How leaders can forget the importance of email etiquette

You are fuming, and if you didn’t know better, you would think that your co-workers could see the smoke billowing from your ears. You’ve just finished reading an email from a partner organization that eloquently lays out how you and your organization are idiots. Of course, the individual wasn’t bold enough to flat out call you an idiot but instead utilized his or her written communication skills to manipulate the wording in such a way that anyone with half a brain could read in between the lines.

At least that’s how you read the communication, and as a result, you are ready to give this individual an electronic piece of your mind, and you don’t care who the individual has cc’ed on the message. So you immediately press reply all and begin typing away. After an hour of research, quotations, reviewing past emails, policies, and regulations to support your rebuttal, you do a quick Grammarly check, and you are ready to click send. All thoughts of email etiquette are gone, but STOP! Don’t send that email!

Email Etiquette

Email etiquette is critical to a leader’s communication

Leaders encounter situations like this regularly, and technology has garnered a new communication era for professionals. Electronic communication is a critical component of a functioning organization, and as such, leaders must learn proper email etiquette. Leaders must treat electronic communications such as email, texts, and social media as they would face-to-face or phone conversations.

Email etiquette is especially critical when emotions are involved. Most successful leaders understand the importance of emotional intelligence and have learned to communicate with difficult people and to control their emotions when direct communication is required. However, when that controversial email, post, or text arrives, leaders have difficulty accessing the part of the brain that houses their emotional intelligence.

How to avoid emotions and follow proper email etiquette

  1. Right-click on that eloquently written rebuttal and click on “Save as Draft”. Come back at the end of the day or, better yet, the next day and reread the email. Don’t be surprised if you are relieved that you didn’t click the send button
  2. Next, pick up the phone and give the individual a call; direct communication is a leader’s best friend.
  3. If a phone call or face to face isn’t possible and you must send that email, take a look at Jennifer Romoli’s article, “How To Write A Work Email When You’re Really Pissed Off “. Some tips she provides include reading the email out loud, erring on the side of formality, and keeping the email concise, direct, and to the point.

Email etiquette is an extension of leader professionalism

As the world becomes more digital and electronic communications become a staple of leadership in a post-pandemic environment, leaders must view email etiquette akin to traditional business communications. We wouldn’t expect an experienced leader to communicate to their team in an unprofessional manner if communicating in person, and the same should be said when communicating via email. The organization still expects leaders to display honesty, respect, and professionalism.

Another key point of consideration is that in today’s environment, the consequences for such actions can be detrimental. In a 2019 article in Forbes, contributor Laura Brown states that “the consequences of unwise email often stop short of litigation but still cause major headaches for the organization.” Here’s a quick tip. View every person in the “to” and “cc” line as a person standing in front of you.

Email etiquette is an extension of professional communication skills that we expect our leaders to possess. Leaders should have exceptional oral and written communication, and this extends to electronic communications. Don’t allow emotions to diminish those skills.


I am an everyday leader, consistently self-evaluating and reshaping myself as I gain better self-awareness. I count time in my head, and I strive on processes. I love anything to do with technology, Star Trek (especially The Next Generation), and I've recently begun collecting comics (at the age of 40!).

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