my boss won’t answer my emails

A reader writes:

I started working for a company 6 months ago and I mostly work offsite.

The manager I report my work to is extremely unresponsive on email. He doesn’t answer back on work proposals that we verbally talked over, requests for a meeting, or joint work with one of his staff that he himself brought up. I lost a seasonal internal job because I was counting on his reply and lost major prestige out of it.

He is very open and communicative on verbal talk when we come across each other or when I poke my head in to his office. It isn’t that he is cutting me off on certain things. That was the first thing that came to my mind, but it isn’t the feeling I get. He is very open, cheerful and outgoing.

I haven’t checked about this with others he manages. From what I see, they are poking their heads in his office when he is in.

I never confronted him about this. I don’t think it would help if I did — this is his way of doing things and I am not in a crucial position in the company. I’m not well-connected either and am not yet as comfortable — I don’t want to be giving this out about the boss. However, this lack of communication is costing me big. It is also very annoying.

I would appreciate your help.

There’s a very simple solution here: Stop trying to use email to communicate with him. He doesn’t communicate over email.

Look, I love email. I’d live most of my life over email if I could. It’s easy, it’s efficient, I can write it and answer it when it’s convenient for me, others can answer it when it’s convenient for them — what’s not to love?

But not everyone feels that way. Your boss is one of them.

You know from experience that your boss isn’t responsive on email. You can wish that he was different and you can be annoyed by it, but the reality is that that’s not how he communicates. If you want answers from him, you’re going to need to talk in person.

When you’re managing people, you can decide how people communicate with you. If you want a lot done through email, you can ask for that (within reason). If you want it mostly done in person, you can ask for that too. People can certainly make judgments about whether those preferences are the most effective, but it’s the boss’s prerogative. And reasonable or unreasonable, effective or ineffective, if you want to get responses from this guy, you’re going to need to talk to him in person.

You can completely eliminate this problem today by just doing that.

{ 148 comments… read them below }

    1. AB*

      Which may be the only choice the OP has in most cases, considering what he/she said about working mostly offsite. In that case it’s probably not feasible to “go talk to him in person” every time a conversation is needed.

      1. Ashley*

        Phone call hasn’t been much different. Either he is in the office at the moment and if so, everything is fine, or he is out, which is more often, and he doesn’t get back.

        I’m not in the office that often to be able to “catch” him when he is around. Just about anything else would be chasing him and I am very reluctant to do anything even near it.

        Giving up on the useful communication channels and isolating myself like this is chopping off some of my limbs which is what has been.

  1. Ann*

    There is one boss in our office who abhors e-mail. If you forward him an e-mail from someone else, you can bet he won’t look at it. You have to actually print it off and then go hand it to him. He also dislikes when the admins use e-mail to communicate. If I need to get in touch with person A, I usually e-mail person A’s secretary. That way I have a “paper trail” that shows when I contacted them and so I can attach any relevant info. Also, it’s nice having exactly what person A responded with, so there is no question of what was said. However, this boss HATES it when you send e-mails. He wants you to call right away, and if he asks if I tried to get in touch with someone and I say I sent them an e-mail, to him that is tantamount to shirking. Of course, this is the same man that if you can’t get the person on the phone the minute he asks you to, he demands to know why not. This is also the same person where, if you call someone multiple times and still can’t get them on the phone, he’ll accuse you of not trying. (Thus why I prefer e-mail with stuff he asks me to do, I can prove that I did)

    1. Lulu*

      I’m with you: part of the reason I like email is that I have a record of when & what, and also so I know all parties are looking at the same information. I do not understand the email-aversion – I assume it’s people from generations who began work well before email entered the picture, and who just decided they weren’t going to adopt it? I did work with a woman like this once: I couldn’t forward an email, I’d have to print it out and bring it to her. Then I had to print out whatever I replied with and bring it to her. Then I had to file these things in a folder, with cover sheets and an index in the front.

      That did not last long.

      1. Ann*

        With the exception of it being a woman, you could be talking about this particular manager. Except he’s really not old, he’s in his early 50’s.
        Sometimes I wonder if his e-mail aversion is due more to the fact that it has a definite paper trail. This particularly dodgy individual is really good about trying to avoid work and blaming it on someone else. (As in, “oh, I couldn’t do that because so and so never got this information)

        1. Lulu*

          I always hate to assign nefarious reasons to people’s “preferences”, as there really are a lot of clueless/flakey/stubborn people out there without much of an agenda outside that, as well as simple differences in work-styles. However it certainly could be even a subconscious rationale on his part – he’s set the precedent that he’s the guy who doesn’t read email, so it’s your own fault if you thought he would. It’s tough that he’s a manager, so you can’t really call him out on this, and pretty much just need to play along.

          I had another manager once who I finally set up read-receipts just for my own information on whether or not he ever read anything I sent, so I knew if I needed to camp out by his office and barrage his cell phone (which he never picked up). This guy was also always late for work and missing meetings, but there was nothing I could do other than anticipate and try to work around… and warn the girl who subsequently took over for me that she would need to be vigilant and see if she could come up with ways to help HIM succeed despite his behavior so it didn’t end up biting her in the butt the way it did me. Ah, good times…

        2. Anonna Miss*

          I’m mildly email averse – I’ll use it, but I’d be happy if someone could manage to un-invent it.

          I dislike the paper trail aspect of it, especially coming from coworkers. Are we really in an adversarial relationship where someone is going to need to “prove” something with hard evidence? (Nevermind that email can be manipulated.) I would much rather just talk to people, rather than have to prepare for a game of “Corporate Gotcha!”

          1. Esra*

            It’s not like it’s nefarious all the time, people genuinely just forget what they said earlier or when something happened.

            And then yes, there are the times where you get a bad coworker trying to pin something on you and you need to be able to defend yourself without devolving into you said/they said.

          2. Jamie*

            I don’t see it as adversarial – it’s just a reference.

            If I had to rely on my memory for specifics of verbal conversations I’d fail miserably at everything. It just eliminates the S/He said S/He said and keeps everyone on the same page.

            I don’t see it as a game of gotcha – so people who will not commit to specifics in email as a regular thing do make me suspicious.

            1. Lulu*

              Totally – things I think are not so important in the initial conversation will suddenly become important, and I have nothing to refer back to if it’s not in an email; also too easy for other people to do the same, or leave key people out of the conversation unbeknownst to everyone else etc. I’d much rather look for an email than have to track down someone at the 11th hour to confirm something we talked about or try to paraphrase a key conversation for someone who missed it. I’ve maybe once been in a position where having things in email was primarily a CYA activity, but I do find that it does help in that regard if there are questions as to why/when/if something happened later on.

          3. Elizabeth*

            I had a vendor who if it wasn’t written, it didn’t exist during the implementation process. We had 2 & 3-hour long conference calls every week, and if I didn’t immediately write up a summarizing email to make sure everyone had a written copy of what was discussed with assigned action items, we would have the exact same conversation a week later, with the delightful addition of “but who was going to take care of that…” punctuating each item.

          4. Cassie*

            I love the paper trail aspect of it – I don’t keep track of every request I submit or verbal conversation I have but if I need to follow up, I’d like to know if the last conversation was just last week, or two months ago. It’s not that easy to remember and I don’t want to follow up too frequently before someone has had a chance to do their job.

            As for the “gotcha” aspect – yes, unfortunately when you have coworkers who fail to done their job in a timely manner, emails showing when you sent in a request or follow-up are sometimes the only option you have.

          5. BW*

            It’s usually not a game of “Gotcha!” Some environments are highly regulated, and you need to have documentation in writing of pretty much everything. I work in one of these industries, and the saying is “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”

            It’s also useful to be able to go back through email or notes and see what decisions were made or what discussions took place. I find in my work, the same stuff can crop up again, and it’s nice to be able to just go back and see what was already decided instead of having to reinvent the wheel, especially if the original discussion was long and painful.

            or someone with authority outside of the team will ask “Why did you do this?” or “Who made this decision?” or “Justify this expense”, and that’s where it’s handy to have something in writing documenting a decision or action that was taken.

    2. Kelly O*

      What I have difficulty with sometimes are the people who say “oh just pick up the phone and call – it’s too hard to explain with email” and then complain because you don’t have an email to “document” when someone asks a question six months down the road.

