the company in a lot of trouble. Plus, nothing is ever really deleted. Even if you trust the person you're sending it to 100%, copies are kept on servers. There is no such thing as deleting (just ask Beyoncé… or perhaps even Hillary Clinton). So, don't write that, or anything that needs it as a disclaimer.

9. "Party at My Place!"

Parties. Barbecues. Get-togethers. All of them happen all the time, and many happen with the people you work with. This isn't surprising, we spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our friends, and even our family. But, using work email to organize a boozy shindig is not a good idea. This is a personal event, it should be organized through personal emails. If anything were to happen at the event, it may also bring the company into the situation. "Was this a company sanctioned event? Why was it organized through your company?" Just leave the invites to Gmail and Evite.

10. "Just Between You and Me…"

Just stop right there. There is no "you and me." Whatever you think you can share with someone over the company email, you can't. If it's a personal matter, keep it to your personal emails. If it's a company matter, have a phone call or meet them in person in a closed room. There are obviously times when personal company information must be shared between managers, executives, or other people in the corporation. However, there is a right way to go about it, and a wrong way. Starting an email with that opening is definitely the wrong way.

Have you gotten into trouble from something you wrote in an email? Have you heard stories about people who have? Let us know.

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Guest's picture

Thankfully I can't think of a time when I have done any of these but number 8 is really important. There is always a record of your Email, even if you think you've deleted the evidence.