It Will Get You Farther at Work

Photo by Vinicius Wiesehofer on Unsplash

Did you know there is such a thing as “emailing like a woman?”

There is, and it’s not all good. It actually might be holding you back at work. As if women needed another thing to be holding them back in the workplace, right? According to Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University, “women tend to write longer emails and are more likely to use expression or — I am inclined to say — emotion” in their emails compared to men.

Sounds just like actual life, right?

Indeed.

And in general, this is not a bad thing. But when women communicate in a more personal style are being evaluated by superiors, using emotional or casual text can be perceived as frivolous.

It’s not an altogether bad thing to be informal in work emails. Women tend to form greater bonds, have closer friendships, and Tannen says that being emotionally transparent with team members can lead to greater trust and collaboration. That’s a good thing. Having trusted relationships at work is foundational to some level of success.

But on the other side, nonverbal communication that is more personal, even if it is intended to be humorous or lighthearted, can lead to misinterpretation. When making a joke in person, there is more room for clarification and feedback.

It’s not only humor that can go awry.

There are so many situations where women just say it differently, and shouldn’t. There’s a whole TikTok video doing a deep dive. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

So how do you email like a man?

It’s not that hard, really. Start with just a few simple changes to your girly ways.

  1. Don’t apologize if you don’t really need to.

Instead of saying, “I’m sorry I was late for that meeting,” try “Thanks for waiting.” Or replace “I’m sorry I can’t make the deadline,” with “I know you can appreciate how many projects I have going on.”

2. Stop using “I think” when you’re sure.

Don’t waffle, girl. Swap out “I think we will have enough staff to cover Friday’s event” with “We will have enough staff to cover Friday’s event” if that’s what you really mean. No need to hedge when you have the right answers.

3. Hold off on the mom-talk.

You don’t need to offer any sweetness like “stay safe,” “take care” or “say hi to the kids” in a colleague / business email, no matter how much you may want to. Even if you say these things to that colleague in person, save it for the water cooler. Why? That email might wind its way through a chain to management, so keep it simple. A mere “All best” or “Cheers” or a pro-forma signature line is just fine.

4. You don’t need to ask, “does that make sense?”

It does. It makes sense. If you’re not sure, rewrite it, but don’t ask. You can go with: “Let me know if you have any questions,” but steer clear of second-guessing yourself by asking if your well-written prose makes sense. You’re better than that.

Some tried and true ways to email more like the guys will help you build better work relationships and climb the ladder a little faster or at least not fall off it. Career coach Hannah Salton advises that stereotypically men tend to worry less about what people think and thus worry less about offending the recipient. That’s basically what we want to do — worry less, work smarter. Get where we’re going faster.

Good luck, girl. Enjoy your job, and your emailing. You deserve it.

Susan is a runner, a mom of 3 grown children, and an avid traveler. She writes about humans, and wrote a book about false accusations of sexual assault.

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