Why I won't write emails like a man

Amy MartinAmy Martin

Amy Martin, a partner in marketing for JumpStart and blogger, posted this piece on LinkedIn on Monday, Jan. 24. Before she knew it, the post had gone viral -- it has gotten more than 82,000 views this week. Fresh Water shares Martin’s essay here.

Have you seen (or even tried) Google Chrome’s new plug-in that is supposed to help you write stronger, more impactful emails? “Just Not Sorry” launched about a month ago and once downloaded, will underline phrases in red that could weaken a message. And you guessed it - the prime target audience for this app is women!

I will admit, it definitely caught my eye. Why shouldn’t it? I know that when it comes to salaries, women don’t make what men do (on average, we earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.) So, I guess the logic could follow – maybe if we start acting more like men then we will get paid more like men?

I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense to me.

And if you re-read that last sentence, I apparently made two very bad mistakes that could cost me my credibility in the workplace:

1.      I apologized.
2.      I used the word “just”

We have all read the articles that tell us that women say “sorry” way more than men. I can’t remember the last time I heard any of my male colleagues say it.

But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t.

I’ve been moved by leaders like Warren Buffett who have gone on record to say that our nation’s “secret sauce” isn’t just one ingredient short – but rather, it’s missing half the recipe. In 2013, Buffett said that as successful as America has been, it did so using half the country’s talent. And he challenged us to think what our country could be like with more female CEOs and leaders who can challenge what we have built, and make it stronger!

And Buffett isn’t the only person saying it and pushing for more female representation at the senior level – the list is long and distinguished! But no where do I see these leaders telling us that they want to see what women can do in America, once they learn to act, write and talk like men.

Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

Aren’t we being recruited because we do think and act differently –and because we can bring a different level and depth of thinking to the Board rooms?
I wouldn't be nearly as successful in my job and in my company if I spent my day trying to retrain my brain to only use words that someone else has defined as impactful.

And for the record – I don’t believe in raising my daughter or managing the women on my team by telling them that they need to stop apologizing. Isn’t empathy and emotional intelligence being touted as leading characteristics for future leaders? People are constantly lobbying to stop looking at IQ and start looking at EQ. 

That’s what surprised me the most about this new tool – it comes at a time when companies are looking to change culturally. They are reconfiguring PTO (paid time off) policies, thinking about maternity and paternity leave differently and skewing away from Myers Briggs’ philosophies. Leaders from all industries are acknowledging that there needs to be more women in corner offices and sitting in Board seats. 

So, is the message meant to say - "Come work for us! We will help you write stronger emails, apologize less and be more successful!"

Similar to Lean In (which I admire for its mission) – it is putting the onus back on the women. America, we need to hire more women – so women, start acting more like men.

To me, the approach is wrong. Not to mention insulting.

So, at the end of the day – I don’t plan on downloading the app. I can only imagine how many redlined words would show up in this blog alone.

I happen to like my emails just the way they are. I tend to get pretty good results when I apologize for interrupting my manager in the middle of her lunch or when I tell my colleague “I think” rather than “I know” why I believe something isn't working.

Maybe that makes me weaker.

Or maybe it makes me kinder and more collaborative.

Either way, you certainly will not see me apologize for it.

Amy Martin
Amy Martin

About the Author: Amy Martin

Amy Martin brings more than 18 years of experience to helping organizations and brands reach target audiences by creating value for customers through content development, customer success programs, social strategy and thought leadership. Her industry expertise spans media relations, digital channel development, content marketing, social channel strategy and messaging and building brands that can evolve over time and across sectors. 
Martin is also the founder of SheInTheCLE.com, a female blogger collective that focuses on driving purposeful conversations by women in Northeast Ohio and was recently appointed to the Republican National Convention Host Committee Content Committee. Martin is also a regular speaker and workshop trainer for the YWCA Greater Cleveland Women’s Leadership Institute and is an advisor for the Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio.