my coworker follows up on emails in person if he doesn’t get an instant response

A reader writes:

I have a coworker (mostly a peer, but depending on the project, I’m sometimes his supervisor) who always follows up electronic communication verbally (coming over to my office to ask me if I’ve seen it, or something like that) or through interoffice messaging if I don’t acknowledge it within like 15 minutes. With work turned in through our team’s online tools, he’ll frequently send me a notification via the app, send an email or IM, and tell me verbally.

There are even times when I specifically go into “Do Not Disturb” mode on our messaging and email system, anticipating this. But that’s when he stops by my office instead.

This is never for anything urgent, and he’s aware that I go through my email at certain times of day, and what those days are. I’ve also spoken to him about the frequent following up is stressful to me and sometimes breaks my concentration when he comes over to talk while I’m in the middle of a task. My manager has led me to believe she’s spoken to him about it as well.

What else can I do? This nudging is really starting to feel like it’s affecting my productivity, and my sanity since it can get quite annoying.

I was about to tell you to talk to him directly about the problem, but you’ve already done that and it’s still happening. And your manager has talked to him too, and yet it’s still happening!

Your coworker is violating all appropriate norms. And he apparently doesn’t care!

I would do two things at this point:

1. Talk to him about it again, and be very, very explicit. It’s possible that your wording last time wasn’t direct enough, or that you softened your tone in a way that allowed him to not take it seriously, or who knows what. So make one more attempt to be sure you were clear — and do it as its own separate conversation, not when he’s following up with you. As in, sit down with him at a time when this isn’t happening and say something like this: “Cecil, I need to ask you to change part of the way we’re communicating. You often send me an email and then come by in person or send an IM to check whether I’ve seen it. I need you to please stop doing this. It’s making it hard for me to focus, and it’s making me less efficient. Please do not follow up on emails you’ve sent me unless X days have gone by without a response. Can you agree to that?”

2. Then, if it continues to happen, refuse to give him what he’s looking for in the follow-up. If he shows up in your office to ask if you saw the email he sent 30 minutes ago, say, “‘Remember that we agreed that you wouldn’t follow up on emails like this? I can’t respond to you now, but if you emailed me, I’m sure I’ll see when I next look at my email.” And then turn back to your work.

Hopefully, by denying him the satisfying confirmation he’s looking for here, you’ll eventually train him to stop sniffing around looking for it.

And ugh, if anyone out there is doing this, stop immediately.

{ 169 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous Educator

    If AaM’s suggestions don’t work, I would just flat out say “I can’t talk to you right now. I’ll read your email later” and repeat it over and over again until he goes away.

    Reply
    1. She Who Was Nudged

      I recently started saying, “I’ll take a look at the email when I finish up my current task.” That seemed to help, a little. It probably pissed him off, but I would just turn back to my work right after so he didn’t have a chance to talk back. There were even times where I wasn’t really busy, but I wanted to set the expectation of a delayed response anyway, haha.

      Reply
      1. Gene

        I had one of these about a decade ago. I tried the AAM ideas or something similar (it’s been a while and I’ve tried to put the Psycho Woman From Hell out of my mind). Email or IM followed within a minute with standing in my cube door asking the same question. I tried, “I’ll get to it.”; I tried, “I’ll let you know.”; I tried direclyt, unambiguously telling her that it was impeding my ability to get her what she wanted from me; I tried ignoring her. The only thing that finally worked (and I’ve suggested this before here) was the squirt bottle I usually reserve for the cats at home.

        I told her that she wasn’t going to get more from me by coming in and the next time she did, I was going to squirt her. She didn’t believe me. One shot to the face and she never did that to me again unless it was VERY time critical. I did keep the bottle on the desk for about a month after.

        Reply
      2. Rose

        Who cares if yoinpiss him off!? Even if he’s using a nice voice, he’s violating your space and time over and over again

        Reply
      3. nonegiven

        I’d have probably said, “If you ever interrupt me again for something that doesn’t involve arterial blood spurting or actual flames, I will make a special folder and move ALL of your emails to the end of my work day.”

        Reply
      1. jag

        Good stuff.

        But it’s fine to break rules – if you make it really clear the reason why, and that clarity includes that the reason is exceptional.

        Reply
    1. She Who Was Nudged

      Actually, probably not haha. It’s a full-time coworker and the position was previously part-time or just taken care of by whoever had the time. But I actually just left the company so he’s probably REALLY busy now.

      Reply
  2. Petronella

    Argh, my boss does this only it’s not 15-30 minutes after sending the email, it’s more like 2-5 minutes later that she materializes at my desk for an answer! This from someone who rarely responds to my emails within 24 hours.

    Reply
    1. Lalaith

      YES. I’ve had times when my supervisor/coworker has shown up at my desk to talk about an email she sent, and the email hasn’t even shown up yet! She literally presses send and then walks over. It’s extremely frustrating, because I would be a lot better prepared to discuss this email if, y’know, I could read it and think about it first.

      Reply
    2. AggrAV8ed Tech

      My boss does the exact same thing, but via phone. And my boss tends to “respond” to my emails by phone. Respond is in quotes, because he clearly doesn’t read the email itself before calling and I have to reiterate everything I said in the email, just over the phone.

      Reply
      1. Rose

        Old Boss used to skim my emails then chastise me for not taking care of something I had clearly told him was taken care of in the email. It drove me insane.

        Reply
    3. Liz

      Mine likes to call me before she’s sent the email. At first I thought it was a cute quirk, like she didn’t understand the nature of cause and effect in a linear temporal universe. Now I just find it irritating.

      Reply
  3. Ann Furthermore

    Oh god, how annoying. The only time I ever do this is when it’s a true emergency. Like I need approval on a code change from my boss, the deadline is noon, and it’s 11:30.

    I think all you can do is what Alison suggested: stop giving him what he wants. The only reason he keeps bugging you is because he gets the instant gratification. If you stop responding to him, he’ll get the message.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Yeah, the few times I do this, it’s something that merits walking over and talking in person but requires a document, tool, or whatever that needs to be sent via email. And my email says “I’ll be over in a moment to talk to you about this” or whatever.

      Reply
      1. Beezus

        Yup. I do this for urgent things where we require an email for a paper trail, or there’s something that needs to be communicated in writing, but I still need an immediate response, and I always make a note that I’m coming over – to warn them, and sometimes in part to document that there was a face to face conversation, if I think I might have to remember later what transpired.

        Reply
  4. Jamie

    I’ve found the only way to break this happen is to deliberately not engage.

    He’s at the doorway ask if it’s an emergency (if part of your job is dealing with his emergencies. If not skip this step.)

    When he starts asking cut him off immediately – remind him that you will look and respond at X time (whatever your deal is) but you’re in the middle of something. They key is no eye contact during this part and you’re actively busy – typing, focused on your screen, picking up the phone to make a call, whatever busy looks like for you.

    He will keep talking because he needs his answer right now – he’s a human read receipt. This is when you look up and cut him off again and say in very no-nonsense way something to the effect of “I just told you I was in the middle of something and now my concentration was broken…this costs me time and accuracy. You need to follow what we’ve discussed.” Keeping the edge out of your voice can be damn near impossible, but try to be as flat and businesslike as possible.

