Years ago I ran a distributed "advanced technology" team for a software vendor who shall remain nameless (if not blameless). At its height there were five of us spread across three time zones, with me reporting to a CTO who lived in yet a fourth time zone. The remainder of the company's developers were all in a single location. If I knew then what I know now (thanks, in part, to that job), I would never have taken the gig in the first place. But it had its perqs and one of the people who worked for me has remained a good friend since.
Anyway, email was a major communication mechanism, with all the problems that implies - asynchronicity, different levels of writing skills (and different levels of reading skills, given it was an international company), and the lack of inflection. Our team was often tasked with explaining, again, why certain ideas and approaches were "non-optimal," yet because of politics and standard business practice we couldn't just come out and call someone an idiot, at least not to their face. Needless to say this got tiresome.
Over time we developed a way to direct a message to someone in the mothership and let other team members have a laugh while not triggering a warning from manglement about "unprofessional communications." The sarcasm protocol was established as follows:
- The email message had to start with "My esteemed colleague(s)."
- It had to end with "Have a nice day!"
The whole point was to generate a message in between those two "snark marks" that got the point across without raising hackles and yet would be side-splittingly funny to those "in the know." For example:
My esteemed colleague,
Upon deep study of your recommendation of Tuesday last, I must say I was taken by its originality in approach and enthusiasm of presentation. I certainly had never thought of such a solution, and it has occupied much of my thoughts over the past few days, causing me to return to it again and again for further contemplation. Needless to say, it will require much investigation and our team has already had many good discussions about it and what we should do with it, and have raised our appreciation of your ideas to upper management. We will certainly let you know if we have any follow-up questions concerning their feasibility.
Have a nice day!So, the next time you're ready to rip off that flame email, take a deep breath, step back, and then start again, beginning it with "My esteemed colleague" and ending it with "Have a nice day!" I think you'll find two benefits. First, you won't send out something you may later regret. And second, you can have a lot of fun doing it and maybe get rid of a bit of tension. Go ahead, give it a try!
Have a nice day!