We all know that if left unchecked, spam can drive you nuts, but what about the email messages from people you either want to or have to hear from? Are there some things they’re doing that make you swear at your computer screen every time you “hear” from them?
I’ve been collecting these pet peeves from attendees of my Conquer Email Overload seminars and consulting sessions, and on my Web site (www.PeggyDuncan.com). These pet peeves not only stress people out, but they also contribute to email overload, which is a huge problem in the workplace. See if any of these hit a nerve with you.
- Sending or responding to all to CYA (cover your butt). Stop sending to all if all do not have a need to know. You wanted to make sure you were covered so you’re sending everyone on a list your answer—whether they needed to know or not. Or you’re sending a message to everyone because you’re too lazy to select the appropriate recipients. Hold down your Alt key now and click and drag the Reply toolbar button away from the Reply to All button (in Outlook).
- People trying to solve complex issues using email. You’re part of a new committee, then the email messages start, back and forth, dizzying speed, the more they come, the more confused you get. Pick up the phone!
- Dirty email messages. These are those messages you receive loaded with those darn carets (>>>), or pages and pages of email addresses that weren’t protected using a blind copy feature. Is it too much to ask for the sender to clean dirty emails before sending it? Would you send a letter out on your company stationery like that? You can get rid of carets by pasting the message into Word and using the Find and Replace feature to find a caret and replace all of them with nothing. You can get rid of all the email addresses just by deleting. Clean it up, then send it.
- Subject lines that don’t match the message or ones that do little to let you know what the message is about. Don’t pull up an old message, hit Reply, and send me a message that has nothing to do with the previous one. Suppose you sent an email message two months ago that said, “The monthly meeting has been cancelled.” You pulled up that old message because the email addresses were already in it. But this time, you wanted to let everyone know that coffee and donuts would be served at this month’s meeting. At the very least, change the subject line, and also add enough information in the subject line so I’ll know precisely what your email message is about (the way newspapers do when they headline an article).
- Last-minute cancellations. Canceling a meeting at the last minute and letting me know via email. I show up, “Oh, didn’t you get my e-mail?” When did you send it? I left my office two hours ago, and now my whole day is shot.
- Procrastinators. People who wait until the last minute to ask you to do something as if you had nothing else to do. You know the work was in a pile on their desk, and while they were digging for something else, they found it, and sent you an email message, marking it urgent. Then when the deadline isn’t met, it’s not their fault because they “gave it to you.”
- People who call you instead of checking their email. You’ve done your job, and sent an email message to people with information they need. They end up calling you asking for the information because, “I’m too busy to check email. Please always call me with the information or at least call me to let me know you sent it.” Pa-leaese!
- No response. You send a legitimate email message to someone who has requested information. The message clearly needs a response, but nothing happens. If you’re too busy to hit Reply to say “No,” you need to examine how you’re working. Why did you make me waste your time and mine?
- One-liners. “Thanks,” “Oh, OK.” My goodness! You sent an email message to 25 people, and 15 of them sent you a one-liner. Next time, put “No Reply Necessary” at the top.
- Underlines. Don’t underline anything in a message (or on a Web page) that’s not a hyperlink. I always move the mouse toward it thinking it’ll take me somewhere.
- My original message not attached. When someone replies to my message without the previous message below it or attached to it, I’ve already forgotten what I asked them in the first place.