    At this point most people will walk away sheepishly, probably silently thinking some unflattering things about you.

    Some will still not be deterred and insist on continuing because it will just take you a second. Point out that you know it would have taken less time to answer him, but the larger point is everyone needs to adhere to the boundaries set up and ask him if he’d like to make a meeting with (insert name of someone who is above both of you who has your back in this) now since it seems to be an issue.

    This works. It may not be a useful for making BFFs – but if you enforce the boundries he’ll stop coming to you as there will be no utility in it.

    You have to expect others to follow the same rules, though. If I’m happy to stop what I’m doing to answer Marcia’s questions any time she drops by I can’t break out the bitch when Bobby does the same. Bosses are the exception to the rule most of the time.

    Reply
  5. Dynamic Beige

    Would this be a case where suggesting to use a “confirm receipt” function might help? The only thing I can think is that maybe once a very important e-mail went astray, this coworker caught flak for it and now he’s paranoid that it’s going to happen again? That way, he would know when the e-mail was read and would just have to learn to wait on his own until he received the receipt notice.

    Reply
    1. Anon for this

      I think most AAM readers hate the confirm receipt option. I can understand that one bad experience might indeed be what’s causing this guy to follow up, but he needs to break the habit.

      Reply
        1. Dynamic Beige

          No, I hate it too. I just thought that it might be a suggestion, which could be followed up with a cool “Have you received confirmation I’ve read it yet? Well, then I will get back to my task here and when I have finished and have had time to get to it, you will know.” when he comes by to check that it has been received. I’m not saying everyone in the office should start using it, but this guy either has too little to do or no concept that other people are busy and aren’t going to drop everything to jump and respond to whatever random question he has whenever he has it. Maybe he needs to be challenged in a way to wait for the receipt before checking in person.

          Too bad you’re not his boss, OP. You could give him more work every time he bugs you and that would train him out of it right quick! “Ah, Cecil, no I haven’t had time to read the e-mail you sent, but while you’re here… I’d like you to tackle this for me.”

          Reply
      1. Jessie's Girl

        Exactly, I almost never respond to read receipts, even if I reply to the email. They’re extremely annoying.

        Reply
    2. AW

      Except putting those on every email can get annoying too. If he can do that just for the important ones, fine, but this co-worker sounds like they’d do it all the time.

      Reply
    3. She Who Was Nudged

      The only time I don’t mind read receipts is for important emails – I’ll even sometimes turn them on for biggies. But the things he emails me about are SUCH small non-emergency things, like “What day is the article about topic x being published?” He doesn’t even really need to know, but is just wondering. And let’s not even go into the fact that he has access to the editorial calendar for a question like that. 99% of his questions he could VERY easily find the answer to himself in less time than it takes to send the email.

      Reply
      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free

        And that’s another point that can be made with him. “Please do not send me questions unless you’ve already tried to find the answer on your own using the other resources available to you. If you truly can’t figure it out, then by all means, go ahead and ask.”

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          I’ve been on the other end of this: I’ve actively searched for the answer I need, to the point where my productivity is screwed, and gotten chided when I finally did dare to interrupt my co-worker. Keep in mind I had reached out by email hours ago, then politely IM’d to ask if it was a good time to interrupt. Instead of just answering the question with a two second answer, I get an entire Socratic interrogation designed to help me arrive at the answer on my own.

          I’m a fan of Socratic methods, but have learned from this experience that it can be overused. Sometimes, just tell me the answer, and because I now have the context to apply it with, I will remember.

          Reply
          1. Anna

            The thing about the Socratic method is that it inevitably gets really condescending and I leave the conversation wanting to punch things. I also sometimes need to process verbally, so I’ll ask a question and then find the answer after I ask the question. But at one point I asked the question, got a condescending methodology lesson, found the answer before the lesson ended, and still had to verbally tell my manager “this is how to do that”. Punch. Faces.

            Reply
            1. Hlyssande

              Socrates was a jerk and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

              (says the person who majored in philosophy)

              Reply
          2. Holly Olly Oxen Free

            There is certainly a fine line. Of course you should not screw your productivity searching for an answer. And I wouldn’t lecture a coworker that they needed to find it on their own every time they asked a simple question. But in this instance it sounded like the asker didn’t bother to try and find the answer at all, even though he could have found it with minimal effort. It takes more time to ask someone else and wait on it, or go to their desk and hound them about it, than to just look it up. In that case it’s worth asking them to attempt to find the answer on their own.

            Reply
      2. KathyGeiss

        I am so tempted to use Let me Google That For you with these people. That is not professional or appropriate but it’s so tempting. If you haven’t seen it, Google it, it’s wonderful.

        Reply
        1. She Who Was Nudged

          I LOVE Let Me Google That For You! I actually used it with him once, but it wasn’t a work-related question, we were already joking around about something so it fit the mood.

          I came up with like a verbal version for when people asks me these questions, by telling them how to find it themselves. Instead of just answering, I tell him something like, “It’s on the editorial calendar” when they ask about an article, “It’s in the ____ folder on the shared drive” when someone asks me to resend a document., or “Instead of me finding the email in my own inbox to re-send to you, I know the subject line contained _____, if you want to search for it.”

          It might just be me, but that seems like a semi-polite/professional approach. You’re saying “find it yourself,” but also being really helpful about it.

          Reply
          1. Anon E Mouse

            I’m also an avid LMGTFY person. In my freelance work, I sometimes get random questions that basically need that response. One time, I had someone ask me to research publishing dictionaries/encyclopedias. That’s not at all related to the freelance work I do (editing novels/writing articles). It was the strangest request.

            I like your real-life approach to things like that. I had to work with someone temporarily at my job that we tested as a blog editor, and she could not remember anything we instructed her to do, even though she had written instructions in more than one email for the same tasks. She would ask all the time about where things were or how to do something when she had the answers. It was pretty clear after about 3 weeks of editing her edits it wasn’t going to work out. We failed to give her an editing test, and that should’ve been the first thing we did. She broke so many basic grammar rules, ugh. Painful.

            Reply
      3. RP

        Well now we’re getting into “does this dude not respect me/my position” territory. Because asking you when it would take 2 seconds to look it up himself, repeatedly, is disrespectful.

        Reply
      4. afiendishthingy

        There’s a higher up in my organization who apparently has nothing to do but send mass emails to our department (approx 60 people). I would estimate 1 out of every 100 is relevant to me. One of the emails was “Does anybody have a list of the paid holidays for 2015?” Yes. The shared drive does. She’s also a fan of cc’ing your supervisor. She’s delightful.

        Reply
    4. jag

      If someone needs a confirm receipt within an organization’s own email system, within the same physical office, there is a serious problem either technically, culturally or in terms of procedures.

      Reply
  6. Boop

    This is super annoying, I agree. I also find it frustrating when people leave a voicemail, then immediately call back. Or the person I just spoke to who said she had been calling and calling and unable to reach anyone who could help her with her extremely non-urgent question (she even came by the office?!). From the way she was speaking, I thought she had been trying to contact the office for several days to weeks. When I asked whether she had left a voicemail with the person who could help her (my colleague), she said yes – two hours ago. Give it a day, people!!

