Every office has its own set of email etiquette offenders. Maybe you’re the “reply all” guy, or the guy who doesn’t reply to any email at all. Whatever your M.O., the way you email your manager can set the tone for how you’re viewed at the company. Here, real bosses and career experts share their email pet peeves, so you can avoid getting on the bad side of the big guy’s inbox.
1. The Off-the-Clock Email
Your free time should be just that: yours. Never send your boss emails at a time or in a scenario when you generally expect to be unplugged, says Adam Rich, co-founder of Thrillist Media Group. “Shooting back a reply to get it out of the way may be tempting, but it will set up an expectation you will regret,” he says. That means no checking email while you’re out at happy hour, and definitely not while you’re on vacation. Your boss will only expect that kind of response if you set the precedent, and he’ll respect you for having a work-life balance, says LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams. “Once you start replying to work emails from the beach, it signals to your boss that you’re back to work even if you’re 1,000 miles away,” she says.
2. The “Look at This Funny Link” Mass Email
You may think it’s just a friendly gesture, but including your boss on a thread that’s not related to your job could be seen as an annoyance. “You can have your downtime, but don’t bring the whole team down into your obsession with the latest Gawker article,” warns Chris Dessi, CEO of Silverback Social.
3. The Saga Email
Just like you, your boss is a busy guy. Don’t waste your time or his writing a lengthy, detailed email that could be better communicated face-to-face, says Dessi. (He even prefers his employees get straight to the gist of the email in the subject line). A good rule of thumb: three sentences. “If you can’t say what you need to say in three sentences or less, then consider if it’s right for email,” says Rob Hilsen, director of corporate communications at HootSuite.
4. The Mid-Meeting Email
You might get your most brilliant ideas during this time, but sending an email during a conference call or meeting is one of the rudest things you can do, says Williams. Whether your boss is the one speaking, or you’re just sending him an email while someone else is talking, it could make you look like a jerk. “Even if people, especially the speaker, don’t say it, they feel very disrespected,” she says. “It’s essentially saying that your message is more important than what’s being discussed, which isn’t exactly professional.”
5. The Immediate Reply Email
Just because your boss sends you a note, it doesn’t mean you need to reply the very instant an Outlook alert pops up on your screen, says Williams. If a response is not time-sensitive, give it at least a few minutes. “Waiting helps you be more productive with your time and also gives you the chance to craft a more thoughtful reply,” she says. Plus, it’ll help you avoid being that annoying instant “Thanks!” reply guy.
6. The Complaint Email
Don’t say things like “I’m miserable!”, “I can’t take it anymore!”, or “I’m so frustrated, I’m ready to walk out,” says career coach Cynthia Shapiro, author of Career Confidential. These overstatements can get even more blown out of proportion when you send them in an email, where tone can easily be misread, making your boss feel that you can’t be counted on, or even trusted. If you do feel the need to complain via email, suggest three possible solutions to the problem to avoid looking like you’re just whining, suggests Dessi.“Show me you’ve thought about it.”