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Professional Hand Holder

To start off with – I apologize for my blogging hiatus recently!  My school workload this semester is crazy, so blogging gets the shaft sometimes.  Oops.

I wanted to post something about business etiquette.  Specifically – timely responses.

The Problem

One of my ULTRA-HUGE-MEGA-CRAZY Pet Peeves is when you email someone and they





If it weren’t my job – if it were my personal life – I would call this person out.  I’d return the favor when they’d email me.  I’d accidentally always forget to email that person back.  But when it’s business, it’s bullsh*t. 

A good portion of my day is spent creating follow-up reminders for emails I send to people with the assumption that they won’t email me back and I’ll need to follow up.  Of those reminders I set for myself, about 90% of them are actually needed.

90% ???????!?????

So another good portion of my day is spent sending a follow up email, “Hello <insert name here>, have you have a chance to read my previous email yet?  Your response would be appreciated.”  …. and then again the following week…. “I still have not received a response, please contact me back as soon as possible.”

Now if this were just one person, I’d be okay with that.  Slightly irritated, but I’d understand.  BUT WHEN IT’S 90% OF THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH??!  This is ridiculous.  Why can’t an email be returned?  I am requesting very basic information.  I am requesting that you do your job.  Why do I have to hold your hand and set reminder tasks every 1-week to ensure that I receive your response?  This shouldn’t have to happen.


My boss specifically taught me courtesy when it comes to emails.

Some of this I learned in school, some of this I didn’t.

One of the things she emphasized was to email someone back within 1 business day.  Even if you’re unable to complete the request – email the gosh darned person back.  “I received your email but I’m swamped right now!  I apologize – I’ll get to this tomorrow/next week/asap.” 

I do not understand why people can’t simply reply back, “I don’t have that information at this time, I’ll get it to you as soon as possible.”  I set up tasks for myself to return emails promptly – why can’t others do the same?

6 responses »

  1. Seriously. Especially when you’re trying to help the person accomplish something they’ve asked you to do.

  2. I hate when people don’t email me back too!! Let me know if you are ever interested in guest posting on about your experience as a young professional in the working world?

  3. Ashley, I enjoy sharing a class with you, and hearing your impressions, so thought I would share mine. Here is an alternate viewpoint. In today’s workplace, many workers are inundated with email. In fact, you may want to read a book called The Tyranny of Email, which addresses this very issue, and the implications for workplaces and employees. In my work, I regularly receive a hundred or more emails daily on a variety of topics from a variety of people, with varying deadlines and levels of importance. I wish I could say a portion of these are spam or jokes, or even sales pitches, but they’re not. I also have staff to work with, meetings with others, projects to manage and my own work to do, so of course I have to prioritize. Obviously I can’t respond to every email the moment, day or even week I receive it, and I use Outlook to flag important deadlines and create tasks. But inevitably I need to delay responses which appear to be less pressing or important, although never those of the “mission critical” variety.

    And that’s precisely my point: Perhaps what’s mission critical to your department or role is not mission critical to others? Perhaps there are no shared priorities, or shared understanding of why a timely response is important? Ironically, the more you send email reminders to people, the more it decreases your chance of getting a response — unless there’s some real teeth behind it in terms of corporate consequences. As the Tyranny of Email suggests, perhaps we need to examine the underlying system. More is not always better; more is often worse. Perhaps you can explore shared priorities or goals with others, and that may be more likely to lead to a meaningful response over time when others know you understand their department’s concerns, and you’ve shared your department’s as well, and there’s something you both need to work toward. (And then you can call them out on it when they don’t live up to it, since you both agreed it was a priority.) Often, what’s mission critical or top priority to one department in an organization may not be to another. Sometimes, their goals may even conflict. Do you understand what’s top priority to these others, understand why they may not be able to get back to you promptly, and how you might accommodate each other’s needs to work toward a shared goal? And if everyone is simply overburdened with too many emails, perhaps your department can explore if a different response system is more likely to get the results you seek.

    • Kate – THANK YOU for the comment! You definitely bring up a side to this “issue” that I never considered. I mean – I totally understand people are busy and get overwhelmed by emails which is why I send reminder emails. But I’ve never heard it from the perspective of that person which definitely helps!

      And I totally understand that my critical missions aren’t nearly as important to others, but when they come to me for assistance I make sure that I value their problem with the same importance that they believe it to be. Even if it isn’t important to me, I can tell it is urgent for them so I make the effort to help to the best of my ability in a timely manner. I just wish people would pay the same respect when able to!


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