    Reply
    1. stillLAH

      Oooh I think you must be talking about the woman who called me last week on my desk phone and cell phone, and emailed all before 9 AM with a non-emergency question! Most frustratingly, none of her “urgent” messages said anything besides “Please call me when you get this!” When I called her back I really wanted to say “Jane! What’s wrong???”

      Reply
    2. Camp Director Kim

      I can’t tell you how many parents behave this way regarding my summer camp program. It’s like parenthood somehow negates the 24-hour rule about how long one reasonably has to respond to an email. I can completely understand if there is a serious problem. But when you are calling to tell me you realized that you got your child’s t-shirt size wrong on their camp form and you try 5 different modes of communication within 5 minutes, it’s a bit much! (Also, I have a full time job – camp is just my side thing – and camp season hasn’t even started yet!)

      Reply
      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free

        Off topic but, how do you do camp as a side thing? I used to be a camp director too and would love to do it again but with a full time job I didnt think it was possible. How do you juggle it?

        And, boy, does your post bring back memories. LOL

        Reply
        1. AdAgencyChick

          I used to work at a summer camp and most of the upper-level staff were teachers or school principals who were doing it as their summer gig.

          Reply
        2. Camp Director Kim

          My camp only runs for 1 week in the summer, so I take 10-12 personal vacation days every year to direct it in person. The rest of the work is done at home through weekly conference calls with two other directors. The camp is run on a 100% volunteer basis, but I wish I could be paid, because I spend about 200 hours of my personal time planning the camp each year. It has not always been easy to juggle that amount of work. I am hoping to start planning my escape so that I can hand the program off to other people within the next 5-7 years so that I can actually take a real vacation, and spend time with my husband this time of year.

          Reply
    3. Holly Olly Oxen Free

      My other half experiences this at his job. He’s in IT and he will often have to create a case and call the person back with a solution. Then they call back right away to see if a different rep will give them a different answer or wait 30 min and call back to say they’ve been waiting forever for their problem to be solved. They also always misrepresent their time in as if they have been on hold for hours and hours or have already spoken to 6 different reps. Then he looks in their system and sees they’ve called once or twice and waited 15 minutes max each time.

      Reply
      1. Mabel

        I just laugh when people call trying to get a different answer from someone else. Everyone on my team will give the same answer – because that IS the answer. So no one can get a different answer from someone else if they don’t like what they hear from me.

        Reply
  7. The Office Admin

    I have a client right now who CALLS about 2 minutes after I send him an email to tell me “Got your email, thanks!”
    That’s it.
    Then he calls back the next day to discuss the email.
    I’ve tried just calling without emailing, but he prefers emails so he can “study” them.
    Fine, just call me tomorrow after you’ve stewed over the email. And this is a client. Heavy sighs all around.

    Reply
  8. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    This would have me pulling my hair out. My employees sometimes do this thing where they know I’m really busy (or on vacation) for a week, and am only replying to e-mails that are truly urgent and important. The very moment the busy thing or the vacation is over – when I’ve been at my desk for about 15 minutes – they start stopping by. Or, perhaps worse, sending e-mails asking if I got the e-mails they sent when I wasn’t checking e-mail. As in “hey – I sent you an e-mail last week about y. Just wanted to make sure you saw it!”‘

    My standard (and effective) response is, “I can spend time researching whether I received e-mails you sent last week, OR I can actually respond to those e-mails, but I can’t do both. Please give me a couple of days to catch up so that you can get answers to your question. If you haven’t heard from me by Friday, feel free to follow up”. I only have to do this about twice a year, and apparently word gets around that people should not do this sort of follow-up.

    Reply
  9. Petronella

    Related: the co-worker who sends you an IM when an email would do, just because they know you’re more likely to respond immediately. This one project coordinator would send me IMs that included detailed questions, lists, links, stuff that she could not possibly expect me to answer fully in an instant. I would IM back with “I will answer you in an email.” Then paste her IM inquiry into my email, and cc my manager.

    Reply
    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Our program automatically documents IM’s as emails and filters them as “read” into a special folder. It’s great for documentation.

      There’s a way to go private in the IM with no email documentation, but both parties have to agree and most people don’t bother unless they’re gossiping or sending confidential info that shouldn’t be in an IM anyway.

      Reply
      1. Hlyssande

        They switched us from Office Communicator (which does archive chats) to Jabber (which doesn’t) in part because the company standard is for important communication to happen via email.

        Reply
    2. Forever Chasing Underwriters

      I tend to do this when I need to get ahold of an underwriter for approval (I’m in insurance) just so agents and policyholders don’t have to wait forever and a half for me to make changes they requested. Granted, most of the time it’s a really simple approval request; if it’s complicated, I’d email. Novels like what that project manager would send, those would be obnoxious.

      Reply
  10. Leah

    Ugh, that sounds super frustrating. It would even be hard for me to give him another chat, as AAM suggested, since OP AND the manager have already talked to him.

    I think the answer is to stop responding when he comes over. Saying “yes, i got your email” or whatever he’s looking for might get him to go away in the moment, but it keeps him coming back. Refuse to engage. If he complains to the manager, she’ll (hopefully) just ask him why he’s still doing what she asked him not to do.

    Reply
  11. AW

    Then, if it continues to happen, refuse to give him what he’s looking for in the follow-up. If he shows up in your office to ask if you saw the email he sent 30 minutes ago, say, “‘Remember that we agreed that you wouldn’t follow up on emails like this? I can’t respond to you now, but if you emailed me, I’m sure I’ll see when I next look at my email.” And then turn back to your work.

    YES! Enforce the boundary!

    I’ve known people like this but I haven’t been in a situation where it’s all day, every day. But even then it’s frustrating, particularly when it’s something that really should have been an email (needed to be documented and/or didn’t require a response from me). I’ve seen someone do this with group emails too: instead of replying all he stopped at everyone’s desk to say his response instead.

    Reply
  12. Noah

    Does every office have one of these? Every place I’ve ever worked has this person and their close cousin the person that responds to all emails by calling.

    The only advice I have is in line with everyone else’s. Refuse to drop what you’re doing and answer in person unless it is a true emergency. I always say something like “I have received your email and will respond once I have a moment to review and research.”

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      Every place I’ve ever worked has this person and their close cousin the person that responds to all emails by calling.

      Talk about a family tree in need of some pruning.

      Reply
    2. the_scientist

      Arghhh! My old boss was the “responds to all emails by calling” branch of the tree. I’d send an email, she’d call right away, and what could have been a one-line email would turn into a half-hour discussion. I mean, I get that sometimes you just need to hash things out on the phone and that emails can lead to miscommunications, but NOT EVERYTHING. Sometimes, an email is enough! And is far less disruptive than a phone call!

      Reply
    3. JayemGriffin

      AUGH. I use email 99% of the time, because I am rarely, if ever, actually at my desk. (I’m elsewhere in the building, helping other departments, in a meeting, putting together things that require standing up and moving around, etc.) I can check my email and answer from my laptop or cell phone, but it might be days before I get the chance to answer my voice messages. My voicemail message says this twice, but still….

