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Uncomfortable conversations are one thing. (No one likes to confront a coworker for, say, stealing credit for their work or admit to their boss they’re searching for another job.) But when you have to hold those conversations over email—whether you need to you need a written record of reporting bad behavior or simply need to set a record straight—it can get even more complicated. After all, once something’s in writing, it can live forever and ever.
That’s why we spoke with career experts and came up with five templates for every tricky work email you’ll ever have to send. You can copy-and-paste these simple sentences, then tweak the template for your specific situation. Read on, and write on with these templates.
When you have to report a coworker’s bad behavior to human resources
I wanted to draw attention to the inappropriate behavior of [insert co-worker name]. On [insert date], I was subject to [describe offensive behavior in clear, simple detail]. I don’t feel comfortable working in an office environment in which this sort of behavior is acceptable, and I hope necessary steps will be taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
According to Nate Masterson, human resources manager at Maple Holistics, who authored this template, “it’s important to communicate that objectively offensive behavior is taking place, and that it’s not acceptable. Cutting right to the chase is the most important step to take.” He adds that you should, “take the most professional and unemotional tone possible.”
When you have to confront a coworker for stealing credit for your work
I’m writing in regards to your recent behavior as it pertains to [insert specific instance of wrongdoing here]. I take exception when I’m taken advantage of or wrongly treated in our office in this way, and I expect it to stop. I don’t want to have to involve our superiors, and I have full confidence that you’ll recognize that what you’ve done is unfair—that’s why I haven’t cc’d any members of management on this e-mail. However, if this behavior does in fact continue, I won’t hesitate to call for a meeting in order for it to be openly addressed.
“Abusive and unfair workplace behavior needs to be nipped in the bud, which is why it is important to name the looming threat that is management-involvement,” explains Masterson. “Most coworkers—if called out—will simply apologize and concede that you are right. Give them the opportunity to do so before taking things to another, higher level.”
When you have to admit you made a mistake to your team
Unfortunately, our [insert project name] has not gone as well as anticipated. My actions in [insert specific shortcoming here] have inhibited our progress—and we need to pivot by [insert suggestion for improvement here] in order to stabilize and improve the situation. Sometimes projects such as these require trial-and-error, and I’m confident that we will be on the right path shortly.
This one may not be easy to send, personally, so try to stay positive, Masterson encourages. “It’s all about positivity,” he says. “As a superior or co-worker, conceding to other employees that something you have done has gone wrong can be demoralizing. It is critical to be genuine and convincing in terms of confidence that the ‘ship can be righted,’ so to speak, so as to minimize collateral damage and get problems fixed as quickly as possible.”
When you have to give constructive criticism to a colleague
This e-mail is in regards to your recent performance of. Despite your best efforts—which are noted and appreciated—there have been shortcomings in terms of [insert performance woe here]. In the interest of the team, it would be best if we rectified this problem by having you work on improving [insert area for improvement here]. I feel that this would not only serve the interests of the company, but your long-term professional growth.
Masterson says “the key here is the constructive element of the e-mail—because if you simply criticize without offering suggested methods for implementing change, it simply will look like you are lashing out in frustration. It’s important to make it sounds like you are confident in your belief that improvement can come if the necessary measures are taken.”
When you have to talk to your boss—about looking for a new job
I wanted to bring to your attention that I plan on seeking employment elsewhere due to [insert factors]. I hope that we will be able to speak soon in order to more appropriately address future plans.
As you may know, “this sort of a message can catch a superior off-guard,” Masterson warns, “which is why it’s important to express interest in discussing this matter at further length. You don’t want to sound cold or ungrateful—this is a fluid situation that requires attention and discussion—and no boss will appreciate it when a worker severs ties without notice.”
This post originally appeared on Glassdoor Blog.