Per my last email - most passive aggressive email term
The Sector > Jobs News > Per my last email named the most passive aggressive work term – what else made the list?

Per my last email named the most passive aggressive work term – what else made the list?

by Freya Lucas

October 09, 2023

‘Per my last email’ is considered to be the most passive-aggressive email phrase, a new survey from education platform Preply has revealed. 


1,000 respondents were surveyed to learn more about passive aggressive email work conversations, with 83 per cent revealing they have received a passive aggressive email, and that 42 per cent of those people had received such an email from their boss or another superior. 


“Passive aggression can best be explained as unarticulated frustrations,” said Sylvia Johnson, Head of Methodology at Preply. “In some cases, these frustrations are articulated in a more formal tone, which can be seen as passive-aggressive while simply attempting to express frustration in a more passive way.”


What are the worst phrases?


Along with ‘per my last email’ other offensive language in emails includes: ‘correct me if I’m wrong’, ‘as I previously mentioned’.


Just a gentle reminder…’ and ‘thought I’d bring this to your attention’ were also on the most hated list, as well as ‘thanks in advance’. 


Copying in the boss or another supervisor for something very minor is also seen as a passive aggressive practice, with 47 per cent of respondents saying they had faced a situation where coworkers copied their bosses on emails regarding minor issues.


An increasing trend


Sending and receiving passive aggressive emails is an ongoing concern, with 50 per cent of those involved in the survey saying it’s a practice that has increased in recent years. 


As well as being frustrating, being sent a passive-aggressive email was also confusing for those involved, with nearly two-thirds of those surveyed saying coworkers who are friendly in person turn passive-aggressive over email.


If not addressed early, the trend of passive-aggressive emails can reduce morale, with the survey finding that nearly a quarter of people have quit jobs due to colleagues’ passive-aggressiveness.


In addition, 66 per cent of respondents reported that passive-aggressive communication induces anxiety levels potent enough to impede their performance at work. 


“This is likely due to employees being afraid to repeat mistakes and to agitate an already delicate situation,” Ms Johnson said.


Resolving any tension between coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates is the best way to improve productivity and ensure everyone is moving forward on the right foot.


How to respond


For those who are on the receiving end of these types of emails, Ms Johnson suggests taking the time to breathe, and walking away from the email to regroup. 


Once the feelings of annoyance pass, she suggests writing a draft, taking a few minutes to read it over, and then editing it before sending it again. 


“The message in question should be honest but also get to the root cause of the issue, so that there is no more confusion,” she added.


She also cautions that those on the receiving end of such emails should avoid contributing to the problem by copying in supervisors too early. 


Instead, she said, if issues are recurring, there should be a conversation in the first instance, and then escalation as needed. 


“If there are reoccurring issues between you and a work colleague, have a conversation with your supervisor first, who may then ask you to CC them on further communications, so they can assess the situation more closely,” Ms Johnson added.


She also encourages people to be self aware, and check their own tone when communicating by text. 


If you know that you are frustrated because someone has missed a deadline, but you don’t want to come off as confrontational, for example, choosing to be direct and honest instead of coating your email in phrases like ‘going forward’ and ‘per my last email’ is a great way of asserting yourself while also being upfront in your intentions, she added.


Instead she recommends being more direct and stating something along the lines of ‘I’m following up with you about the last email,’ as well as restating your request to make your communication clear and concise without overt seriousness or formality.


“If possible, hopping on a call or popping by to speak to your colleague in person is another way to communicate deadlines or requests clearly without any room for additional interpretation.” 


Emails are ripe for passive-aggressive communication since they’re often quickly written and brief. They also leave the door open to miscommunication. By realising their pitfalls, you can avoid misunderstandings and do your part to maintain harmony in the workplace.


Access the survey here

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