Pet Peeve #2 – Not Returning Emails

Whatever happened to common courtesy?

I used to always keep a bunch of quarters in my car, just in case. In case I ever got stuck, in case I got in an accident, or in case I felt like pulling on the side of the road to call someone. There were pay phones back then…

What’s a pay phone you say? Well, back in the day before there were cell phones, yes Virginia, there was a time BEFORE cell phones, and I’m old enough to remember it; we used pay phones where you would put in a quarter to make a phone call. That quarter would last for about 3-4 minutes before a recorded message would interrupt you asking for more money.

Anyway, I’d remember driving from block to block looking for a pay phone to call someone up after my beeper went off.  A “beeper”, what’s THAT?

Sometimes, you’d have to stand behind the person that was already using the phone, patiently waiting for them to get off. Kinda creepy sometimes…

If the person you were calling wasn’t home and you got their “answering machine”, voicemail wasn’t a term used back then, you just paid a quarter to leave a message. Then you had to start the whole process over again until you got a human on the phone. What a pain in the backside. And the smell of the phone mouthpiece, YUCK!

Well, now we don’t have this issue. Cell phones allow us to instantly contact someone to speak with or leave a message. With today’s “smart phones”, email, and of course texting (another peeve), we can provide that quick access to those in need.

In the business world, speaking over the phone has become somewhat of a taboo. Email is the choice of the business world.

Whether it’s for general information sharing, sending a file or spreading a new directive, sending an email is the way to go.

But why do many people forget the basic pleasantries of society and never return emails?

If someone comes up to you on the street or in the hallway and says hello, would you refuse to acknowledge them and keep walking? No, you wouldn’t, that’s very rude.

But why is it acceptable to do the same thing with an email?

Regardless of how many emails you get in a single day, yes I know it’s possible to get 100 or more depending on your job/position, but at some point you must sit at your desk and sort through them and answer them as needed.

But NO, you just take a decision that this or that email is not worthy of your response! Days go by, weeks go by and nothing.

Now, I’m not talking about the dozens of “reply all” emails that are a waste of time and data space and that should have never been sent. I’m talking about a very specific email that asks a question on a topic you need answered.

I have sent emails out asking for information from those “in the know” or are the ones responsible for taking the actions required to administer the task needed, that never get answered. The email seems to never see the light of day, goes to email limbo or hops a jet to planet X.

No answer. No, “I’m sorry but can I get back to you later today/tomorrow after my meetings?”. No, “Screw you, I’m not gonna answer you!” Nothing!

Where is the common courtesy we have been brought up with? Ask a question, give an answer.

Not sure of the answer, apologize and find someone that DOES know the answer. Click To Tweet It’s simple.

But you are too busy to respond to an email. Is it just sitting idle in your “In Box”, still in the bold black of an unread message? Or have you read it and made an intentional decision to not respond?

Oh, you “forgot” to respond. Should I play “tit-for-tat” and forget to answer your emails? No, that’s not the way to do it, not the way I was raised.

Ask a question, get an answer. Someone asks you a question, give an answer. Simple stuff.

 ►Related Post: Pet Peeve #1 – Slackers

Email should be treated exactly the same as if you are face-to-face with the person you are sending it to. Write in the same style as you speak. Email is nothing more than another form of communication.

Email is NOT:

  • A way to cover your backside when you have screwed up
  • A way to “call someone out” when they didn’t complete a task or action
  • Used to boast about your latest accomplishment
  • Used as an excuse; “But I sent you an email on this last week”

Here’s a unique thought…

Stop using emails for 1 week. Pick up the phone and actually call the person you wish to communicate with. I bet this will change the way you look at emails.

Don’t feel like calling that coworker? Then maybe your email is not needed. You will see the person later in the day; don’t really need to send the email now, right? Just ask them later.

If we don’t have any intentions to, or can’t be bothered by, answering an email that is valid, directed at a specific topic, or come from a trusted source, then you shouldn’t expect YOURS to be answered either.

Oh, but YOUR email is “very important” and you need that answer now.

What a shame, seems like I may have hit the delete button by mistake. Can you please resend it to me? I will try to get back to you right away, but today is full of meetings and I have an offsite networking event I must attend.

Can I get back to you some time tomorrow, or the day after?


Copyright © 2018 Steve DiGioia

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