Impolite Emails Could Ruin Someone's Mental Health: Study
Thu, April 22, 2021

Impolite Emails Could Ruin Someone's Mental Health: Study


A new study showed that rude emails could be detrimental to mental health. If a person was exposed to such emails, it could negatively impact their ability to complete tasks in the workplace.

The association between rude emails and work performance was led by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Researchers determined that rude emails could negatively influence the mental state of people. In a workplace, an employee who reads one might fail to accomplish work-related tasks, such as meeting deadlines and finishing projects. Also, rude emails might result in physical stress. They published their findings in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Emails Clients and Enraging Email Jargons

Electronic mails or emails have substantially improved communications between people and businesses. This is because emails are received and sent at an incredible speed, often within seconds, between contacts. As such, traditional mailing services have to divert their potential to serve customers better. While emails are positive in terms of speed, that speed has been exploited by many to send harsh messages quickly.

According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, several email jargons were hated by many people. In a survey by Adobe Consumer Email Survey, a total of 1,001 US people responded between June 21 and 27, 2018. They were asked the worse email jargon. And out of many jargon, the "not sure if you saw my last email" was at the top at 25%. It was followed by "per my last email" at 13%, "per our conversation" at 11%, "any updates on this" at 11%, "sorry for the double email" at 10%, "please advise" at 9%, "as previously stated" at 9%, "as discussed" at 6%, and "re-attaching for convenience" at 6%.

Meanwhile, a survey by Litmus Email Analytics between March 1 and April 1, 2019, showed the most popular email clients worldwide as of March 2019. The Apple iPhone email client was the most popular at 28%. It was followed by Gmail at 26%, Microsoft Outlook at 9%, Apple iPad email client at 9%. Apple Mail at 8%, Yahoo Mail at 7%, at 2%, Google Android email client at 2%, Samsung Mail at 2%, and Thunderbird at 1%. Some of the emails included in the survey might no longer be available and likely integrated into proprietary-owned services.

Rude Emails Could Ruin Workflow

Not every employee gets a positive or neutral email. There are many who receive negative emails more times than they can count. Sometimes, the emails are sent by superiors but there are times equal-level colleagues do it. Rude emails from coworkers can be an adverse force to mental and physical health, and lead to a ruined workflow. In today's current situation, the likelihood of rude emails might be higher due to remote work.



A team of researchers investigated how rude emails could harm mental health, enough to ruin performance at work. To figure out how intense the negativity might be, they surveyed 233 employees in the US. They asked the respondents about their email experiences, specifically impolite emails. Then, they collected the evaluations from survey respondents. They also examined the spillover effects of rude emails on the wellbeing and work performance of respondents.

To provide more concrete evidence, researchers asked respondents to provide examples of rude email encounters, like uploading or describing them. Reactions from these unfriendly encounters were collected from respondents as well. After that, the team analyzed the content and description of each foul email encounter. Then, they classified the forms of rude emails. The two forms of rude emails were active rudeness and passive rudeness.



Based on the responses, active rudeness referred to emotionally charged emails. While passive rudeness referred to negative emails tainted with uncertainty. A person who received emails with active rudeness would likely encounter derogatory remarks. These remarks might rile up the email's recipient, particularly thinking that they were being mistreated. On the other hand, emails with passive rudeness could reflect silent treatment. Although the emails might not rile up the recipient, they could be left with negative feelings linked to doubts, fears, and worries.

"Because emails are securely stored, people may have a tendency to revisit a disturbing email or constantly check for a response that they requested, which may only aggravate the distress of email rudeness," said Zhenyu Yuan, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of managerial studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, quoted US magazine Psychology Today.

Once a person reads an impolite or rude email, the negative message could leave a mark in the reader's mind. If they could not shake it off, their mental and physical state would be affected throughout the day. Physically, they might experience rapid breathing and increased heartbeat due to anger or frustration. They might also suffer from insomnia at the end of the day. Mentally, their mind might be filled with negative thoughts. The thoughts could affect their work performance. They might also spread the thoughts to coworkers or family members at home, who had no idea of what happened.

Bryan Robinson, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, recommended some steps to handle impolite or rude emails. Despite being difficult to handle, the effects of reading rude emails could be mitigated by certain preparations. Before reading an email, the person should take a deep breath and clarify their mind that may spoil the message. This reduces the odds of being subjected.

After reading the email, the person should not reply immediately. They can take their time to fully understand the intent of the message in an objective manner. Once the likely intent is determined, they can formulate a reply but it does not mean they have to send one immediately unless demanded by the message.



It is never easy to handle impolite emails or online messages. Unfortunately, there is no standard way to mitigate the effects. The ability to mitigate the effects differs for everyone. But one thing everyone can do if they are unprepared for an onslaught is to detach oneself from a stressful day. One can mentally detach to allow positive things to get in.