Contract Surety

Scathing Email?



What now? How dare they! All business leaders have the experience of unexpectedly getting slammed with an unexpectedly critical, and even nasty, email. What to do? Take a breath, walk away, and think carefully before putting fuel on the fire.

Don’t Burn The Relationship

Human instinct is to come back swinging—but in doing so, carefully built and productive business relationships come undone fast. It happens every day. You might have the best website and social media presence in your niche, but an angry email, even when it feels justified, can have a lasting impact on your brand, especially as it is likely to get saved, forwarded, and so on. In the big picture of what you are working toward, it’s important to avoid getting mired in an unproductive conflict cycle, as construction consultant Matt Verdaramo points out:

As a project manager, super, executive or owner, you have the power to build awesome relationships and projects despite the nasty emails you get. If you are able to respond professionally and keep your team focused you will avoid problems, prove that you are not like other contractors and everyone will be a lot happier … .There are a few ways to really leverage the power of ignoring nasty messages. Just because construction is a fast-paced industry doesn’t mean you should always trust — and act on — your immediate reaction….As humans, we only see the world through our lens. Naturally, we take the information we see in that lens, and start making assumptions about everything we can’t see….Ignoring a rude or annoying email and staying professional requires a change in mindset combined with the right habits.

Emails remain a critical communication tool in construction. In fact, though it’s not best practice, a lot of project management occurs through email. So, the next time you get a nasty surprise in your inbox, implement some time honored relationship strategies before firing off your reply:


  • Take a deep breath: When you get the upsetting email, stop and take a deep breath. Was it really that bad? Do I really need to freak out? Use your breathing to remind yourself of the type of person you want to be.
  • Move your body: Get up and walk the jobsite, take a stroll around your office, stretch your arms at your desk. Reading the email sent a pang of negative energy and anxiety into your body. Moving helps release it.
  • Put yourself in their shoes: Also known as “practicing empathy,” imagine you’re the person who sent you the email. What is it like to be them? What kind of pressure are they under? How could I have added to that pressure? Try to understand their perspective. It will help a lot.


After you have taken a pause, try to keep things in perspective—and summon your courage. It’s likely time to initiate a real conversation (lips moving…remember that?):


  • Look at the big picture: Odds are you are building a years-long, multimillion-dollar project with this person. You will need to talk to each other almost every day throughout that process. Once you start to paint that bigger picture … do you really want to do something nasty in return?
  • Pick up the phone: Pick up the dang phone and talk to the person directly. Most of the time, you misread something, or assumed a tone that wasn’t there. You can sort out all those problems on the phone without ever getting into a heated fight. Then, send your documenting email response.


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