Home » Business Email Etiquette Blog » Office Email “Gunfights”

Office Email “Gunfights”

Business email "gunfights."

In cowboy movies, gunfights usually end when there is only one person left standing.

Office gunfights are a bit different. While not life-threatening, they can negatively impact careers.

You know what I am talking about. Email differences of opinion or misunderstandings between coworkers, or managers not yet versed on how to relay the proper intent and tone, leads to ongoing back-and-forth. The conversation then escalates each time the Reply button is hit.

Being the “last man standing” is rarely the desired outcome when it comes to business emails.


As the “fight” ensues, those less professional gunslingers become apparent. They begin to Cc: superiors or management and e-tattle rather than communicate from the point of knowledge and courtesy.

Those who make that play do not realize doing so will reflect poorly on them. Not the person they are trying to tattle on.

If email discussions ever degrade to that point, it’s time for a face-to-face meeting. Or a phone call, at the very least.

When Discussions Degrade

When you find yourself in the beginnings of a gunfight — wait until the next day to reply — if at all. Don’t worry about the expediency expected in business email replies, especially if there is no time-sensitive reason for an immediate response.

If you respond, do so in a non-emotional factual manner ignoring the other side’s behavior or lack of professionalism. It is prudent to think before responding, especially when the other side is clearly gearing up for a face-off at high noon.

Hopefully, you are not one of those with a narcissistic personality that commands you to make your point and be the one with the last word. That is not the approach that nurtures business teamwork, relationships, and partnerships. Often, a lack of response is exactly the type of response you want to provide.

“Kill” Them with Kindness

If I communicate with demanding or terse personalities, I “kill” them with kindness. But, if the gunslinger on the other side has to come back with more vitriol or nonsense to get in the last word, I let them.

My ego is not wrapped up in proving I am right to those who don’t know what I do or who lack an open mind to be made aware of information or facts they have not considered. Nor do I have the innate need to get in the last word so that I have a feeling of accomplishment.

Always take the high ground and realize there are good and bad guys in every gunfight. Choose to be the guy wearing the white hat, and your career will benefit from that approach!

Share the knowledge!

Similar Posts