Email is used for a lot of purposes ranging from newsletters and marketing promotions to personal communications and frivolous spam. Your work email, however, should always be used for work-related purposes, and you should maintain a proper tone when using it.
One of the worst things you could do is to send an unprofessional email to your boss, so avoid doing these four things if you don’t want to damage your career:
1) Forwarding Spam/Chain Emails
Remember that you’re at work and try to look professional. You might enjoy messages that tell funny or touching stories, you may even seriously believe that you’ll be cursed with three years of bad luck for not forwarding that spammy chain mail, but you shouldn’t be looking at either while you’re on the clock.
Your boss might find these emails annoying and, more importantly, he or she might find it concerning that you’re spending time reading them instead of doing actual work in the first place. It’s better to save these kinds of emails for your own time and share them within your social circle instead.
2) Using Poor Grammar/Excessive Slang
You might be on pretty friendly terms with your boss, however, chances are high that when you’re emailing him or her it’s regarding something important, so keep your communications respectful and at least somewhat formal. You’re writing an email to your boss, not chatting around the watercooler.
Even when addressing an issue of only minor significance, it’s important to keep up appearances—avoid using too much slang, and make sure you proofread your message. Taking the time to make edits and corrections will prevent you from looking like you didn’t even care enough to proofread what you’re sending (which certainly would not be a good impression to give your boss).
3) Emailing Mid-Meeting
If you’re in a meeting it’s probably for a reason, and sending your boss an email during the middle of one can make it look like you’re not paying attention. Unless the topic is so critically important that it’s worth interrupting the meeting over, you’re likely better off waiting until after it ends to start an unrelated conversation.
4) Saying “No”
When your boss asks you to do something, it’s usually more of an expectation than a request. Don’t just flatout tell your boss you can’t or won’t do something, as that may make you look lazy or incompetent.
If there really is a problem preventing you from completing the request, then make the extra effort to explain it rather than simply declining to do what you’ve been asked, and try to offer possible solutions. Do you need help to get the job done? Is it going to take too much time? Make it known that you’ll need assistance, or ask if you can reschedule some of your other tasks to accommodate the new request. Your ideas could be rejected, but it’s still better to look like you’re trying to find real solutions than like you’re blowing off work.
There’s a time for casual communication and idle banter, but composing an email to your boss is not that time. Always keep your audience in mind when you write, and be sure to communicate clearly no matter who you’re emailing.