Did you ever have a visceral reaction to an email? I call these emails, nastygrams. They are usually sent by someone who is angry about something and then choose email as their method of communicating their anger. 
I teach nurses in both online and traditional classroom style formats. Over the years I’ve seen my share of nastygrams from students who either didn’t like the grade I’d given them on their paper or thought a test was “unfair.”
My first nastygram came from a student who didn’t like the grade I gave her on her paper. When I first read her email, I had a visceral reaction – autonomic nervous system kicked in – surge of hydrochloric acid in my stomach, started sweating, increased heart rate, etc. I instantly felt like I needed to find the nearest bathroom! Her email was venomous, hostile and could have been considered threatening. I actually had to exit out of my email and wait until the next day before I could fully read it again when I had moral support from a colleague.

Communicating in email
Email is never the right channel of communicating when you are angry or emotional about something. But are we teaching nurses email etiquette. The answer is no…or at least, not really. That means that you may find yourself on the receiving end of a nastygram as a professional nurse. 
When faced with a nastygram:
1.    Give the nastygram a 24-hour pause. Why? Because if you respond right away, you are more likely to get nasty in return (unprofessional).
2.    NEVER DEFEND YOURSELF IN EMAIL. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. When emotions are involved, email is NOT the best channel for communicating. Like a virus, emails can go everywhere. Nurses have lost opportunities because of their behavior via email.
When I get a nastygram, this is how I respond:
“Dear xxx (always start with a greeting)
I’m sorry that you feel this way. I’m also disappointed you chose an inflammatory (or hostile, threatening, etc) email as your method of communicating with me. I prefer a more professional approach, which is to schedule time to talk with me face-to-face (if possible) or over the phone.
Would you like to schedule time to discuss your concerns? If so, I am available (and then give that person limited options).
Sincerely (always include a closing)
Renee Thompson
By responding this way, you are setting an example of professional behavior. You may have the urge to defend yourself or get nasty in return but don’t do it!!! Be the consummate professional.
As for that student who sent me my first nastygram…I was friends with the head of the nursing program and called (notice I said called…not emailed) to give her a heads up (the student threatened to get my fired). We had a conversation about how I handled the nastygram and then she asked me to forward the email to her. The director’s reaction was similar to mine. She couldn’t believe how nasty this student was. I also sent her the paper I graded and the director actually thought I was generous in giving her a C. This student was put on probation and almost removed from the program.
Bottom line: Never defend yourself in email – never. Be the role model of professional behavior both verbally and in email.
Have you ever received a nastygram before? How did you handle it? Would love to read your comments.
Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected.
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