      (These also tend to be the same people who think you should keep every email you’ve ever sent, and who get frustrated with me because I occasionally purge older things, especially things that don’t have truly important or otherwise retrievable information. Because now we need to know what time someone sent an email ten months ago… or whether or not I have an email from someone who has not worked for our company in over a year… and I wish I were kidding.)

  2. Andy Lester*

    OP correctly recognizes that “this is his way of doing things”, which is half the battle. The second half is acting according to reality rather than how you wish things to be.

    “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” “Then don’t do that.”

  3. BW*

    I’ve had co-workers like this, some people just suck at email or are overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in the inbox. You have to go find them in person or pick up the phone. If you need to document something in writing, what you can do is send a brief follow-up email recapping the verbal discussion.

    I was actually given this scenario in a job interview. I did a lot of office visiting in that job. :D It’s not a bad thing. Sometimes it is still easier and quicker to just pick up the phone or pop by someone’s office to ask your question or get something important you need sooner rather than later.

    1. Lily*

      People who need in-person visits are difficult to accommodate when I work far away. I solved that by finding another person at the remote site who was willing to take my email and walk over and talk to him when her customers needed help.

  4. Sam*

    “If you want answers from him, you’re going to need to talk in person.”

    May be difficult when the OP mostly works off site.

  5. ChristineH*

    This type of thing drives me and my husband nuts. Written communication is so much more common these days (which I like, because I express myself better in writing, and it gives me something to refer back to). However, it sounds like he’d like to see more of the old-fashioned verbal communication, which I completely understand.

    What about just asking him how he prefers to communicate. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s nice to have confirmation so that you know everyone is on the same page.

    If it’s a concern about constantly calling or poking your head in his office–one strategy I often use, at least with non-urgent questions and info, is to compile a few at a time, then call/go see the boss.

    1. Ash*

      “old-fashioned verbal communication”

      Is it sad or funny that people refer to “talking to another human being” as being old-fashioned?

  6. Yup*

    The next time you speak with him, could you ask for a standing 20 min telcon every other week or so? I’m wondering if you could somehow get regular time blocked on his calendar to check in by phone. Then you can use that time to run through your list of updates, questions, and things you need from him.

    1. Elle D.*


      I had to do this with my last manager – we had a 15-30 minute catch up meeting every other week when we were both at our main office to go over anything outstanding that required her approval or assistance. It was extremely helpful, since she tended to get bombarded with emails and would subsequently take forever to get back to me that way.

    2. Ashley*

      I could try this, yes.

      Or I could just confront him with something like “you never answer my emails and it is hard to catch you on the phone. what would you suggest that I should do when I need a word with you.”

  7. Yuu*

    I sounds like part of the problem is OP feels like it isn’t official if it isn’t in writing. To your boss – it is official if he says it in words.

    So if he says he wants a meeting at 1:30, don’t wait for him to accept your calendar request. Just put it on your own calendar. Also, don’t let it hold you back. I’ve gotten to the point where I give people 24 hours to get back to me before I bring it to their attention again or just go ahead and get stuff prepared. So if it is something along the lines of an internal position, etc., that you need him for, give him 24 hours before you poke your head in his office again.

    1. Yuu*

      Oops, just saw this about being off site…Yes, so call him. Leave phone messages. Ask if there is someone else in the office that could be your liaison, or a set phone call time. Or if it is really holding you back – any chance you can work at HQ one day a week?

  8. Wilton Businessman*

    Reminds me of the old doctor/patient conversation:

    Patient: It hurts when I do this….

    Doctor: Don’t do that.

  9. Anonymous*

    I like documentation so when dealing with someone who does not respond to or send emails, particularly if he/she is notoriously forgetfull (selectively or otherwise), I always follow up our telephone and in-person conversations with an email summarizing what we’d discussed or agreed to.

  10. Jamie*

    Look, I love email. I’d live most of my life over email if I could.

    Me too. And to the extent that I can – I do.

    I have never understood those with the preference to drop what they are doing to answer the phone or encourage drive bys (the head popping into office – the one thing I’d eliminate if I could). But as much as I don’t understand them they are out there – and when it’s necessary I can play by their rules.

    Sometimes you just have to adapt to your bosses communication style. I had a boss once where everything was a dialogue. Nothing too minor to pull up a chair and have a long chat about X and how we feel about X and how other people most likely feel about X. I’ve had bosses that communicate via email and spreadsheet – data first. Obviously I’m happier working for the latter kind of boss – but I learned how to get what I needed from the former…even though it totally grated. I feel for you.

