Leaders Never Send Passive-Aggressive Emails

Some leaders are afraid to directly address self-centered behaviors. Examples include messes, parking in the wrong spot, and abusing the printer or copier.

What happens then, is the leader (attempting to solve an obvious problem) sends out an all-purpose missive, rather than addressing people directly.

This is an error.

  • Because, the people it is directed to generally still don’t get the message.
  • Because, the people it is not directed to will know exactly who the leader is talking about.
  • Because, this combination of factors will damage both the leader’s credibility and the team’s loyalty.

Sometimes the message is even couched in cleverness, which doesn’t impress, but makes eyes roll. In the below example (from the real world – with some changes), the leader is addressing only 2 out of 40 people (!). Worse yet, it includes sarcasm. It would have taken less time (but would have been harder) to find and address those two people directly.

Happy Friday afternoon!

This e-mail is being sent out with this thought: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

A regular client of ours, Grace, brought in home-made scotcheroo bars for the office this morning. Grace is a very nice gal. As she offered me a bar, I said, “no, but thank you.” A fair amount of encouragement took place from Grace and others in the office to get me to eat a bar. I kindly replied, “if I eat one, I’ll probably eat another, then I might have another later in the day…just because I can have one, doesn’t mean I need to.”

An analogy…enter copier/printer in the upper and lower level pods into the discussion.

Just because you can print (500) copies from your computer, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can avoid the long-lines at central print, the inconvenience of the online central print submission (obvious sarcasm) by making (175) copies on your own, doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s make sure everyone on staff does their part to conserve resources and plan in a more proactive manner.

Have a great weekend!


Instead of sending an email like the one above, please make an attempt to address people directly.

It may be awkward and harder at first, but you will actually end the behaviors this way, and enhance your credibility and relationships.

4 Responses

  1. joel
    | Reply

    Hell Alan….I thought email was spectacular!

    You’re telling me,…I have to rethink all of my correspondence?! The funniest part of the whole email…was I could hear you in a very sarcastic tone delivering it! hahaha


    Best wishes!


    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      We all have room to grow, Joel. Right? Right!? Geeeeez indeed! 🙂 Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Jacque
    | Reply

    Agreed. But when you do address it directly and well if the other person is not capable of receiving and delivering return communication then even attempts to share constructive info does not go far

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Well, that turns into a new conversation. If someone is consistently insubordinate, something is very wrong; either with the leader (if this is widespread) or with the report (if it’s isolated). One of the two is likely not a fit and has to change, or be let go, right?

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