Software

Woman fired for emailing in all caps

An employee in New Zealand is fired for using all caps in her email messages. Is there more to the story?

When I first saw the story about a woman whose use of all caps in her email led to her firing, I will admit I gave myself a high five. If this could happen for Caps Lock, could firing over egregious use of the Reply All button be that far away? Oh, be still my heart.

The story: An employee of New Zealand's ProCare Health, Vicki Walker, was kicked out of her job for sending "confrontational emails." These emails were enriched with text formatted in a variety of red, bold, and all caps fonts and included stern instructions on how forms should be filled out. However, she sued for wrongful termination and was awarded $17,000.

Of course, the story (from tech.yahoo.com) leaves out many of the crucial details behind the firing. Was the woman not warned by HR or management on several occasions that her emailing technique was unsatisfactory? That's the only reason I can think of that she was able to appeal. I would think the company could have had a pretty solid case with claiming she caused a hostile work environment.

I realize that email "attitude" can be greatly misinterpreted, but if the woman was asked to refrain, explained why her behavior was offensive, and yet continued to do it, then I think she was being insubordinate.

What do you think? Also, let's have a little fun here. What email offenses would you like to be grounds for firing?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

209 comments
RayJeff
RayJeff

Santeewelding, ok, you have me confused now? Actually, your subject has me confused. "The truth" that I am talking about deals with the observation that many IT professionals who have supported professionals (faculty, staff, students) in the Education field has noticed to be true. And by numbers alone, there are more female education professionals than men, we have supported more women than men. Therein lies "the truth".

keith2468a
keith2468a

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10594014 "they talked about a number of emails she had sent, yet used only one in evidence." "Authority member Alastair Dumbleton said Ms Walker received no warnings, and while she had contributed to disharmony in the workplace it was not to the extent that dismissal was fair or reasonable. "ProCare did not have a style or etiquette guide for employees using email, so it was not clear what was regarded as unacceptable communication."

johnt
johnt

Maybe she thought it was October 22nd already - International CAPS LOCK DAY.

jrhawk42
jrhawk42

I really hate it when people send a 3 page essay on something that can be covered in 3 sentences. It's even worse when the don't format, or organize their paragraphs.

Abysmal_Gale
Abysmal_Gale

... you ePeople need to remember, not everyone in your respective companies are as tech-savvy as 99% of Tech Republic readers. As much as them typing in all caps irritates you, it irritates them when you have an issue with it. If proper eEttiqute is so important, why isn't it a part of New Hire Training or Continuing Education?

esteban.blanco
esteban.blanco

Sometimes I use bold letters when sending a warning email about a virus or an installation that will require a reboot...but I agree. If you are being rude about this...she has to go. I would have given her at least two warnings before letting her go.

fybcdave
fybcdave

I agree with your observation that we didn't have all the details. Having had an employee that repeatedly sent emails similar to that description, I published a memo explaining that it was "screaming" and was not acceptable in company emails. Although the person was not fired, she was later terminated of aggressive acts against co-workers. So, while this may seem over the top, I would suggest that management has a responsibility to be aware of things that may have an effect on the mission and safe envirmonment.

DastardlyD
DastardlyD

Hey, I know we're all busy, but a LOT - if not all -of important business-related info is sent via email these days. If at least ONE person informs you that an important message is being denied access into your mailbox, do yourself a favor and clean the damn thing out before it become a mountain of messages. Nobody likes to resend something to an employee too lazy to delete every once in a while.

bernalillo
bernalillo

Peoples response to email format is much more a reflection on the reader than the sender. For myself people using caps, huge fonts, forgetting to spell check and urgent tags are mildly annoying. The poeple who get upset about it seem to be over stressed paranoids who reaally need to get off the red bull and coffee. Prehaps phycological counseling could help some of these poor hypercritical email-miss-manners but if that does not work then they should be let go so the company can hire people who can focus on the important issues and are not so prone to feeding into a hostile work environment. I do discourage the indiscriminate use of the "reply to all" button as it actually affects productivity as people have to wade through the pointless emails wasting time. Toni, take a vacation!

rngunter
rngunter

I'm not on the back-end of things but, it bugs me when people send out large files (PowerPoints, Pics, etc.) to several hundred people on our internal e-mail list. That 10mb presentation has now morphed into several Gigs worth of data taking up valuable space on our e-mail servers. (The worst part, everyone is networked to a dedicated drive and folder for placing object like these to eliminate the sever issue.)

seema.contact.id
seema.contact.id

In my opinion, even non-response to emails is one of the bigtime, most prevalent email abuses. Very lame and frustrating!

BrooklynPennyPincher
BrooklynPennyPincher

My old auto insurance company (with the lizard) sent me a snail mail bursting with ALL CAPS WARNING ME THAT "MY STATE DMV WOULD CANCEL MY AUTO REGISTRATION AND LICENSE BECAUSE THEY HAVE TOLD THEM I NO LONGER HAVE AUTO INSURANCE!" This is considered a virtue in that context.

melekali
melekali

...All caps irritate the hell out of me. I should be the holiest person on earth. Reply to All is another. I totally agree. Learn to use the technology or learn to clean houses.

