In most of my blog posts, I've merely relayed some experiences that I had as an employee and as a manager of people. I've avoided being "rant-ish" because I know myself too well. Believe me, you just don't want to get me started. I'm really hard to shut up once I get going.
But sometimes, something really irritates me and writing about it just makes me feel better. So, if you'll indulge me, I would like to unleash a wee bit of fury toward one particular pet peeve of mine. Today I will address—cue the ominous music—the E-MAIL IMPAIRED.
First of all, I don't understand how anyone whose job involves communicating with his or her co-workers can go more than a whole day without answering a question received via e-mail. (Those on airplanes, in long meetings, or dealing with business crises can be excused. I'm talking about colleagues that you know to be in front of their computers.) Maybe it's me, but I make the assumption that if a someone actually types my name in the To: bar, keys in words that are followed by what we in the grammar business like to call a question mark, then clicks Send, he's probably looking for an answer to a question. For those of you who get e-mail like this and do nothing, I need to ask: If you don't know the answer, would it kill you to say "I don't know" or "Don't know but I'll find out and let you know" because I can't surmise that from your silence alone. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing. Trust me, I don't know a lot. That's why I send you those questions.
One woman with whom I used to work waited until the end of the day after everyone had gone home to answer all of her e-mail messages because she didn't want to "interrupt her work flow." And that's fine, if you have a serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder. But if part of your job is interacting with others, you don't really have the luxury of scheduling that interaction. I might be sending you a message because I'm at a place in a project where I can't go any further until I hear back from you. What happens if you wait until the end of the day to read your e-mail and one of the messages is "The building's on fire"?
People, it's e-mail. There's really nothing easier to use. It's not like you have to walk over to my desk; or lick an envelope; or train a carrier pigeon.
I know of some people who don't answer their e-mail immediately unless it's from their boss or someone further up in the organizational food chain. And they will tell you this, like you shouldn't take offense. It's like saying, "Sorry for not answering your e-mail. You just don't rank high enough on my Matter-o-Meter."
Admittedly, I am a solid Type A. I can't even let a telephone ring, even if I'm pretty sure it's a guy selling cemetery plots who I've already hung up on four times. I just can't not answer it. So, e-mail? Forget it—as far as I'm concerned, it's the cyber siren. Bottom line?Answer your e-mail.
Here's another e-mail faux pas: Let's say someone has a nice little piece of industry news that he sends around to a mailing list of about 30 people who it could affect. If your reply to the news is merely, "That sounds great!", or a attempt to suck up like, "Wow, Jim, I have to say your e-mail messages never cease to enrich my existence," please please, Im begging you please, resist the urge to hit "Reply All." Because if you do, we then have to read 29 other responses like "Sure does!" and "Thanks for sharing!" And after people start responding to those, the e-mail begins to multiply. Unless your comment is funny or informative, I don't care to see it. So, please, try to resist the sexy allure of the Reply All button.
OK, I feel better. Thanks for listening.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.