33% offended by language in work emails: UK study

Brits misinterpret tone of messages

A third of UK workers have admitted to becoming offended or upset after misinterpreting the tone or language used in email received from colleagues, says GMX.

The free webmail provider's 'Email and Work' study revealed that over the past year, 41 percent of Brits have received an email from a colleague that has used an offensive tone, intentionally or otherwise. GMX said scan-reading emails too quickly, one-line replies, rude typos and receiving irrelevant or overly detailed messages also contributed to upset among colleagues.

Over 70 percent of Brits admitted to becoming frustrated over the amount of time it takes colleagues to respond to emails they have sent. One in ten workers said they expected a response to their email on the same day, while a third of Brits claimed they get offended if they haven't received a reply with 48 hours.

Eva Heil, managing director at GMX, said: "While keeping on top of a bulging inbox is a common pressure for many workers, the research shows that unnecessary stress and upset caused by misinterpreting emails can be just as problematic. As well as managing our email efficiently, it can pay dividends to learn to interpret our work emails more closely."

GMX also revealed that 17 percent of workers say it is common to be reprimanded by a colleague over email, while 11 percent of men think it is acceptable to be sacked over email.

A quarter of UK workers also revealed the economic downturn has encouraged them to speed up the time it takes to reply to emails.

Internet psychologist Graham Jones said that the problem with email lies in the fact Brits can't use tone of voice or body language to interrupt the message.

"Take time to think about a message just received, rather than just bashing out a reply which you later regret once you've had time to interpret what the sender was trying to say," said Jones.

"Far too often people try to make their emails too formal and that makes it difficult for the receiver to really interpret what is being said. If you write an email as though you were talking to that person, you will be much more likely to succeed".

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Tags emailemail etiquette

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

PC Advisor (UK)
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