      Reply
  13. Anon Accountant

    We have a secretary who would literally send or forward you an email and immediately show up at your desk to tell you “I sent you an email”. We always took care of what needed done so it wasn’t an issue of non-response. When we politely asked her to stop she responded by telling our mutual boss we were “giving her a hard time”.

    She wasn’t happy with his response that no one was giving her a hard time so she escalated it to the managing partner. He was cranky that day apparently and told her if that was the worst problem she encountered in the office then things were going rather well.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      LOL my manger does this to us!! She sends an email she unearthed from anywhere from a week or even a month or more old, that she was copied on, to see if we completed the task. It. Needs. To. Stop. Never mind she could quite easily right click and find related messages. Nope. She just pops in “I just sent you an email”. Ugh.

      Reply
      1. Petronella

        My manager got me on this when she came back from vacation! Forwarding me emails from 10 days ago with a “Please process this.” Um I took care of this item when I saw it the first time, the day it came in, same as I always do. It would have been kinder on everyone to have left her off the cc’s during her vacation.

        Reply
        1. CM

          My boss does this too, but it’s fine — I get that she’s just trying to make sure all these things are resolved. I reply to each one with “All set, I replied to this on [x date].” I figure it makes me look good to send back a steady stream of “Already took care of it” and it lets her know that she doesn’t have to worry.

          Reply
  14. bridget

    Oops, I’m sometimes guilty of this. But in my defense, I think the appropriate follow-up period gets shortened if the email creates an action item that needs to be started within a certain amount of time or it won’t get done in time.

    Example: “Assistant, attached document needs to be filed with the court by 5:00, and Exhibits A-F need to be collated and appended to it.” Since I know pulling the papers together and getting it submitted will take 20-30 minutes, if I haven’t gotten some form of “will do” by 4:15 or so, I swing by her desk to confirm she’s on it. Even if I sent the request at 4:00 (although I do try to give her a heads up that a short turnaround project will be coming with more reasonable lead time if possible).

    Of course, none of this applies to OP’s coworker, because his emails don’t require immediate action to be taken, so he’s just being obnoxious.

    Reply
    1. Anon E Mouse

      I think what you’re doing works well. If something has a timeline on it, I think it’s totally appropriate to check in in person. Other items that aren’t urgent/immediate like what OP has to deal with? Maybe not so much.

      Reply
    2. V

      The situation you describe is reasonable. As an alternative, for time sensitive tasks, you could ask the email recipient to confirm by 4:15 that she can complete task.

      Reply
    3. Aunt Vixen

      Yeah – my tasks can tend to take a while to complete, and lately a lot of things are urgent. (It’s like Lake Wobegone over here, where everything is the most important item on your to-do list …) So if I get an e-mail with a question or an update in it, I am in the habit of answering to say something like “Thanks, got it, I’ll look at this in a couple of hours after I deal with ___.” I’m lucky that it doesn’t undermine my concentration on ___ to do this. But I do have to remind myself that (a) not everyone does a knee-jerk Message Received the way I do; (b) in fact, not everyone has their e-mail set to notify them of incoming messages right away; (c) in fact, outside the office, not everyone is connected to their e-mail practically every waking minute the way some of us are, so if (say) one’s brother doesn’t respond the same day to a query about plans for Thanksgiving, well, it’s April, so we probably don’t need to have the whole thing nailed down quite yet.

      It’s a journey.

      Reply
      1. bridget

        I’m sure this is a know your office thing, but I totally appreciate short “on it”s with a little context and I try to give them when people email me requests. Sometimes I suck and don’t give the real timeline (just “file this please” without adding “by five o’clock”), so sometimes this info alerts me to the fact that the recipient isn’t actually available on my timeline and I need to find a backup or do it myself.

        Reply
        1. bridget

          Compare, however, with my assistant’s sometimes oversharing personality: “I will file this when I get back from my afternoon appointment at 3. I’m going to the vet with my dog Beezelbub who has an obstruction in her bowel. . . . [insert graphic description of poop-related pet procedure here].”

          Reply
    4. jag

      What you’re doing is appropriate – there is a known time constraint.

      It’s also appropriate in emergencies.

      It’s not appropriate as a routine matter without time constraints.

      Reply
    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      There’s nothing wrong with that.

      And there’s nothing wrong with what I do occasionally – forward a complicated email from a customer, jump out of my desk, show up in the rep’s space to discuss the email I just sent. “do you have a sec to open the email I just sent you now? It’s time critical and there’s a few things I need to point out/help you with”.

      Mind, if I did that 5x per day, I’d be a pain in the ass.

      Reply
  15. Shell

    Ugh, I totally do this right now (though my window isn’t as bad as 15 minutes). In my defense, because I’m so new, my boss actually takes care of some of my more complicated tasks that I will eventually take over responsibility for. But I don’t always get cc’d on them when she does the tasks. So when other people ask me about the status of X/arrival date of Y because a customer reaaaally wants to know right this second, I do end up bugging my boss more than I’d like. Especially since I know that a delay in answering means the customers breathe down on my coworkers’ necks more.

    My offenses of this nature have been decreasing in frequency though. I swear I don’t do this once I’m fully competent.

    I apologize on behalf of all the offenders out there.

    Reply
    1. Anon E Mouse

      I think that’s pretty normal if you’re newer. Have you talked to you boss about including you more often in emails? Maybe that can help you transition to handling those tasks more when you know what’s expected. Is there someone who is directly assigning out the work that you could ask to include you from the start? Just trying to think of ways to make your work easier and move you into those responsibilities quicker. :)

      Reply
    2. Holly Olly Oxen Free

      For this kind of thing could you just reply to the original email (or create one) and copy your manager on it and say something like “Manager handled this so I am including her on the email string. Manager, do you know the status of this?” That way the asker knows you are waiting on your manager and if they don’t see a reply from her yet they know you probably havent heard either.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        If I were the manager, I’d prefer this because I’d be reminded of all of the details at the same time I was getting the status question.

        But I am really on top of my emails all of the time and it’s my preferred method of communication. If Shell’s boss only check emails once an hour, that may be too long for an urgent status request.

        Reply
  16. Anon E Mouse

    Man, that would be annoying! At my last job, this happened to me a little bit with my coworker I shared an office with. She had her email up all of the time and would ask me instantly for feedback about things when I hadn’t even been in Outlook, much less knew an email came in. It became hard to get anything done on projects so I would just respond slower and choose my words deliberately if we had to work something out together or if the project involved a response but not an instant one. I am glad I don’t work with someone like that anymore.

    However, I’m in a work at home situation and my coworker frequently emails me about tasks, etc., and I email back, but sometimes her response back comes off as rude. Perhaps she’s putting tone that isn’t there in my emails, but it’s annoying.

    My boss and another coworker think I should just call her, but 1) I hate the phone, 2)I’m not asking anything that is overtly hard to answer/understand, and I don’t word questions in a rude way deserving of her curt responses and 3) I find the phone to be super disruptive. I don’t like getting barraged with phone calls for simple questions, and I hate losing my place or having to start multitasking because a phone call came in; why would I do the same thing to her? Our clients likely call her enough as it is, so email (to me) is easier. I guess not everyone feels that way.

    Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but if I could go all day without the phone ringing at work, I would. :) (Coworker I’m having issues with is in her 50’s and I’m in my 20’s.)

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Well, if my boss thinks I should call a co-worker, I’d call a co-worker.

      That being said, isn’t it possible that you’re reading something into her tone same as you’re imagining her reading something into yours? If she’s perfectly polite to you otherwise, she may just be terse there.

      Reply
      1. Anon E Mouse

        See, here’s the thing though: if I get an email, I’m supposed to call, but she doesn’t call me either when I email. So I’m not really understanding why it’s on me to call when she could call as well for her questions. Almost all my communication from her to me is email, but I’m being told my communication to her should be a call, not an email, when email would suffice. It’s just a strange situation.

        You could be right about the tone. The circumstance I’m referencing was in regards to a new employee starting today I had no idea joined (we’re a small company – maybe 8 or 9 full time people, so it’s hard not to know what’s going on) that was supposed to receive full access to something. I didn’t even know he was hired on and asked if there were any process changes for him because I didn’t know he was hired on, much less that he needed access. I’ve never even spoken to him and the access he would be given was for projects I manage closely. (My chief concern is that it wouldn’t take much for all of this work to be undone by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.)

        The response I got back from coworker was (verbatim, w/ names left out), “Well he just started today (my name) and I have no idea either. Ask (our boss).” But this goes back to my issues with calls because I did try to ask our boss – left a voicemail before 1 – and only just heard back almost two hours later (and had to cut it short because a client was calling him). It’s a vicious cycle, haha.

        Reply
            1. Lindrine

              I find that sometimes it is good to have a phone call to figure stuff out. It might be worth it to clear the air with her on communications too. I once worked with someone who was super abrupt but she was also very busy dealing with other stuff so it was just the way she was.

              Reply
              1. Anon E Mouse

                Yeah, that’s a good point. She seems pretty stressed out and our boss often uses her age as an excuse; he says that since the majority of us are younger and more skilled with technology, we get less frustrated with it than she does. So maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’m not sure.

                We both need to make a better effort at communicating; my coworker (the one I don’t have the issue with) and boss seem to put it all on me to call her, but the phone line goes both ways, and I do pick up even though I avoid calling out to other people. We’ll have to see what happens. I wonder if phone calls make her feel important or why such emphasis has been on the phone, but I guess I should suck it up and dial once in a while!

                Reply
        1. CM

          Why not ask the coworker whether she prefers getting calls or emails from you?

          Also, the “I have no idea” response from your coworker sounds perfectly appropriate to me and I don’t see it as rude or terse. If the work is getting done and you seem to have a decent relationship with your coworker when you see each other in person, then maybe you can ignore the tone in your email communications.

          Reply
          1. Anon E Mouse

            We’ve only met once in person since the home office is in another city and I telecommute, but we got along okay. I was probably reading into it because of my own personal issues. I will definitely talk to her about her preference. I just felt like, in this situation, an email would be a lot less disruptive, and for whatever reason, other people we work with think I should call her all of the time. Strangest situation haha.

            Reply
    2. The Other Alice

      I read a study (I’m sorry, classic lack of citation here, though Google may be able to help?) that demonstrated that we read negative tone into emails far more than most other communication. Given that, I wonder if you’re reading a tone that she isn’t writing? If you hate the phone, hopefully reminding yourself that she’s probably not being intentionally rude will help!

      Reply
      1. Anon E Mouse

        I’ll definitely look it up! Yeah, it’s hard not to put tone into email. Are you familiar with Key and Peele? They had a whole comedy bit between two friends texting, and one thought the other was being adversarial and wanted to fight when that wasn’t the case at all. It’s SO applicable to this situation. You’d think after 9 months of me being at my job this would be somewhat remedied. Baby steps!

        Reply
  17. Thropp

    While I can certainly see how annoying this is, I have to ask: are you sure you’re working toward the same deadline? His manager, or client, or well, whomever gets input into his deadlines might have set a due-by time earlier than yours. The delay in your response might have a significant impact on how he gets his work done.

    Another point I find interesting in the comments is the high level of dislike of phone calls. I love email, but consider taking a phone call just as much a part of my job as answering an email.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      It’s because phone calls are generally rude. It’s an intrusion that demands you drop everything you’re doing to take care of it, and that sort of presumption is a bit much in most situations.

      Reply
          1. Anon E Mouse

            Yeah, I’m a content manager in a marketing role, and so when I’m reviewing content, I REALLY don’t want distractions. I have to ensure the content is error-free and ready for client review. (Many are picky about their content, but some are not. I get lucky sometimes just skimming but that depends on our writers, too.) And of course when I’m doing review and really need to focus, I get calls. (Insert Grumpy Cat “NO” here.)

            Reply
            1. She Who Was Nudged (OP)

              Anon E Mouse, what a coincidence! I was working at a content manager when I wrote this question in as well. :) Most people knew not to bother me when I was the “editing cave.” He’d also seen the difference in my editing when I was distracted vs. when I wasn’t, since he was one of my writers.

              Reply
              1. Anon E Mouse

                Ah, there you go! I knew this felt familiar. That is so difficult when it’s someone whose work you review. I’m lucky in that I work with freelancers in many states and they generally just want to write the content and communicate via email (I like to think of them as “my people” since they understand this). The time zones conflict, too, so I’ve talked to none of them on the phone due to their schedules.

                Maybe you could’ve used a “do not disturb” sign. I don’t deal with it as much working from home, but maybe that’s something that could help. And I know it’s not possible, but maybe keeping some kind of calendar where you block out time that he sees you’re not available and are editing would work. It might not be ideal because that can change from time to time, but it could help if you run into this situation again!

                What work are you doing now seen as how you wrote that you WERE a content manager? I’m always interested in seeing what others have been doing in order to see what the next step for me could be if I stick with full time work rather than going freelance myself sometime.

                Reply
                1. She Who Was Nudged

                  I’m now a general PR manager, although that does involve content management haha. Just not 100% of my duties anymore.

          2. Matt

            Unfortunately there seems to be a huge difference in AAM readers vs. general population vs. my coworkers …

            Reply
        1. RP

          I’m betting this varies a lot by job type. Someone who’s job is more dealing with people will probably like phone calls more than someone who’s job is more about working with ‘stuff’. For the people person, being on the phone is probably a more regular part of the job whereas for someone working on ‘stuff’, the phone call is an interruption to their regular work.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            People person!

            Hate phone. So inefficient for me, 99% of the time.

            Unless I’m in a meeting, I respond to most emails in a five minute or less window. I can work with 10x the number of people in email that I could on the phone.

            Reply
            1. Anon E Mouse

              I like you! I’m the same way. I had to explain this to my coworker today when she said, “Why can’t you just pick up the phone and call (other coworker who prefers phone calls)?” They are such an inefficient use of time. I don’t get why people can’t understand that. I have to stop everything to talk to the person, lose my place, end up multitasking and then, when I get off of the phone, have to reconfigure my thinking to determine what exactly was going on before the call. Absolutely maddening.