MrKP
MrKP

My coworker always.. just hit replied without changing the e-mail topic. The replied msg has nothing related to the topic at all. Anyone find this annoying? Like.. you don't know the detail when you need to find a certain information.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Not so much the no subject, but no subject combined with an Urgent marking or a Read receipt. Nothing more irritating than receiving an urgent email when the sender didn't care enough to tell you the subject.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I don't see anything written as being offensive, especially in an office environtment and not sent out to the masses. Call me what you want, mark it as urgent, use teh biggest, Nazi style font you can find, SCREAM ABOUT THINGS, I simply don't care. I'll get to it when I get to it and respond in the appropriate fashion as to that which I was addressed. Who cares, it's no different than online opinions which people just take way to seriously, who cares? If someone is in my face aout something, I will reply to them face to face, whether defensively if needed or more commonly calm and restrained while they are fuming, which is even more fun for me and annoying for them. I really am just too laid back to expend my energy on your issues. I couldn't even imagine someone so up their arse that such thiongs woul dbe an issue, if someone wants to have a crap day and put it out in an email to me, I couldn't care less, it's THEIR crappy day, not mine and noody is going to make their problems become MY problems.

mbgnet
mbgnet

GRAMMAR NAZIS - PEOPLE WHO ARE SO SOOO PETTY THAT THEY HAVE TO PASS JUDGEMENT ON PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY, REGUARDLESS OF THE INNOCENT INTENTIONS OF THE INJURED PARTY. WHO THE SHELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, G O D? yOUarENotG O D s, YOU ARE NERDS, EDUCATED, PRIVILEGED, SELF AGRANDIZED, SELF APPRECIATED, AND VERY VERY UN-GOD LIKE!! GET USED TO BEING PETTY AND PISSED OFF AT EVERY OTHER PERSON THAT DIDN'T HAVE A MOMMY AND DADDY TO PAY FOR COLLEGE, AND WIPE YOUR ARSE FOR YOU TILL YOU TURNED 32. PLEASE CREATE ANOTHER GENERATION OF BUSHES AND CHENEYS SO WE CAN ALL LIVE IN FEAR OF YOU..... IGNORANT IG NO RANT BARKING SPIDERS!

tomas
tomas

I'd say she was probably tired of dealing with morons who have the attention span of a gnat and cannot read or will not read more than 2 sentences or who are incapable of following written instructions.

gary
gary

"Woman fired for emailing in all caps". Is there an implication here that being a woman influenced the decision to terminate this person's employment? I find it very interesting that Ms. Bowers used the term "Women" instead of some other term like "person" or "employee". If blog's author was a man, I also wonder if he would not have been labeled as a sexist. Personally, I find my observation to be frivolous, at best. Ms. Bower recounted a story with an irrelevant but factual detail. So what? It did not hurt the story but why cannot we all place some irrelevant facts in our writing without running the risk of being accused of being insensitive or a "sexist"?

smankinson
smankinson

I've made every mistake there is to make as far as emails except obvious things such as profanity. Ideally, after 10 or more years, the learning curve should be a lot steeper. Got someone that wants receipts? Look at it in preview then delete it. Sends a message back that you deleted it without reading it. Then when the control freak comes flying over, repeat the email back to them, and watch the look on their face. Fun stuff. Also, you can send an email to someone then recall it. You'll not get the recall message until they sign on. That way, you know they are in.

Tig2
Tig2

I have a tendency to reply to email liberally spiced with "leet speak" or other undefinable acronyms with a short reply- "please resend with actual english." Unless the acronym is a common one, they shouldn't be used in any kind of business communication. Period. Alpha-numeric substitution is great when you are trying to create an obscure yet memorable password but makes little sense otherwise. Reply all should be disabled by default. Yes, I know that it isn't possible, but it should be. Using your corporate email account to send me multiple joke/plea/urban legend email is not a goodness. If I am installing a new email client on your machine and I have already left you a communication stating that I will do this and requesting an appointment to do it, please take a moment and consider how much space I have told you I need and do the recommended cleaning of your machine as I requested prior to the appointment that you set with me. Leaving me with your machine, insufficient space to do the install, and pornography being the reason there isn't enough space will cause me to quarantine your machine and report the issue upwards. No, I don't want to but I will. Edit- needed to finish a sentence.

barbara230
barbara230

No one has ever been fired for sending in all Caps. The message itself has to convey wording that shouts. During the early days of computers I used all Caps because I could not read the lower case characters. We did not have such things as type size control or even font changes. There can be many different reasons for sending all caps including a stuck keyboard. We have gone from all Caps being shouting because we wanted and had no other way to convey the idea of a raised voice--- to having many ways to convey our ideas including highlighting with color, pictures both still and moving plus being able to insert our own voices, music etc into the message. Caps as shouting has drifted back into the last age of computers.

ericgdawson
ericgdawson

I once received an email from a co-worker that was addressed to the entire company that contained a tirade about how her boyfriend had wronged her. Do 400+ people that you barely know really need to hear all this? No, I think not.

