Have you ever sent out an innocent email and got an ugly, ball of fire response from hell like it was typed by the devil Satan himself? To make it even worst, you always get them at the wrong time: when you are driving in traffic; when you are about to eat dinner; or when you are in a rush to do something or get somewhere. In addition, the sender always copies others on the email, adding insult to injury. Your first thought is "WTH?" Your next is to reply with a ball of fire yourself.
I got my worst email when I was driving to the airport to catch a plane. I was already short on time. I read that sh*t and almost had a wreck. I was driving on I-285 in Atlanta and swerved across at least five lanes to get on the shoulder of the highway. Damn near killed myself and several other people doing so.
I was stunned by how vitriolic the email was – and someone at a much senior management position sent it. He was an SVP and I was a director. I started typing my "return-the-fire" email with the first two words being "Your Momma!” Fortunately, my senses got the best of me, so I got back on the highway and returned to driving to the airport. I didn't know what to do. I then got a phone call. It was from that person's boss, the COO of the company. I will never forget his words, "James, I got this. No need for you to do anything." When we hung up, I looked in the rear view mirror and said "Hallelujah!" Next thing I knew, the email writer became quiet and supportive.
The lesson learned from this story is whenever you get that email from hell, don't immediately respond. If you do, the people who got copied will become annoyed. (Nothing is worse than being copied on dueling emails.) Take the email to someone more senior and wiser than you to get her/his advice on how to handle it. Note: Flaming email writers never come across well to objective people because of how ugly and disrespectful their comments are. The senior person will know what needs to be done. Most of the time, similar to my situation, that person will handle it for you. For example, let's fast-forward 10 years. One of my direct reports got an email from hell. He forwarded it to me, dejected and not knowing what to do. I told him, "I got this. No need for you to do anything." Always remember that the email sender is trying to bully and bait you--don't bite on it.
Additional advice: The next worst type of email is the rejection one, informing you that you didn't get something you wanted; for example, a job, acceptance into a college, a loan, etc. Here's how to handle it: First, print it off, delete it, and empty your trash folder so that you won't go back and read it again. Next, take the printed version to the shredder and shred it. Before it completely shreds, reverse the shredder and shred it again. The second shredding will give you that tremendous "Drop the mic!" sense of satisfaction. You are now ready to move on to your next, much better opportunity."