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Office Email “Gunfights”

In the 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 have a negative impact on careers.

You know what I am talking about. E-mail 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.

With business emails being the “last man standing” is rarely the desired outcome.


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

If you do respond, do so in a non-emotional manner ignoring the other sides behavior or lack of professionalism. It is prudent to think before responding in kind — 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 make your point and be the one with the last word. That is not the type of approach that nurtures business teamwork, relationships and partnerships. There are many times when a lack of response is exactly the type of response you want to provide.

If I find myself communicating with demanding or terse personalities, I “kill” them with kindness. If the gunslinger on the other side just has to come back with more vitriol or nonsense to simply 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 some sort of feeling of accomplishment.

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

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