How Do You Deal With the Email Bully?


The email bully is my nemesis. Even though you might not have heard this term before, I’m sure you have run into her before.  This is different than the hard-to-deal-with-person who is always difficult or unpleasant. Email bullies are often engaging and charming in person and over the phone; however, they use terse language and are quite demanding through their email communication.

email bully

When I see a case of EB come across my screen, my first instinct is to give the person the benefit of a doubt since it’s virtually impossible to attribute “tone” to a short email message. But then there’s the inevitable second and third emails. Then the case is confirmed: email bullying. Here are the symptoms:

Every situation is an out-of-control crisis.

Everyone gets copied on the email.

Rampant usage of ALL CAPS.

Long and extremely verbose language.

It’s interesting that the same person who comes across so harsh on an email, often will be cordial and professional on the phone and quite pleasant when you talk with them face-to-face.

So here’s my question:

How do you deal with the Email Bully who is charming and cordial in any other form of communication when you don’t have a close relationship with them?

  • I don’t get it. You realize that there is something like “Spam” folder in your mail app/webmail app ? If I don’t like emails, messages someone is sending me I’m just ignoring that person. No matter how “engaging and charming”  that person is..

    • Yarbdaddy

      As a pastor I know what you’re talking about. I do this & encourage our staff to do the same: 1) assess if the issue is valid … then 2) pick up the phone to call them or 3) ignore it & move on.

      • I like that. In my business, I cannot ignore a client who’s being a bully. So It’s always, picking up the phone and talking. But would you address the issue of the how their emails are coming across?

    • sometimes you cannot afford to ignore the EBs…

    • I worked for an email bully… and there was no way I could ignore the emails without being just as passive aggressive as he was being.  

      After my first year of sitting through staff meetings where cordiality ruled the day, only to be followed up by an email blast that needed to be handled with asbestos gloves, I got to the point where I responded to every email by walking the fifty feet to his office and asking him to clarify.  I would do this in staff meetings as well.  

      It cut down on the emails sent to me, but the venom of his emails and his unwillingness to go there face to face nearly killed the organization.

      •  Ah, the passive aggressive jerk.

        • Gee, I didn’t mean to offend you… but you didn’t have to go and start calling me names!  🙂

          Yes, in many ways passive aggression ruled the day in that organization.

    •  I lot of the time these are your clients, boss and people whom you depend to get your work done and livelihood. Ignoring is not an option.

  • (assuming there is no way you can avoid them…) if you do get to interact with them in person, perhaps just gathering the courage to speak to them about it. something i’ve learnt and team my team is the use of  “I” statements instead of focusing on them e.g. when you use all caps or write this way in an email, “I feel…” speak about why the feel it is necessary to copy some people even if the email is not necessarily pertinent to them…

    In short… I guess nothing like good ol’ fashioned confrontation will be your ultimate solution… good luck!

  • Rick Perez

    I deal with one of those…drives me crazy…I think he does it on purpose…some sort of control thing and a power play…I agree I have found that more conversations and meetings help avoid that…but you have to be very intentional about it because it takes more time and energy away from your other projects…However, long term its helped create more fluid lines of communication even though I still dont trust the guy. 

  • Bryan

    Call…always call. Bullies in person or email are always hoping to exhibit a response similar to there attitudes which then gives them power. You take the power out of there hand by direct conversation.

  • Bryan

    their* attitudes and their* hand….what is wrong with me ha

  • Stacy

    EB is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. It is a huge NextGen issue as well and it carries over to the Facebook/social media world. The only effective response I have found is to talk person-to-person with the party, preferably IN person. I am an anti-confrontational person and I would prefer to avoid people who carry an offense and/or publicize an offense, but avoidance never works. Taking the time to address offenses in person, while often messy and never easy, validates the person’s emotion of feeling hurt while not allowing that person to hide behind a computer screen and throw darts. As well, it offers an opening to discuss appropriate and biblical ways to deal with offenses. It doesn’t always change the person immediately, but it may cause the person to think twice the next time he/she goes on a “keyboard attack” if the person knows they will have to answer for accusations in person. Unless they just like the attention, which is the case for some of the NextGen bullies.

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