By Andrea Romano
February 25, 2019

Work chats can be tricky business.

It can be hard to express yourself exclusively through text. Usually, texts and group chats lack context and tone of voice, which can often lead to misunderstandings in the workplace.

And there’s one, seemingly innocuous word we always use that might actually be hurting our work relationships: OK. Okay. Or, the dreaded ‘K.’

Getting Passive Aggressive Work Emails
Credit: Getty Images

What may seem like a simple, positive reply might come off as passive aggressive, according to HuffPost.

Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch told HuffPost that short replies can often seem like “throwaway” responses, or even come off as “curt.”

“Anything that’s longer can sound more polite,” McCulloch said, adding that qualifiers like “OK sounds good” or even a simple “KK” can be much friendlier.

“Having two things there, it makes it seem as if you have gone through a bit of an extra effort, and it’s that extra effort that makes something more polite,” she said. However, McCulloch notes, older people generally don’t overthink about replying with a simple “OK,” so it’s important to consider whether there is a generational gap when talking to a coworker.

Thinking about how you reply to a work email can be crucial to your career, since it sets a tone for how the rest of the office sees you. For instance, people who reply “thank you” at the end of an email are more likely to get positive responses. And your “Sent from My iPhone” email signature can actually give people a negative impression.

But all these rules about how and how not to reply to work emails and chats can be anxiety inducing. McCulloch suggests, “Generally what I try to do in emails is mirror what the other person is doing. If I see someone else saying things like ‘ok cool,’ I can do something in that family.”

She added that in most cases, it’s best to “extend people the benefit of the doubt a bit more.”