I used to end my emails with the words:
“You are who you dream you can be.”
It was a poignant quote, something inspiring. I wanted to make the person who read my email feel warm and hopeful.
Not anymore. Now I have a different goal.
When I became an independent contractor I worried about many things. I worried about getting enough work. I worried about having time to do the work if I did get enough work. One thing I did not worry about was getting paid. Because you know, if you do the work, that’s what happens. Simple stuff. I’d submit an invoice with a nice covering email, something like: Dear Whoever, I hope you are well. Herewith my invoice, Warmly, Sam; and within 30 days there would be money in my account for essentials like petrol and scented candles.
It was, therefore, a rude awakening to discover that doing a job carried no guarantee of payment. I heard every excuse there is, including but not limited to: you’re in the pay run this Friday (you aren’t); the accountant is away (she isn’t); we’re waiting for a payment to clear (they’re not); we have a cash flow problem (they sent all the directors on an international team building trip that wasn’t in the budget).
Now, this could be a long and boring diatribe about how awful people are, but actually, it’s not. Nor is it a helpful piece on how to be more assertive when being your own debt collector. No, it’s about something FAR better than that. It is about a whole exciting new life skill that is both satisfying and effective. I have compiled an entirely new lexicon of passive aggressive phrases that, lovingly crafted together, create the kind of missive that would annoy me to the tips of my fingernails were I to receive it myself.
I cannot take credit for the idea. It was inspired by a tweet from the account, ‘@OhEmmeG’: “Per my last email” is office speak for “bitch, can you read?”
Previous to that I had been sending emails which started with the words, “Sorry to bother you...” and feeling extremely disempowered indeed. Then I came across said tweet and the revelation that there was a whole new language designed to irritate and annoy! My emails would stop being ignored and instead become digital thorns in the sides of bad debtors! I may not have the confidence to confront them personally but I could sure as hell spoil a coffee break or aggravate a morning hangover with a few choice phrases, or a colour change to the text. (Red is a very good option. It makes people more nervous than a cabinet reshuffle.)
Now you can do it too! Cancel your membership to the online assertiveness in business course you’ve just paid for and join me! Here are a few of my favourites:
Using the words “With respect,” when I am about to follow it with some words that are highly disrespectful.
Changing my sign off from “Warmly” to “Warmest regards”. ‘Warmly’ means I like you. ‘Warmest regards’ means I hope you burn in the fires of hell.
Putting the words “Follow-up” in the subject bar. Because I am Following Up. Because you are inefficient at best, and a waste of human DNA at worst. You don’t get to ghost me. I know where you work.
“In case you missed my previous three emails...” You know you saw them, you cretin. And you know that I know.
“Perhaps there’s someone else I should speak to?” Now we’re cooking with gas. Your crime is about to go companywide. I will cc Ronald McDonald and the Oros man if I have to.
“Friendly/Gentle reminder”: This means I have made a voodoo doll that resembles you but have not yet stuck any pins in it. You are however on borrowed time.
I’m not the originator of these, merely a lowly compiler so please feel free to add your own. One I am particularly proud of though is my new email signature. I think it sums up the situation nicely.
“Some people just need to be hit in the head with a chair.”