    1. Runon*

      I would totally prefer the email land. I would like to live in the land of email. But I’m in an office environment now where even when I send an email the recipient will come over to my desk to talk about it 98% of the time. Even when it is a yes or no. I’ve stopped sending a lot of the emails I’d prefer and use them to follow up knowing they won’t be read. I got a pedometer and told myself that getting up and going to people’s desks to communicate is good for my health. (This is my way of coping with having communicate in what is imo the least efficient way possible.)

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – and if anyone ever figures out a way to stop some people from emailing you, stopping by your office to tell you they emailed you, tell you what’s in the email, and tell you it’s not important and to deal with it whenever you have time I will pay big money for that solution.

        Why do some people insist on defeating the entire purpose of communicating by email?

        1. Sascha*

          Defeating the purpose of email – YES. I am fine with people who do not like to communicate with email. I have a coworker who prefers talking in-person. However he doesn’t email me first – he just comes and talks to me (or will message me on chat when I’m teleworking). The frustration comes not from a difference in communicating style, but over-communicating and being inefficient about it.

        2. KarenT*

          if anyone ever figures out a way to stop some people from emailing you, stopping by your office to tell you they emailed you, tell you what’s in the email, and tell you it’s not important and to deal with it whenever you have time I will pay big money for that solution.

          I too will donate to this worthiest of causes.

        3. Lulu*

          Sounds like these may be people who got used to coping with a lot of people who refused to read email! ;)

        4. HR Gorilla*

          Jamie – I had a manager who would email me, print his email, and then fax said email to me. He FAXED his EMAIL to me.

          1. EM*

            I replaced a woman who would print out entire websites, like the Boss in Dilbert. There were binders full of them all over the office. I eventually got rid of most of them. I’m sure she thought a 2-inch-thick binder was easier to refer to than opening up a webpage. I wanted to call her up and say, “control F, that’s how you find information on a web page”. Or Google. Even. Nevermind the fact that much of the information changed regularly, and it was important to know when it changed because it was regulatory in nature.

        5. -X-*

          I haven’t stopped it but I have reduced it a little by saying “If you email it to me, I’ll look at it within a few hours – you don’t have to come over and talk to me.:

        6. Runon*

          I don’t know but it makes me sad. I love email. I know it isn’t perfect for everything. But there are few business things I wouldn’t rather have in email. I despise that I have to tell people I emailed them so they notice they have it. I have tried to respond fastest by email. When I get back from a meeting the first thing I do is check my email. But until I have the power to ignore people standing in front of me (at least they don’t sneak up behind me anymore) and put up a sign saying, if you email me I’ll get to it asap, if you stand there I’ll finish this project, I guess I’ll have to keep looking at my pedometer and trying to think good things.

        7. The Other Dawn*

          And how about the person who gets your email, prints it out, brings it to you and tells you he got your email? Disturbing.

          1. Jamie*

            I have one of those – I thought it was an anomaly. Is this a thing now? Because if so they all need to stop it!

        8. Henning Makholm*

          In a non-trivial faction of the cases, for me the purpose of email is as a way to make an error message that used to show on a coworker’s monitor show on _my_ monitor as he comes in and asks me what I think about it.

          He he just came in and started to talk to me, it would be difficult for me to know what he was talking about.

          If he just sent the email but didn’t come by in person, I probably wouldn’t notice until at night when I’m shutting down programs. By then, the colleague with the question has long since left, and will have to wait until next day to get my input. That’s silly and time-wasting.

          Email + pop-your-head-in works fine for me, and I don’t see what could replace it as efficiently.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I totally agree with Alison’s advice above but I am so sympathetic to how incredibly annoying this must be, even though I value face to face communication a little more than the average person here. Like it or not most of the business world runs on email. It is so useful. Even though I have a good memory I’m at a huge risk of forgetting communication that comes over the phone or in person if I don’t write it all down because I have this huge volume of random things to keep track of. I can search my email way more easily than my brain or my handwritten notes.

      Separately, one thing that really irritates me is when people don’t answer their phone when I know they are at their desks. I wouldn’t be calling if it weren’t something that I think could be accomplished more directly or easily over the phone than via email, or unless it were something of some time sensitivity.

