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8 Work Emails That Give Us Nightmares

Hi. Are you free for a quick chat?

By Caitlin Abber

I’m not going to go into the specifics (too scary), but there’s an infinite list of things humans are both irrationally and rationally afraid of. Of course, not all of these things are universal—surgeons don’t seem to mind blood, while some people pass out at the mere sight of it. But for the most part, we can at least empathize with another person’s fears. 

However, there are a few things that are so terrifying, no human is immune. And at the very top of the list is an email from your boss with the subject line: “Slack me when you get in.” Because…WTF does it mean? Why are they being so vague? Why didn’t they say, “Slack me when you get in (it’s not bad)”?? At the root of every fear is the unknown, and this particular fear is a black hole of anxiety. 

Want to feel like you’re in a haunted office? Grab a cozy sweater to hide in, because here are 8 of the most bone-chilling, heart-racing, nightmare-inducing email messages you can receive at work.


Oh no, what did you forget this time? Let’s go through the mental checklist of everything going on at work right now. Did you need to turn something in for a presentation? Is your expense report late? Usually, emails like this are just about keeping the shared kitchen clean, but wait… Did you leave a fork in the sink last night? How embarrassing! 

“Important news…”

Sure, it could be good news, but it’s usually not. And isn’t it always the case that this email comes in while you’re commuting or in a meeting, so you can’t read it right away? There’s nothing like sitting in traffic or on a subway car with no cell service, frantically refreshing your email while sweating over what the “important news” might be (thank Zeus for odor-resistant fabrics, amirite?)


Whether it’s work-related or an email from your ex, no one should be sending this two-letter heart attack anymore. It’s like someone showing up at your house unannounced in the middle of the day. Totally unacceptable, even if we are in our “business casual pajamas.” Unless we’re trying to start some drama, we just don’t do this to each other anymore. Full stop.

“Personal Update”

Isn’t it weird that people use “Personal Update” to announce career moves? Wouldn’t “Professional Update” make more sense? Anyway, what matters is that this email subject line is pretty freaky, albeit occasionally necessary. Maybe to soften it up, we can start using it for actual personal things too, like when you have a baby, adopt a dog, or finally buy an air fryer. 

“Departmental Changes”

This one is definitely scary, but I like how direct it is. It sets the expectation of what type of changes are afoot, but it also leaves a lot unsaid, just for funsies. Does this subject line mean I’m getting a new boss right before review season, or is someone I barely work with moving over to a different team? And why wasn’t I looped in on any of this beforehand? Ugh, nevermind—I’m spiraling, after all.

“Quick All Hands Meeting Today”

This is the kind of mysterious email that sends the true-crime-loving employees directly to their private Slack channels, eager to exchange clues and find out what their coworkers know. The executive team has been meeting a lot lately…did someone do something bad? Or is it just a surprise pizza party? Only time will tell.* 

*It’s never a surprise pizza party.

“See me when you get in.”

This email will have you looking for a new job the minute you see it. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s something, but not a big deal? Or maybe you should just book a plane ticket to Naples and disappear forever.  

“Return-to-Office Plan”

Nope. Just no. Immediate delete. 

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and

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