What Your Email Style Says About How Long You'll Last at Your Job

January 13th 2017

Laura Donovan

If you've ever worried about how you come across in work emails, you're not just being paranoid. Researchers in California suggest that the way you handle email may impact your success at the office.

After looking at more than 10 million internal messages at a midsize technology firm, researchers found that workers were more likely to stay at the company if they developed similar communication styles as their colleagues. The research was published in a paper titled "Enculturation Trajectories." Those who fit in with their organization were more likely to get promoted, whereas those who were not a good cultural fit were much more likely to be terminated. People who succeeded at this company swore a lot in their internal messages, while those who were fired didn't adapt to workplace communication norms at all.

In other words, the more you communicate like your coworkers via email or chat, the greater your odds are of fitting in and doing well at the company, at least by this study's standards.

But how important is being a "cultural fit" at work?

Sameer B. Srivastava, one of the study authors and an assistant management professor at University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told The Wall Street Journal that some companies may want to reevaluate how much they prioritize cultural fitness in workers. Srivastava said that because adaptable employees tend to improve over time, companies ought to “change their screening criteria from being about fit to being about adaptability."

David Hassell, the founder of the company 15Five, made the case for finding employees who are more of a values fit than a cultural fit in a June 2015 TechCrunch piece. Hassell wrote that it's important not to alienate people of different backgrounds or working styles.

"Cultural fit is an outmoded concept that often becomes a limiting constraint when it comes to hiring," Hassell argued. "Instead, look for employees who are a 'values fit.' Finding employees that share your values is much more difficult than finding employees who look and act like everyone else on the team."

[H/T The Wall Street Journal]