              Reply
          2. So Very Anonymous

            People person here too! love the phone for personal conversations, hate hate hate it for work. Most times I simply can’t answer the kinds of questions patrons ask me immediately or off the top of my head, so my outgoing message is a request that those questions be emailed to me (not uncommon in my office) so that I have a bit more time to pull together a useful answer. Much better for everyone than me making deer-in-headlights sounds. I have one colleague who I work with a lot, who is bad at answering their email, and we call back and forth with quick questions, and I’ll generally pick up for colleagues since we typically communicate via email where I work and a call from a colleague means “halp now!!” But if I don’t know the number, to outgoing “email me” message and/or voicemail it goes.

            Reply
      1. Thropp

        That’s an interesting perspective. I guess I’m so used to working on teams with very short and hard deadlines that not responding right away seems wrong to me.

        Reply
        1. voyager1

          Thropp,
          You make a good point. The type of work and that a specific employer may have a culture on how folks communicate too. At the last bank I worked at the phone was preferred, email was second and IM was never used. Where I work today it is all IM and email. The key for me is knowing how to communicate for my environment, and I would say those who just want email, might find different workplaces tougher to work in because of their communication style preferences.

          Reply
        2. Judy

          Personally, I work on projects that aren’t very short term, more like weeks or months to complete. The only way for the projects to complete are for me to spend time concentrating on the projects. My work is such that I spend quite a lot of time in meetings. Therefore, any time that I can block out to actually get work done is precious.

          Reply
      2. Dr. Doll

        Really, phone calls are *rude*? I am being rude to call someone during normal business hours? I cannot accept that.

        If I need to concentrate, I turn the ringer off. Controlling my environment is on ME, not people who need to get in touch with me.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          But wouldn’t turning the ringer off just mean you ignore incoming calls? That seems rude, too, not to mention potentially dangerous if the call is urgent.

          I agree that calling is most often not rude — I would never say not to call someone as an across-the-board rule — but it does seem rude to call about an unimportant or non-urgent question that could just as easily be sent by email, since calls are, well, for more important things. Things where the person should drop what they’re doing now and devote 100% of their mental resources to you and your problem, now. That’s often appropriate! But by calling someone about something that doesn’t require their immediate attention, you’re forcing them to either do so, or do what you do — ignore incoming calls, which, if it works for you, is perfectly fine, but would be unspeakable in many offices. I guess that part comes down to a matter of office culture.

          Whichever way you look at it, it seems obvious to me that calling is putting a greater imposition on someone than emailing, and that means there’s greater potential for rudeness if the reason to call them isn’t good enough.

          (I’m leaving out one situation in which calling is decidedly different: office-internal intercom systems, where you can dial your coworker’s extension to speak to them and their intercom will tell them that it’s someone in their own office calling them and who it is. In that case, the intercom serves as a less demanding version of getting up from your chair and walking over to them in person, and the rules, IMO, are more similar to that situation than a traditional phone call.)

          Reply
    2. A Definite Beta Guy

      I don’t mind taking client calls. I much prefer clients call me, so I know they are getting the service they need. However, I get irritated when office coworkers call me with something trivial and offer an “explanation” of a relatively simple issue, but with a dozen or so digressions and a lot of “Ummmms.”

      Reply
        1. A Definite Beta Guy

          Definitely a peeve factor. Which reminds me, if I am responding to someone through email, I can take a breath and smother any burning desire to verbally attack the other person. “You’re an idiot” crosses my mind a few too many times throughout the day, and I enjoy the buffer my computer offers me.

          Reply
          1. Anon E Mouse

            I diffuse my tension by flipping the bird at my monitor. One of the few perks of working at home. Then I feel better and can move on with my day. :)

            Reply
    3. Chocolate lover

      Well, phones are louder and more disruptive, generally speaking. Though I say this as someone who has the volume turned off on her computer, so she doesn’t hear the incoming emails, either. I spend most of my day meeting with students, and I don’t answer the phone when I’m meeting with them, because I consider it rude. A ringing phone is a distraction to our conversation. And it really drives me crazy when someone keeps calling every 2 minutes. I didn’t answer for a reason! And nothing in my job really requires an immediate answer.

      Reply
  18. Jeanne

    Don’t do this! If it’s an emergency, if you’ve received any response that they know about it, don’t do this! I used to work on projects for another dept in another state. I got a rush project needed same day maybe just a couple of hours. The supervisor of that dept kept calling me every 15 min or so. It took me 5 min each time to explain how much I had done. I finally decided that supervisor or not I was pissed. I told him directly that I would get his project done a lot faster if he would stop calling me to ask if it was done.

    People like this think that anything they do is the most important thing in the world. It’s a form of work narcissism. Shut him down now or it will get worse.

    Reply
  19. Sarah Nicole

    *Raises hand slowly*….I used to do this. To my manager, to coworkers, and it was such a habit. I didn’t even realize it until my manager asked me to stop, and to ask for an opportunity to chat in person rather than coming straight to her office, interrupting her concentration. To be honest, I think I was missing human interaction in my job, and this was the way I was getting it in throughout my day. I didn’t mean to bother anyone. After being asked to stop, I was much more conscious about it, but I’m sure I still did it on occasion for a while until I broke the habit. Could it be that your coworker is just looking for an opportunity to talk to someone…anyone? If so, is there a customer-facing opportunity, or collaboration opportunity, as an added duty? My boss gave me that and it really helped! Just a thought.

    Reply
  20. RVA Cat

    “I have a coworker (mostly a peer, but depending on the project, I’m sometimes his supervisor) ”

    It sounds like he’s trying to be your boss instead of your peer or direct report. (Not that this is okay for a boss….)

    Does this guy do this to anybody else? Sorry to play the sexism card but I’m reading the OP as female, maybe because another guy is more likely to shut him down before it got to this point?

    Reply
    1. RP

      The OP replied to some up-thread comments as “She Who Was Nudged”. I also caught a wiff of sexism once she said that the emails were 1) about things he didn’t even need to know and 2) could easily look up himself in two seconds. Dude definitely doesn’t respect her time.

      Reply
  21. theyutab

    This raises an interesting question. What’s the most polite way to let someone know your preferred mode of communication? Has anyone ever requested you communicate differently and how did the request come across to you?

    Reply
    1. Anon E Mouse

      I’m not sure it’s common, but I’ve seen a freelance client or two include their preferred method of communication on their email signature. I think in a work situation, it might just be a conversation you have with people.

      I wouldn’t put it outright in my signature unless my supervisor thought it was a good idea, or if other people were doing it, but you could include something like, “To get in touch with me faster, please (insert method of communication).” Or, if you’re the emailing type like me and your preferred method is email, maybe something in the signature like, “I respond fastest to emails, but if you do not hear from me within 24 hours, please call XXX-XXX-XXXX.” If/when I’m finally fully self-employed, I’ll probably try that. Most of that work these days is email only, though I do get calls from my business cards on occasion.

