BSAK Errors. I always loved the term … ”Between seat and keyboard.”
Normally it was my tech team just being cheeky with me about my withering technology chops. But …
… was thinking about a very common BSAK error that I see committed – the “flaming email.” Or when I worked at Accenture we called these “CLMs.” (career limiting maneuvers).
I know we’re all tempted to send them and I’d be disingenuous if I said I hadn’t sent some in my days. Sometimes they just slip out.
When I had a startup I had a method for avoiding these BSAK errors. I would write the email and be as scathing as I wanted to be. I would then send them to my business partner, Stuart Lander, so that somebody could at least read my witty prose. I would always ask, “Do you think I ought to send this?” But I didn’t really need to ask. I knew that the fact that I was sending it to Stuart meant it was likely a bad idea.
If he saved any of them it would be quite good for a laugh now, I’m sure.
Truthfully, it’s a great idea to write it if you can be disciplined and not send it. It’s cathartic. Take your most trusted colleague and have them be the recipient. Or your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, whatever. Only people you trust. It makes for a good laugh.
But isn’t that a waste of productive time?
Not really. It’s important to let some steam off to get over your anger of a situation. If you stay angry, you lose twice. If you never read my post on this topic I highly recommend it. Losing twice is dangerous in business. Having just re-read that post myself I see that I learned much more from Stuart than he would probably acknowledge.
Two to three times a year I get a flaming email from an entrepreneur. I’m not talking about mild sarcasm – I’m talking about a right swift kick up the arse. I usually chuckle when it happens. In any case I’m sure that there was usually some basis for their anger. I’m not perfect, that’s for sure. But often it’s also partly a misunderstanding.
Perhaps a meeting got rescheduled 3-4 times and they feel aggrieved. Yes, that’s terrible. I try not to let it happen. Sometimes it happens and I didn’t even know because my assistant Tasha handles my calendar bookings. She’s much more organized about this than I am. Sometimes it ends up being personal situations like when my wife had to leave town unexpectedly and I had to blow out some meetings to help with the kids.
The point is, unless you really know somebody’s situation – you don’t really know. And flaming emails are like driving cars aggressively. If you get cut off on a freeway you’re ready to start a fist fight with somebody who *may* have just made an accident. If you saw that same person face-to-face and they cut you off at a supermarket I’ll be you’d both react differently.
The same is true about email. If you’re really upset with somebody pick up the phone. You’ll get a better explanation of the situation. Or better yet see them in person if you’re really upset. In either case there’s less chance for misunderstanding … and there’s no living record of your rant.
It’s a small world. Everybody talks. Your satisfying moment of chewing somebody out who has wronged you will often sting you in ways you don’t see. It will be private conversations about “that person who went postal on me.” It won’t be a campaign of hate against you, it will be a reference call asking somebody, “have you ever worked with so-and-so? What do you think?”
It is NEVER worth it. Even if we all slip from time-to-time. Especially us sarcastic bastards who have slitting tongues.
Final note: I never try to write about an individual to send a message. Every time I post somebody writes me and says, “was that about me?” No, this wasn’t about you. It’s generic. I made sure to write it when I haven’t been flamed in a long time. I’m sending a message to everybody. And to nobody. And to you who still thinks it’s about you … trust me, I’m over it by now. It happens
OK, final, final note. If you’re not following Stuart Lander you should. Why? He’s wise and insightful. And maybe it will help encourage him to Tweet more goodness with some pressure on
Thank you to PhotoXpress for the image.
(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)