        1. Ellie H.*

          Oh, yeah. Of course that’s true and I didn’t mean to sound presumptuous – I do know some people who tend not to answer their phones out of principle, though I suppose I could just be being paranoid.

          1. Runon*

            Personally unless I see it is someone who I NEED to talk to to complete what I am working on, I let it go to voicemail and then respond by email. I’m faster with email. I don’t have to listen to you talk at the rate you talk at, I can read as fast as I can and then zip an answer back without having to chit chat or say “Hi, this is Runon. I’m just calling back to respond to your question about X. If you Y it will work.” Because until you let me call and just say “If you Y it will work” email is faster.

        2. K*

          But how do you know what you’re working on is more important than the call unless you answer it? At least at my job, I’d love to ignore the phone but I kind of feel like it’s still obligatory to answer it right away in case something is truly time sensitive.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In most jobs, it’s so rarely an emergency that it’s reasonable to prioritize what you’re doing over being interrupted. There are some jobs, of course, where that’s not true, so you have to know which one you’re in.

            1. Sascha*

              Quite true, I’m a support tech so I am expected to answer my phone unless I have someone in my office – and sometimes I will answer the phone even then, if the person is a coworker and our discussion can be resumed at another time. At a former job, I wasn’t required to answer my phone at all if I didn’t want to. That was one of the first things I asked about when I started both jobs.

            2. Ellie H.*

              OK, maybe I am misguided in thinking that there really are some exchanges better suited to phone than email. I personally always prioritize answering my phone because I serve as the receptionist, also because people so rarely leave voice mail these days, also because I assume that the person had some reason to call and not email and I respect his or her judgment.
              If there is a quick phone question, I just think it’s so much easier to take care of it at the time than have a delay. I also can’t help but feel that a question where I will have different followup questions/answers depending on what the other person says is easier to do in two minutes on the phone than in three or four back and forth emails. But it seems like many people don’t like to ever use the phone so maybe I should reframe my thinking.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, as a receptionist, it makes sense to do it that way. That’s a job that’s very phone-based. For lots of other jobs, though, that’s not going to be the case.

              2. fposte*

                Granted, this is all dependent on workplace culture and position expectations. But while a phone call may be easier for the call*er* to check off a task, it’s not easier for the callee, and that’s one reason why email became so work-mainstream. You get your thing done earlier, but the thing on my end that got interrupted takes longer–not just ends later, but takes longer, because of the getting-back-in-the-groove, where-were-we-again phase that stretches the time out. An email I can answer when I’ve refilled my tea, come back from the bathroom, or am otherwise out of deep thought process, but unless you’ve got psychic powers, you’re not going to make a phone call turn up at just the right time to achieve that. I do do lots of stuff by phone, but it’s almost entirely phone calls that are scheduled or at least expected.

            3. K*

              Fair enough, I guess; I’ve always been in workplaces where it’s considered non-optional and I guess it had never really occurred to me that it’s different elsewhere.

              1. K*

                (Granted, with internal people it’s not uncommon to pick up the phone and say “let me call you back in a minute,” so I haven’t always been expected to drop everything I’m doing for long periods of time.)

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah — really varies by jobs. I can think of one time I had to have a “stop answering your phone every time it rings” conversation with someone, in fact. She’d been falling behind on some big priorities and when I asked why, she said it was hard to concentrate when she kept getting interrupted by phone calls (all of which were, by their nature, about lower priorities). I explained to her that it was up to her to manage her time and that as long as she wasn’t ignoring messages for days, it was fine (and even necessary) to block out time that was just for getting the big priorities done.

            4. Chinook*

              Unless it is a call from the receptionist. I know the only time I called someone was when I had someone waiting for them and, if that person didn’t answer, I was known to call those sitting around them to pass the message on because, frankly, leaving a voice message usually meant leaving a client sitting in the reception area, starting at me for an hour.

          2. Ponies!*

            Outlook (and I’m assuming most email services) has ways of indicating the importance of the message. There’s the little “!” you can add that appears before the subject. Or you indicate “URGENT” or “Action required” or something like that in the subject. That way I see your email pop up, I see that it’s important and I can do a quick scan of the content so that I can start working on the request right away (if it is, indeed, urgent :)). With a phone call, I never know what someone’s going to throw at me so I’m not prepared with a response, and there is usually the inevitable back and forth that takes up additional time (Hi, Hi, how are you…etc). I am also introverted and need to be able to focus on things without interruptions, and generally hate phone calls personally AND professionally.

