Rude work emails negatively impact employees and their families, says University of Illinois study

Washington: A rude email can not only stress out the recipient, but also affect their family members, a study has found.

As email communication becomes increasingly ubiquitous in all aspects of work life, email incivility — rude messages, non-urgent messages marked ‘high priority’ and time-sensitive messages sent with inadequate notice — has a ripple effect that crosses work boundaries.

 Rude work emails negatively impact employees and their families, says University of Illinois study

Representative photo.

The negative effects of email incivility extend beyond the recipient’s work and family domains and can even play a role in their partners’ withdrawal from their own work, said Young Ah Park, a professor at University of Illinois in the US.

“What I found in my previous study is that email incivility — this general rudeness over email, whether it’s the tone, content or timing of a message — really stresses people out on a daily basis,” Park said. “People who receive a greater number of negative, rude or just uncivil emails tend to report more strain at the end of their workday, which can manifest itself in all sorts of ways, from physical symptom such as headaches to feeling negative emotions,” she said.

“In this new paper, I found that email incivility has more persistent effects. It’s not merely a blip on your workday radar and then you forget about it. It has a cumulative negative effect for both workers and their families,” she added.

Researchers collected survey data from 167 dual-earner couples at multiple points in time during a typical work week: before leaving work for the weekend, the following Monday morning and at the end of the next new week.

Results show that when employees experience more frequent incivility via work email during the week, they tend to withdraw from work the following week.

“This is a typical stress reaction: When you are under great stress, you tend to avoid your work as a means of conserving your energy and resources and staying away from stressors. It’s self-preservation,” Park said.

The researchers also found that when employees receive more uncivil emails during the work week, on the weekend, “they ‘transmit’ their stress to their domestic partner and, as a result, the partner also withdraws from their work the following week,” Park said.

“What’s really stressful about email incivility is that, unlike face-to-face interactions, emails don’t have any social cues like tone of voice or body gestures that help recipients understand the context accurately,” she said.

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Updated Date: Jul 19, 2018 09:57:30 IST