My e-mails today — though friendly — are often brief and to the point. The sentences are simple, and the punctuation is basic.
“Hi John. Please send me a copy of the check. Thank you.”
Of course, when writing to upper management, I’ll usually throw in a semicolon – just to show off that I know how to use one. (You never know when good grammar might score you points.)
“Hi Boss. The project is nearly finished; however, there’s been a delay in receiving a copy of the check. I reached out to John in Accounting, but because he’s not as committed to the company as I am, he’s been remiss in providing a timely response. Thank you.”
However, when I look at the e-mails I wrote as a new-hire, the obsequiousness is downright obnoxious. To compensate for my lack of confidence, I used a nauseating number of exclamation points and smiley-face emoticons.
“Hi John! You might not remember me, but I’m the new guy down the hall!!! I sit next to Emily! Isn’t she a hoot? 🙂 She’s been super, super helpful in getting me acclimated. Anyways, can you please send me a copy of the check? Only when you have a chance! I know you’re like, super busy and stuff, and I’m still learning, so just when you can! OK? Cool, and thank you!!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 :-)”
OK – that was a slight exaggeration. I wasn’t quite the shrill Valley Girl as portrayed above, but as a new employee, I did want to be perceived as friendly and eager to help.
I’m not sure where that enthusiasm went. I used to be the passionate newbie, but now I’m just the crotchety killjoy. These days, when a co-worker knocks on my cubicle for help, I just narrow my eyes and give them a Clint Eastwood snarl. That’s how bad it is.
It’s as if job longevity transforms us from fawning, ambitious sycophants to cantankerous, grumpy curmudgeons.
Over time, as we establish our roots in the position, the exclamation points and smiley faces start to dwindle, then disappear entirely. Blunt curtness replaces the once-cheerful tone of our interoffice correspondence.
Where once our writing exuded wholehearted passion, now it just drips with Dilbert-like cynicism.
I can always tell a new employee based on their e-mails: the deferential tenor; the overeager intensity. It reeks like the leftover salmon someone microwaved in the breakroom.
Come to think of it, microwaving fish in the breakroom might be the one instance these days where I’d use an exclamation point in a work-related e-mail.
“Note to employees: Someone this afternoon microwaved fish in the office breakroom, creating a rancid stench that’s offensive to our environment. And not to place blame, but I have a strong suspicion that it was John from Accounting! If you see him in the hall, please let him know how appalled you are by his thoughtless behavior! Not only is he a detriment to the team, but that incompetent jerk still hasn’t given me my check!!!!!”