How to respond to rude email at work

Updated February 21, 2017

We have all gotten emails that made our jaws drop. Sometimes you do things to the best of your ability--and are as nice as can be--but people can't seem to be professional (especially at work)--or show a shred of decency. While you're on the job, however, it is important to keep things cool because you represent your company, can affect future business and can impact your job with the wrong words. So instead of responding to a rude email with "an eye for an eye"--sit back, breathe and read this first!

Do Not Respond Right Away

If you need to spout out a draft of a letter just to get things out your head, be sure to hit "discard" when you're done instead of "send." Take time away from the message if there's not an urgent response deadline. Sleep on it. Think about how to proceed in a way that will show that you are more professional--and a lot more classy. Whatever you do, do not respond right away. You could blurt out emotional slurs and add fuel to the fire. Instead, take a water cooler break or leave the message for tomorrow.

Start Off Politely

If someone has sent you an especially cruel email, you don't have to respond as if you're happy to receive their aggression, but you should be polite. A simple, "Thank you for your message" sometimes sets things off on the right foot. Let him or her know that you appreciate the feedback.

Offer a Solution

Sometimes you can get off by saying, "Thanks for your message; I'll get back to you shortly," just to offer a prompt response (also super-professional!) But when you need to respond to a nasty email message, whether it's from a coworker or a customer, it's important to be kind first, but get to the meat.

You can say that you understand he or she feels upset about the issue, but then restate your objective for the project. For example: "I'm sorry to hear that you don't agree with our new strategy, but our goal is to help the overall organization." Offer to discuss it further to help resolve the problem.

Again, you may want to punch his or her lights out, but you're at work and the best thing to do is to be professional. Offering help and being a team player will take you far. And if you have to run a mile after you see that person every day, because you feel so angry at him or her and need the release, so be it. Release your anger constructively; you don't have to like someone to be professional.

Stand Your Ground

If there's name-calling involved, you don't just have to sit and take it! There's a way to be direct and set down boundaries in your message without sounding as crude as they are. Sometimes, saying something as simple as, "I appreciate your feedback, but think it may be more effective if presented in a more constructive manner," does the trick. It's important to let the person know that while you accept constructive feedback, you are on the job and things need to stay professional. There's nothing wrong with reminding him or her of that. Kindly, of course.

People often sound like children when crafting emails, and quite frankly, don't know how to choose the right words. When they do this, it's OK to talk to them like they're five (as long as you are polite, even though you really want to hit them through the screen). That's just my opinion, but I've had a ton of good responses--and apologies--after being calm and rational, even if I have to give it the "Now, now, dear" approach. (I think it also helps people to see what imbeciles they are acting like when they see how tastefully I handle the matter!).

Things You'll Need

  • Gym sneakers or rubber ball (for physical aggression)
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This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.