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PM Essence

How to Write an Angry Memo?

 

By - Heather Simmons, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

We've all been there. Something unpleasant happens and you need to respond right away. Sit down and write that angry memo. Use every ounce of vitriol, and get all those aggressions down on paper. Now what? Put it in a drawer. 

 

This is the best career advice I ever received, and it came from my first boss. In my first professional position I had an office with a desk, an electric typewriter and a rotary-dial phone. It was a long time ago. But wait there's more . . .

 

Wait. Wait until you've calmed down. Wait for an hour, wait for a day, but wait. Now, write the memo again. It will be less angry. Put that one in the drawer. Write it again. Repeat. How do you know when to stop? After some number of drafts you will end up with a positive document instead of a negative one. Something along the lines of  "How can we work together to solve this problem?" Now you can send it. 

 

This is the written equivalent of counting to ten. Few people can sustain an intense level of negative emotion for very long.

 

Having written down your anger, you have worked through your frustration, and you are now ready to approach the problem constructively. And the more time that passes, the more you realize that there are two sides to every altercation.

 

Sending the angry memo (or email) will only exacerbate the problem, and you will almost certainly regret it from the moment you hit the "send" button. But you really don't want to make it worse, you want to fix it. So wait.