g01d4
g01d4

Oh come on. This was covered better on /. the other day w/a link to a NZ article. It seems the woman may have been a PITA and this was the best the PHB could do to get rid of her. Unbelievable.

selthomas8520
selthomas8520

Oh My, the workplace is full of minefields for those who dont understand the system and the rules. The underlying problem? Communication. Well generally it is communication. After all, managers are responsible for ensuring that employees understand the rules in that business, everything from the employer and employees responsibilities in Health and Safety to the 'House' style for proposals and white papers. Unfortunately for every good, effective, efficient, and reponsible manager there are many managers who dont know what their responsibilities are, or how to manage their part of the business. Was the woman wrong to be emailing in all caps - well netiquette says CAPS is yelling so someone should have made sure she understood the protocols, and yes her manager and/or HR should have given her fair warning about any behaviours that did not conform to the stated rules. But we are all to blame in many ways - remember Communication is two way - does the person you are communicating with understand what is being said/written - Check Understanding, that old term chinese whispers can happen in just one transfer of information! Secondly remember what each type of communication media is best for. Speak first - in person if possible (especially if the one you are commincating with is within a 2 minute walk!) Telephone if you cant speak face to face. These are the preferred methods for either something that requires an immediate response, or where both parties need to reach agreement on something. Email is a means to communicate where a response is not required immediately - after all most business only offer at best a 4hr turnaround for customer service emails, most offer only a 24 hr turnaround - and to keep a record of a trail of communication, though you must avoid the 'Death by Email' effect.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

by this line in your statement, that it was not due to using caps, but by being too aggressive " Vicki Walker, was kicked out of her job for sending ?confrontational emails.? These emails were enriched with text formatted in a variety of red, bold, and all caps fonts and included stern instructions on how forms should be filled out."

gluvsu
gluvsu

OMG! THE WOMAN SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN WAY MORE THAT $17K!!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

on a day that is not the 22nd of October.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You are, what, a referee standing off to the side holding The Rule Book? Fluck off.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

to be amazed at the lack of value applied to manners. We couldn't begin to live to live together in anything remotely resembling peaceable fashion without them. As our world gets darker and uglier with each passing day, thanks in some part to the agonizing death throes of 'common courtesy' (manners), I marvel that the obvious escapes so very many.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]If proper eEttiqute is so important, why isn't it a part of New Hire Training or Continuing Education?[/i] But we gave it up because of the rolling of the eyes and grumbling of "I already know how to type." from the same people who can't log in because their Caps Lock is on.

drs
drs

OMG! Is this a CAPITAL offense?

abarbakos
abarbakos

I can't stand emails with no subject. If there is no subject the content must be as equally as important. All messages without a subject always go on my lowest priority of this to attend to.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Is, apply his observational and analytical prowess to God, in order to get something universal and useful done. (I have software that alerts me to the use of, "God", upper and lower-case, both)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

did it take you to dig that out of all this? Good god. A woman is a person. Not all persons are women. Freaking finding sexist everywhere, and as a woman, it's got on my last freaking nerve. WTF is next.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I was working at a smaller shop (less than 200 people), and some of the longest email chains took place there. There was ranting to the company about someone eating their pizza from the fridge, to misplaced items, etc. I think the shortest chain lasted 3-4 days and just filled up our mailboxes like crazy.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Cut the tips of your pathetic fingers and fill out & sign in blood, beyotch. SIGN IN BLOOD!!! Yeah, I could see that as being hostile! ;)

gary
gary

I know that Santee is very hot, very conservative and a wonderful place to live just outside of San Diego. I can see that you are very conscientious about Exodus 20:7. Just to point our outrage in the right direction, a person who replied to my comment used the term that offended you. My comment do not use that term. I am impress that you have invested in such useful software but I am not surprised.

gary
gary

It is interesting how this subject can evoke so much emotion in people but it does highlight the essential point of the article. Something as insufficient as capital letters in some emails can lead to dogmatic behavior in some people. Thank you for your reply and my apologies for getting your back up.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

1. Yes I am old. I don't like it but I'm afraid of the alternative. 2. I am ignorant of many things, but am capable of learning from everyone even morons. 3. By bigoted response are you referring to your response? The librarian ran study hall way back then. We didn't have PCs. Study hall was used as a way of keeping misbehaving kids after school without the teacher having to watch them. Lots of kids both smart and less so served time in study hall without becoming morons or problem kids. As to morons getting into the White House. Wake up. That's been going on since before I can remember, from both parties.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

1. How old you are. 2. How ignorant you are. 3. Just how effective an educator you are since you don't care enough to meet minimum standards for grammar and spelling. That you haven't the sense to check the profiles of those to whom you respond gives further indication of your quality as an educator. I pity any students you come in contact with.

mbgnet
mbgnet

We can all tell by the remarks 1. How old you are. 2. How ignorant you are. 3. Just what a bigot response you can elicit from young ignorant techies! Network Administrator Ran Study Hall Had to correct many poorly raised morons. Bad couple of decades, as morons interbred and actually got elected to White House. Educators have to deal with ALL kinds of people, and yes even the dumb ones. done!

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

for forgetting study hall Sorry, I'll go back to my corner

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