I get a lot of useless emails in my work mailbox, so, a couple of days ago I received this email, talking about some bank's deposit interest rates. The email came from a person who works at the same company as I do, but in a different office.

I didn't understand why I got this email, I am not even a client of that bank. So I was just curious why I was receiving it and I went ahead and asked the person: "Can you please explain why you're sending this to me? Is this bank paying you money to promote them or something?".

I must have gotten hundreds of those emails before and decided to finally ask that question.

I didn't mean it in an aggressive way, and the person who sent it got mad and told me that I have no respect for my coworkers, she told me I should have first greeted her and been more polite, because we aren't friends, which I also didn't understand, because my company promotes a "friendly environment".

She forwarded our conversation to the main manager of the office I work at and to my career advisor, telling me that I should be glad that she's such a patient person and had she been less patient, she would have reported me to my company's "ethics and compliance service" right away, but for now I should be thankful she just sent our conversation to my higher-ups.

Then, my career advisor, after seeing this email, messaged me, talking to me in a very condescending manner, insulting me indirectly using euphemisms, telling me things like: "You might seem smarter if you apologize to her", "Who the heck gave you the right to insult another person like this?", "You can easily get a strike if you talk like this here". (Mind you, my career advisor is a man, who told me multiple times things like: "Can you read?!" when I didn't understand something he wrote.). And then my career advisor forwarded our conversation to that woman and the office manager.

So, my questions are: 1) Is the tone of my email acceptable? (for the company that promotes a friendly environment) 2) Is their behavior acceptable?

I think my career advisor was clearly being rude to me, while telling me I shouldn't be rude to other people, even though I personally didn't mean to offend anyone. Like, I didn't get personal with that woman or anything. I didn't care who she was, I simply asked why I was receiving that email and what the motivation behind sending it was.

  • 2
    This makes no sense, there are clearly details being left out, how are the emails pertinent to your job, are you the only one who got them or as part of a mailing list?
    – RandomUs1r
    Sep 7, 2018 at 20:37
  • 3
    Are you sure she sent the email? There are ways spamers can make it appear that an email came from someone who didn’t actually send it.
    – Ben Mz
    Sep 7, 2018 at 20:59
  • 8
    If people are insufficiently friendly to each other, they will be severely disciplined. That sounds like an effective strategy for building a friendly working environment. Happiness is mandatory! Sep 7, 2018 at 21:40
  • 1
    Did she send the email on behalf of the company? Or is she sending it as herself?
    – jcmack
    Sep 7, 2018 at 21:50
  • 1
    And what is the career advisor's role in all this (do they work for the same company)? Can you get a different career advisor?
    – RandomUs1r
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:22

5 Answers 5


Your company seems to be weird.

If another employee sent me an email about bank deposit rates, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my job, and I told her to stop it (I wouldn't ask why she is doing it, because I don't care one bit why, I just want her to stop), and she then complained to my manager, my manager would have a talk with her manager about her behaviour. Sending spam to coworkers is an enormous waste of company time and totally unacceptable. Complaining that a co-worker complains about spam is a teaching opportunity for their manager.

Your company seems to work differently. Outside a government agency, or a company that has some monopoly position so they don't care one bit about efficiency, I can't see any normal company reacting that way.

You really have two options. Either you adapt to this strange environment, or you go and find a different job where you fit in better. (That's in no way meant negatively, I wouldn't fit in at that kind of company).

Meanwhile, you might apologise to your dear colleague by sending her a different cat video every day. She'll love it. The worst thing is, I don't even mean that sarcastically.

  • 1
    Thankfully, I am quitting my job at this company soon, not because of this incident, but because I want to move to big data from e-commerce. Your advice in the last paragraph is awesome! :)
    – Coder-Man
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:58
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    I'd upvote twice for last paragraph alone! Sep 8, 2018 at 16:24
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    Also, filter out this person's email, and that of everyone else who sends you spam, so you don't have to see them any more. But I looove the cat video suggestion :-). If she complains, just go on the 'she seemed a bit nervous, I was just doing my best to improve her mood' angle.
    – user90842
    Oct 8, 2018 at 18:47

"Can you explain why you're sending this to me?" is reasonable, although I'd have said something more like "I don't understand why you're sending this to me. Could you tell me why?" making the question explicitly about me, not her.

"Is this bank paying you money to promote them or something?" is not reasonable. You're suggesting that she had some sort of invalid reason to send you the emails. You didn't mean this to be aggressive, but by presupposing that there's no good reason it winds up being so. You would have been much better off leaving it off. It doesn't ask for any useful information that your first sentence didn't.

As far as the greeting goes, observe how other people in the company send internal emails, and emulate them. Emails to me from colleagues usually start "Hi, David!", so I follow that.

When writing emails, always assume that people have a good reason for what they're doing. It won't be true all the time, but it's part of being polite. Never allude to any possible wrongdoing at least until you know what's going on. My impression is that you aren't socially sensitive, so take this farther than you think necessary.

  • 3
    My impression is none of the people in the question are socially sensitive, because every other person sounds even more rude than the initial email. You might want to add something about that as well?
    – Erik
    Sep 8, 2018 at 7:33
  • At first I agreed that the initial "can you explain.." was reasonable. Then I read the OPs comments. This was a mass email and not one that was directed to the OP. The only correct response was for the OP to simply delete it and move on.
    – NotMe
    Sep 8, 2018 at 8:15

Regarding whether the email sender is doing something wrong. Unless the email about bank rates is a officially sanctioned email (i.e. she sent it on behalf of the company) to offer employee discounts, this employee is acting on her own behalf and this email could be considered solicitation. Many US-based companies protect employees from solicitation in the workplace.

Regarding good email etiquette,

"Is this bank paying you money to promote them or something?"

Assumptions, especially those that assume something negative about the other person, are generally considered rude. I feel like reporting someone to HR or management for a singular action that is only borderline rude is a dramatic overreaction. In effort to promote a "friendly" environment, your company has actually created a hostile one where no one can make any mistakes.

  • 1
    Most companies anywhere in the world really don't like it when employees waste their time when they are supposed to work, and other employee's time, who are also supposed to work, by sending them spam.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:00

The harm has already been done, it's best to just shrug these things off as nonsense and don't reply to such emails again.

However there seems to be more to this than you're saying as you already have your career advisor against you. The implication is you're ruffling feathers and for the sake of your career at that company it's best you just keep your head down and concentrate on your tasks.

No one else saw fit to ask her why she is doing it. Take a hint from that.


When you work for a company that is spread over several areas, there are often emails sent to all the employees, or all employees of a specific region. They aren't spamming you directly - it's just the nature of company communication. It's common to get a lot of emails that are of limited or no usefulness, because it is easier to send them to all employees than to make specific mailing lists for all sorts of specific criteria.

If the email had been sent to just you, a more polite way of responding would have been to say something like

I think this email was sent to me in error.

In other words, let them know they probably sent it to the wrong person, but make no assumptions about why you may have received it in error.

If the email is sent to all in your company, or a large subset, the best thing to do is ignore it. Responding as you did is a bit rude. You're implying that it is simply spam, not a company email that is useful for some. And you're also implying that you'd like her (and others) to spend extra time, probably a lot of extra time, to make specific lists for emails sent, instead of you spending almost no time deleting emails that you don't need. (All of that 'almost no time' does add up, since a LOT of you are probably having to filter out the noise.) If you are above her in the hierarchy, asking for less useless emails can be acceptable. If below, you kind of just have to live with it.

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