work emails

Reader A. J. writes:

I have a coworker who sends out political emails to all our work addresses. It probably wouldn’t bother me so much, but I really don’t agree with his political point of view. I can’t decide if I should complain to human resources to get him to stop or not. What do you think?

Dear A.J.:

Delete, delete, delete.

That’s what I think you should be doing. Whenever I get spam emails, I delete them without giving them a second look. Quit letting political jabber get to you and treat these emails for what they are: spam.


This is what I do with my junk email. Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We do this every day with other outlets of opinion. You probably only read news from outlets that already reflect what you believe, thereby reiterating your world view. Everyone does it. The news media is rife with political opinions we may or may not agree with. If you were at home watching TV and a pundit came on that you didn’t like, you’d either change the channel so you could ignore her or watch the show so you could get riled up to fight people of her ilk.

Deleting these emails is tantamount to changing the channel, in my opinion. Or you could read them to make yourself angry. But I wouldn’t recommend that because, unlike your relationship with the national punditry, work relationships are often forced upon you. You don’t generally choose who you work with (unless you’re the boss), so this situation is a little different than hating Rachael Maddow or Glenn Beck.

Is your coworker trying to engage you in a conversation at the water cooler about the emails? In that case, it may be time to confront him, but gently and without endangering your work relationship. Tell him (via email, in this case) that you prefer to keep your politics at home, and if he would be so kind as to remove your work address from his email list, you’d appreciate it.

He may give you flak for this, but if you find you are incapable of simply deleting and ignoring the junk mail, it is your most noble course of action.

It’s funny, though, isn’t it? You can have one employee who sends out harmless junk email that contains lovely pictures of sunsets or children or animals, and you’re fine with it, but when another employee sends out political stuff you don’t agree with, it makes you want to call in the HR department. Unless there is a guideline in your company’s employee manual regarding “improper use of company email” that specifically states no personal usage is allowed, you’re basically just being the kindergarten tattle tale if you go to the HR manager.

And if there is no company policy in place now, you might be opening a can of worms that will lead to one, and may not be as happy and shiny as you want it to be. More restrictions in the workplace just make everything more tense, so sometimes it’s better just to fly under the radar.

Of course, HR departments are supposed to be in place to mediate between employees and employers and all that jazz, so if you feel this person will be angry if you ask him to stop, okay, fine, go to HR. There are probably other people in the company who are tired of receiving his emails, too, so you may be a company hero. But you’ll also be ending the flow of political emails you do agree with, not to mention those delightful pictures of sunsets and children and animals.

(Okay, who am I kidding, does anyone really enjoy receiving those endless forwards from the old person in the company? Honestly? Sometimes they’re funny, sure, or even cute, but most of the time it seems as if the person is just reveling in the fact that they learned how to press “forward” and has access to a boundless amount of email addresses, i.e. the company contact list. Merf.)

So yes, I definitely think keeping your personal issues with your colleague’s work emails between you and him is your best option here. Leave HR out of it unless you’re ready to bring a world of pain on everyone else, or unless you don’t think the colleague will be able to handle you asking him to leave you alone. Keep it professional, which is what you want him to do in the end.


2 Responses to “work emails”

  1. 1 Brian
    December 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I like to respond to the really asinine ones, and try to point out how the logic is flawed. Hopefully, the sender will understand that 1) they’re not all worth forwarding, and 2) they’re not appreciated.

    My guess is that because they sent them in the first place, they’re not capable of realizing either of my goals, but I can dream, can’t I?

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