Surprising new study reveals people don’t like passive aggressive jerks

A new study from the software company Adobe has determined exactly which phrases are annoying people the most in their work emails. While the results could be used as a cautionary guide of which expressions to avoid, I think the findings go deeper than that.

The real message is that a lot of folks are jerks at work, and other people don’t like it.

For this study, Adobe polled over 1000 office workers as a part of its annual Consumer Email Survey, asking the participants to identify their most hated email phrase. The number one most egregious example of detestable expressions says it all.

Survey respondents particularly hate: “Not sure if you saw my last email…”

Right. Of course, they do. Because the person who is sending you that phrase knows that you saw their email. They are using a passive-aggressive follow up to nudge you into responding. Why? Because for some reason they don’t want to come right out and say something direct such as:

“I know you’re busy, but I am at risk of missing a project deadline if I don’t receive that information from you by the end of the day. Could you let me know if that’s going to be possible, please, or if I’ll need to revise the schedule. Thanks!”

The other most hated email phrases are on a similar vein. Respondents don’t like “per my last email,” “per our conversation,” or “sorry for the double email.”

Let’s take a moment to discuss that last one. “Sorry for the double email.” That means they are sending you the exact same thing for a second time. Why? Presumably because you haven’t responded to the original email quickly enough.

Note to sender: If someone hasn’t responded to your email yet, it’s probably because they haven’t had the chance to get to it yet, or they don’t think it warrants a response, it’s not because they didn’t see your email.

And saying you’re ‘sorry’ for doing something as you intentionally do it is BS. You’re obviously not sorry. What you are is admitting that you know it’s a bit of a dick move, but you’re doing it anyway.

Equally terrible and also on the list is the asinine “Re-attaching for your convenience.”

Yeah, it’s not convenient to be sent the same thing several times. That’s just spam.

The most annoying email phrases used at work:

Bottom line: don’t look for annoying phrases to avoid. It’s not the phrases that are the problem. It’s being a passive-aggressive jerk that’s the problem. If someone isn’t getting back to you in what you think is a reasonable time, go talk to them. Find out what the delay is or what their priorities are. Negotiate a timeline. Don’t just keep resending them stuff with whining or pouting comments.

Also. Give people time to respond. We’ve all had that coworker who manages to hit send on an email, and somehow turn up at your desk for comment before the thing has even arrived. They’re faster than electricity and expect immediacy on their priorities.

If you really do need something right away, just be polite and up front about it.

Thanks in advance.

Actually “thanks in advance” is a passive aggressive phrase that for some reason didn’t make the cut. If you are asking for something, say please. When someone does something for you or gives you something, say thank you. Grown ups shouldn’t need to be told this.

You can read the full Adobe Email Survey here.