Living In Your Inbox

By Bob Morrell on May 5, 2017

There's a whole generation of people working today who have known nothing but ‘business by email’. Their productivity is judged on the number of emails sent. So they send an email, copying in all the relevant people. They are then asked by someone ‘have you had a response yet?’. The answer is ’no, not yet.’ So what do they do? They email again. And wait for a response. There’s an unwritten rule that for some reason it’s okay to wait 24 hours for a response to any email.

Days, weeks can go by like this. It’s a ’they haven’t emailed me back’ blame based mentality. If the phone rings people look at it with suspicion. 'Who is ringing me with the misplaced sense of urgency that this medium seems to demand?’ their faces say. ‘I rarely use the phone.’ is a sentence that is announced with pride.

Email is an essential business tool, but it is terrible for forming business relationships. Relationships are formed through conversation (speaking/listening to and seeing the real person).

The 'I won’t respond unless I need to' strategy

The new kid on the block is this; you send something that has been asked for, expecting a response within a few days. You hear nothing. You email again, you call and get voicemail. These people aren’t away, they haven’t left the company, they are just deciding NOT to respond to you because you are not their priority. So you, in parenthesis, must understand, that because you haven’t heard anything you therefore know for a fact that they are not interested.

Plus with modern firewalls and security software it is perfectly possible that important emails could never actually arrive where they are supposed to. So we end up calling them anyway ‘have you received it?’ - which means a great opportunity for a real conversation becomes an administrative check.

This is all wrong – the technology is controlling us rather than the other way round.

Top 3 Tips

If these situations describe you in some form you require 3 things;

  1. Time Management – you are prioritising the wrong things. Allocate set times for emails and plan other activities.
  2. Don’t send anything that could easily be said. Pick up the phone more and use 17% more communication skills.
  3. Manage peoples expectations – as well as giving them deadlines, give yourself a deadline to respond that is fair.

It would be a very interesting exercise to ban emails from your team for 2 days and see the difference it makes.