      Reply
      1. Jamie

        Heh – we just did that this weekend within my own family. With my siblings we have two with strong preferences for texting (one with email as their #2 option and the other the phone(!), one with a strong preference for home phone (!), and one with a strong preference for email followed by texting and calls if someone has lost all of their fingers in a horrible typing accident.

        It is so helpful at work to know the preferred choice of communication of your boss and others with whom you work closely. If you speak someone’s language in their preferred medium you’ll have a much smoother relationship most of the time.

        Reply
        1. Anon E Mouse

          For sure. This is probably why my coworker and I don’t sync well. She wants calls after emails, and I just don’t like to call people. I can respond to your email a zillion times faster than finding your number and calling you. And the questions are usually short anyway – why go through the formalities of a call when a one or two sentence typed question could cover it?

          I wish we could get it together. It’s made things contentious and I thought part of it was with me being newer (I’ve been at my job 9 months) and her not knowing how I work, but it legitimately just feels like now I have to make the effort to call when the lines goes both ways and she could call just as well if that’s what she prefers.

          Sorry for the rant! That is fascinating with your family. I wonder what the results would be like if I polled my family (except the infant – no devices for her yet).

          Reply
          1. T is for Tractor

            Maybe she doesn’t want to call you because she thinks you are concentrating on work and she doesn’t want to interrupt. She may feel it would be easier for you to call her when your time is freed up. BTW I’m in my 50’s and I don’t like the phone either. I prefer email. But my last boss was 27 and he insisted on the phone or instant messaging for everything. Even if he just wanted to vent about the latest person who did not agree with him. Not missing that.

            Reply
    2. RP

      Various people have told me what their preferred communication method was. Professors will include the best way to reach them in their syllabus and I’ve also seen it in email signatures. Something like:

      “I can be reached at [method 1]. For urgent [type of item] please [method 2]. For emergencies please [method 3].”

      Some people also put in what the expected turn around time is in their email signature:

      “Customer Inquiries answered within [T amount of time]. Change requests in [T2 amount of time]. If you need help sooner please [alt communication method].”

      But between co-workers people usually just say what the best method is. “Oh, I’m in meetings 75% of the time so e-mail me.” or “My inbox is always swamped, just call me.”

      In a communication exercise at one of my previous employers I was shocked to find out that some people were deliberately not reading e-mails. They were either skimming or getting to the first question and stopping on purpose. It actually upset me for a bit but it certainly explained a lot!

      Reply
    3. HRWitch

      I ask people what their preferred comms method might be, which allows me the opportunity to tell them mine. I’m in the email first camp, and got really tired of explaining that 1) I wasn’t screening calls; 2) I wasn’t angry at anyone; and 3) phone calls are an interruption when 4) my job (HR, hello!) involves talking with people. I still have part of the conversation regularly with a couple of really needy managers, but the rest of the team gets it!

      Reply
    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I tell everybody.

      Any meeting with any new vendor, I always say “email, please do not call me”. If they call me anyway, I say thanks, could you please email that to me, do you need my addy?

      Internally, I tell everybody “email me please”. Because I respond fast to virtually all emails, it’s not too hard to train people to email, don’t call me.

      Occasionally, some people have been harder than others to get in the habit, but if I politely refuse to answer the question unless it is emailed, “Just email that would ja and I’ll get right back”

      I DO pick up my phone if I am at my desk, but I don’t listen to voice mail. And my voice mail message says that I don’t listen to voice mail, email me please at this address.

      So……….. yeah, anybody in my world who wants to communicate has figured out, it’s gonna be by email.

      Just checked. I sent 192 emails today to, I’d say about 40 different people, giving them what they need. Pretty typical day. I can’t do that, and have phone conversations and stop and listen to VM all at the same time.

      Reply
      1. Hlyssande

        I always request a summary in email or send one myself because I need the paper trail about things or I’m going to forget it all because I don’t have a record of when a thing was discussed.

        Reply
      2. D

        With all due respect, you sound like an incredibly high maintenance co-worker. I mean yeah, we all have our preferences, but if someone’s preference is to leave a voicemail rather than email…why should you get to refuse to deal with that? It’s part of working with other people. If I caught someone on the phone, who could just answer it then and there, but refused unless I emailed…I would be seriously irritated. I’m just imagining the look on my boss/co-workers’ faces if I told her/them I would no longer be answering emails and all communication needed to be on the phone. Yikes.

        Reply
    5. Revanche

      I typically ask new people I’m going to work with closely what they prefer and then tell them my preferences. It’s more polite to lead off with the question, even if I’m going to make them (say, my staff) conform to my preference ;) Usually we propose a compromise that works for both of us from there. Once in a while, when it’s been too long or if they have something that needs to be talked through, people will request a call. NBD.

      Reply
  22. Sandy

    Ugh. I’ve done this. I plead guilty.

    I try not to do it often, but there are two main reasons I’ve done it:

    -my former boss had 2000+ unread emails. Unless you went in to tell him that you had sent him an email, he’s never get far enough down the list to read it. Usually a quick “Tyrion, I’ve sent you an email with next steps on the Westeros file. We need a decision to Cersys by 6” sufficed.

    -there’s written info and unwritten info. I’ll send an email with the details of a case that we can and should document, and then follow-up in person with the context that we can’t write down.

    None of these apply if the person has asked you to stop though!

    Reply
  23. Beezus

    Only my mother is allowed to call me and ask me if I got her texts or emails. ;)

    He sounds like he doesn’t have enough to do. He needs to get over the instant gratification urge and understand that some things don’t rate an immediate response. I like the suggestion to stop giving him what he wants when he does this. In fact, I would do that immediately. He continues to do it because it’s working for him. You need to make it stop working, and make the avenue you need the only avenue that work.

    Reply
  24. Brenda

    I just want to say that I have two coworkers who do this and it drives me nuts. Give me a chance to reply to the email, or just come ask your question in person. Either is fine. Not both!

    Reply
  25. AnonYmous

    This is such passive aggressive bullshit. Want totalk to me, then let’s discuss at a mutually agreeable time. Want to send me complex email and then show up 30 seconds later to discuss? Go scratch.

    My PA coworker does this and I don’t look up from my screen when she asks if I got her email. Pause. Pause. “Probably.” Pause. Do not look up from screen. Seem interested in screen. Wait for her to scurry away. Put her email at end of mental list to respond to.

    Reply
  26. Jessie's Girl

    I apologize. I do this sometimes, but only usually when It’s mostly important. Lol. Meaning, when I want to chitchat and get away from my desk.

    Reply
  27. Aloe Vera

    I had this exact thing happen a few months ago! A coworker would call me, email me and then stop by in person – all within 15 minutes. The third time this happened in one week, I called her on it when she stopped by. She said that she needed to do it because I was so hard to get in touch with! I told her that contacting me three times in 15 minutes wasn’t going to make me go any faster, and told her I would help her by the end of the day. Then, she sent me an email and CCed her manager, calling me unprofessional and saying that she had deadlines to meet.

    Some people are just crazy.

