“No Email Reply” translation = “You don’t matter”

In today’s world of electronic communication, our inboxes quickly fill up with a mixture of important requests, FYI messages, listserv information, and junk.  EmailOverloadAs you get promoted up the corporate ladder, the emails start coming in at a faster rate.  Inbox management begins to take more and more time out of your day.  The era of the smartphone also means you can check email just about anywhere at anytime.  Many email programs even allow you to set filters to flag emails by level of urgency or by subject or sender.

With this email overload, we sometimes miss an important message or forget to respond to a request.  There have been times I’ve checked my email from my iPhone while waiting in line at my coffee shop on the way to work and didn’t have time to respond to message.  After getting my coffee I forgot that I didn’t respond to the message until later in the week, which was already too late.  It happens to the best of us.

Be mindful of the message you are sending when you don’t send anything.

The problem with a missed email goes beyond the missed deadlines or important reports you were supposed to read before a meeting with your boss.  Missed emails harm relationships.  While one forgotten reply may not offend a majority of people, multiple missed emails or long lag times before replies sends a message to the sender that “I’m too busy for you.”  Sender now feels like they are “inconveniencing” you with their requests or that you do not consider their requests important enough for a simple email reply that may only take a few seconds out of your day (remember the sender doesn’t see how many other emails are sitting in your inbox).

Lesson from a CEO

In 2008, while completing my MBA degree I had the opportunity to interview the CEO of a fortune 500 company as a part of my capstone.  This CEO was a total class act.  We had a great discussion about strategic management and he gave me his card at the end of the interview.  When I got home I made sure to send a quick “Thank you” for his time and the great discussion.  To my surprise, the CEO replied quickly and said he too enjoyed the conversation.  I was totally impressed by his engagement and genuine interest in my student project.  This CEO led one of the largest grocery retail companies in the United States and with a simple email message he made a 24 year old student feel like he mattered.  I learned from this encounter that even someone at the top of the ladder can manage an email inbox effectively, so I have no excuse for missing emails.

Email Tips:

  1. Put it in your calendar – Schedule dedicated time to go through your inbox.
  2. Have a system – There is no perfect way to manage all of the incoming and outgoing mail you deal with on a daily basis.  Whether you like to create folders, use flags, or keep message windows open until you respond, it is important to find a system that works for you.
  3. You don’t always have to write a novel – Brevity is great for email communication.  If you must respond with a more detailed message at a later date, it might be worth sending a quick reply letting the sender know that you have received the message and will reply with a better response at a later date.
  4. Email isn’t your only option – If you need more thought or discussion around a message, look at that antiquated device on your desk called a “telephone.”  Maybe a quick phone call or a brief in-person meeting would be the best way to respond.  Just because the technology is more advanced, doesn’t mean it is always the preferred method of communication.
  5. Apologies go a long way – If you do miss an email, a simple apology and acknowledgement of your mistake is ok (as long as you don’t make this a routine).  Don’t make excuses, just apologize and assure the sender that it won’t happen again (which also means you need to MAKE SURE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN AGAIN).
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Joey
Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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