Email stress causes workplace anger

Jobs recovery tipped

By Zsa-Zsa Bowie Wilson

Unprofessional and overly complicated work emails are driving Aussie staff to distraction as they try to figure out how to interpret them.

A new psychological study examining the affect of email on workplace stress found “poorly crafted” messages just as stressful as receiving high volumes of emails.

Provisional psychologist, Rowena Brown, who conducted the survey of 218 staff from the University of Queensland, said badly written emails were causing anxiety among workers who struggled to reply to them.

“An unprofessional email is a message that maybe overly complicated, quite ambiguous, emotionally-driven or just requires clarification,” Ms Brown explained.

“Complex and emotionally-driven emails may complicate the message and allow room for misinterpretation. They can also contribute to work-related stress, such as feeling overloaded as well as impacting on job satisfaction and working relationships.”
Ms Brown revealed that employees found badly written emails to be the source of some staff friction including disagreements over work-related activities and responsibilities.

“Feeling stressed, overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted are other common strains caused by emails,” she added.

The study, which also looked into how quantity of emails affected employees, found that while large amounts of email were found to increase stress levels it also lead to reports of increased job satisfaction among staff.

 “Email is a double-edged sword. We know that email can help employees to feel engaged with and connected to their work colleagues, however the impact of a poor quality email, combined with the expectation to respond immediately, can create unnecessary stress,” Ms Brown said.

She advised employees struggling with email overload to prioritise their inbox when it came to replying and to delete all spam and unsolicited emails.

“Check your email first thing in the morning and then establish specific times during the rest of the day,” Ms Brown said.

“When sending emails keep them professional and concise and avoid writing long, emotive or ambiguous messages. Spend time on them.

“Remember that email has limitations and something that you have written may not be interpreted in the way that you expected it to be so it might be better to actually engage in a face to face conversation.”

Ms Brown said employers should also establish clear guidelines and policies on what was considered appropriate email etiquette in their workplace.

“How we communicate reflects upon ourselves and the organisation that we work for so it stands to reason that all emails sent at work should be of a professional standard.”

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