    Reply
  28. Matt

    This is all very commonplace here with me … my place (IT) was existing in the 1970s and 80s with punched cards, so asynchronous communication like email is still seen as a young innovation here and the whole culture is very phone- and personal-meeting based. “Working undisturbed” is not an accepted part of the culture, if someone calls you, you pick up the phone, if someone visits you in your office, you don’t send him away. Most of my coworkers would never send emails, if I send them one, they’ll call in response. Some of them send emails and follow up by phone or personal as described by OP. Some of them call if they may send me an email concerning this and that. (*sigh*) I’m a software developer, I need undisturbed time, so I sometimes at least ignore the phone, which has earned me the reputation of being “always unreachable”, “uncommunicative” and “not really a team player”. Even my fellow developers are part of this always-available culture. Ever tried to solve an urgent problem in a productive application when user, help desk agent, project manager, software architect call you every 5 minutes for a status update? … but the place has its merits too ;-)

    Reply
  29. Fruitfly

    I have an email question that might relate indirectly to this post:

    Is it okay to email your manager on things such as my training progress, my course progress, etc. at a time that is 3-4 days after I finished with my program. Our umbrella company oversee the training course. Sometimes I need a little more time on crafting emails, so I am wondering if 3-4 days after course completion is okay to email my manager about how I am going along so far?

    Reply
  30. D

    To offer an alternative opinion…that does sound annoying, but this part sticks out to me: “This is never for anything urgent, and he’s aware that I go through my email at certain times of day, and what those days are.”

    OP definitely needs to tell this guy to stop it, but this sounds pretty diva-ish and implies OP doesn’t check her email everyday. If she works in a normal office job and is senior enough to have her own office by the sounds of things, she probably needs to be checking her email every day and not just at ‘designated times’. While it’s not acceptable for this guy to pester her, it’s also not acceptable for OP to just refuse to check emails for hours/days at a time. Maybe he doesn’t feel she is reliable when he DOES need an urgent answer from her, so has just become accustomed to following up on everything verbally. Maybe OP picks and chooses when and how she responds, in a way that affects other peoples’ productivity? And is he really supposed to remember the days and times that OP checks her email? If a co-worker told me this I would think she was being super high maintenance. Tell him to back off, sure, but maybe stop expecting people to follow your personal email schedule.

    Reply
    1. nona

      I wondered about that, too. I assumed “days” was a typo or that she is only working on certain days, but who knows?

      I get a lot of email in a day. I sort through all of my work email in the morning, at noon, and again before I leave. That morning session can take an hour or so. Outside of those times, I’m usually looking at specific folders in my inbox. OP could have something like that going on, or have a job that requires them to be away from email sometimes. It happens.

      Reply
    2. Petronella

      That did jump out at me too, but I got so caught up in talking about the annoying nudgers. OP, I agree that in the typical office, not checking your email everyday is unacceptable. You should at least be aware that someone sent you an email, even if you haven’t yet formulated a response to it.

      Reply
    3. She Who Was Nudged

      Sorry for the confusion, I had meant “times of day.” The designated email times is actually very common in our department. Our manager encourages us to block out certain times for email and to try to ignore it the rest of the time, to cut down on how many email-related distractions we have. So he’s very familiar with the practice in general and from time to time even implements it himself.

      Reply
  31. Mockingjay

    I have a coworker who does this. It’s a power trip for her. She’s the one who cc’s the boss on EVERY email, however innocuous.

    She will send an email, and trip daintily down to my cube if I don’t respond within seconds. “Mockingjay, did you see my email? I was just wondering because you hadn’t responded.” Her goal is entrapment: “Mr. Boss, Mockingjay ignores my emails and doesn’t respond!” (Kindergarten, I swear.)

    I have informed her that I have the alerts turned off, and that only I check emails between tasks, so I can focus. (Highly recommend doing that!) I have refused to add her on IM, nor have I given her my personal cell number. I have a perfectly adequate desk phone with voice mail.

    Since I thwart her on email (I do respond, and in a timely manner, but not instantaneously), she has adopted a new tactic. She calls from the Boss’s office on speakerphone to ask about the status of a document, implying that it is behind schedule. I direct her to our massive tracking database in which I continuously update the status of my tasks, and store all documents. (I love this system.)

    I enjoy stymying her efforts at world domination (she does this to others on the project, too). She’s a smart person, and if she redirected her efforts to her work, she would be an outstanding performer.

    Reply
  32. That Marketing Chick

    I have the same issue…but it’s not 15 minutes. It’s more like 60 seconds. Seriously; I think he hits the “send” button and then walks over to my desk to talk to me about it.
    And I’m a “head down, blinders on” worker bee… unnecessary distractions and interruptions really drive me up the wall if I’m “in the zone”. I wish I had an office so that I could close the door.

    Reply
  33. V.V.

    “And ugh, if anyone out there is doing this, stop immediately.”

    Although I needed to read this letter in 2011, I am glad I am only seeing this situation and advice now. I probably would have forwarded it to my favorite HR lady and gotten my sorry butt canned.

    Don’t get me wrong, when addressing someone of equal or lesser rank, it is good advice. I like the tone, and the civility, and I hope in this case it works.

    But… I would beware of using it with a boss or HR. No matter how obtrusive they are being, or how bad you want to. (I guess that is a reminder for me more than anyone else, I just hope this advice is used carefully.)

    Reply
  34. _ism_

    I have this exact problem with my manager – she’ll yell from her office, “Did you see that email?!” within a few minutes of the time it was sent. Usually, I’m in the middle of working on something else at that moment, and hadn’t even opened the email yet.

    I’ve tried Allison’s suggestions for the direct conversation with her. I exlpained that I need a minute to shift gears, wrap up what I’m doing, and I’m more likely to make mistakes if I’m interrupted without that opportunity. And she’s a little better about it. If she can actually see me working (she stood up and walked out of her office to my desk to follow up on an email) she’ll pause and graciously let me get to a stopping point of what I’m doing so we can talk about the latest email.

    She still does the yelling/following up on new emails verbally if she can’t see me or can’t get up for some reason. I hate yelling, so I can’t just yell back “just a minute!” She’s my boss so I can’t refuse her requests. What makes matters worse is there are always 100 different things going on, and everything is always urgent.

    Reply
  35. Anx

    I’ve done this before.

    Let me explain.

    I don’t typically send and receive a lot a lot of emails. I prefer to write out certain types of messages. Sometimes I’ll let a coworker know that I sent something out, since I know they might not be able to receive it. I can’t count on running into everybody I work with (we work at staggered hours), but sometimes I’ll run into them shortly after and I’ll discuss something briefly.

    It seems odd to send something out and then ignore it when you do get face-to-face time with people.

    Reply
  36. Cupcake

    Too bad my BOSS does this. It’s the #1 thing that pisses me off about her. I don’t feel like I can tell her to stop doing it – she is just really neurotic and it would probably make her think less of me.

    Reply
  37. Willow Sunstar

    My Aspie coworker used to do this constantly. I kept having to explain to him that he needed to be patient because people are working on project, and he was assuming his question was more urgent than their project, which may not be the case. He would text me constantly also. I eventually had to remove him from my contacts list so he couldn’t see if I was online or not. Every few minutes there would be yet another pop-up from the guy, and he seemed to not care that I was busy.

    Reply

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