              1. Chloe*

                I’ve run in to so many of *those* people that I routinely ignore any Urgent or High Importance designation on an email. If it is genuinely urgent, I consider it reasonable that the person would phone me or visit in person. I think the “urgent/high importance’ tags are very passive agressive, such a meek way of saying “please pay attention to me”. But I might be slightly skewed by absolutely chronic overuse of them. I’ve actually had to explain to some people that they are defeating their intentions by overuse, and they usually seem totally surprised that it could have that effect. Boy who cried wolf, anyone?

                1. Ponies!*

                  I actually do not have too many folks that overuse it. I find it’s a pretty good gauge of actual urgency in my company. My company is also huge and multinational, and the majority of the time the people you’re working with are in another state or country, and most likely in a different building even if they’re in the same city. And we are besieged my conference calls, so it’s pretty rare to find someone who isn’t otherwise engaged on the telephone (that’s a whole other issue…sigh). :)

                  I’m now pretty interested in how many emails everyone typically gets during the day. Could be interesting to compare!

            1. Henning Makholm*

              No matter how much you write “URGENT” in the subject line, if I don’t see that subject line until I’m shutting down for the day, you’re going to end up waiting. (Nine times out of ten I don’t see the fiddly little pop-up Thunderbird produces until it’s gone). If it’s actually urgent, come and talk to me. Or if your’re not in the building and it’s still urgent even so, call me — no matter how much I personally hate phone calls.

              1. Jamie*

                If you’re not regularly checking emails throughout the day then calling is the best option. But my emails follow me around like the cloud of dust over Pigpen’s head – so it’s always the easiest way to reach me.

                I think it just speaks to what’s been mentioned before – knowing the office culture and the particular communication styles of the people with whom you’re working.

          3. Lulu*

            Usually if it’s time sensitive, I’ll email with the ! because I don’t know that someone IS at their desk, or is/is not in the middle of a project they’re concentrating on or a conversation with someone else. Where I’ve worked, I do know they’ll have one eye on their email, and if they’re not at their desk, they’re attached to their Blackberry/iPhone, so email has usually proven MORE expedient… Depends on your company, I suppose.

      1. Canadian mom*

        It would depend on what I was doing. If I was in the middle of something like processing a credit-card payment, it would be pretty cumbersome to stop in order to answer the phone.

        Trust me, I pay attention to my voicemail and will call back as soon as I’m finished – probably about one more minute.

        1. Jamie*

          This. If I am in the middle of running a batch or if I have some data tables open and one absentminded click could cause an error so egregious that after I fixed it I would go into the witness protection program to hide from the shame there is nothing wrong with ignoring a ringing phone for a second.

          Best invention ever was sending voicemail to email btw – I hate voicemail.

          But I work in a culture where that’s okay and if you call my extension and it’s on DND you know to shoot me an email or, if it’s an actual emergency, call the receptionist about 30 feet away and she’ll come in and yell for me to go put out whatever fire needs dousing.

  11. Mary C.*

    I was once in a situation where a supervisor gave me a verbal assignment, including requirements and a deadline. However, when I completed it, the supervisor said that it wasn’t what she had asked for, and told me the same deadline we had discussed, was still firm. I showed her my notes from our conversation and she said I must have misinterpreted what she was requesting. I was in the office until 10 PM that (Friday) night and missed my friend’s birthday party. After that, whenever I had a conversation about an assignment (rather than receiving written instructions), I always summarized our conversation and the assignment in an email and closed it by saying, “If this is different from what we discussed or if you wish to modify what I’ve outlined here, please let me know by the end of the day.” I have never had the issue again.

    1. LJL*

      That’s the exact reason that I like to document..just checking to see if we are on the same page. I think it’s a good thing, others notsomuch.

    2. Anonymous*

      This also worked the other way round– from manager to team member and is a VERY good one. The situation in this post doesn’t seem to be the case, but the weak manager tended to avoid emails. The confident one loves everything pinned down without any vagueness.

  12. AnotherAlison*

    The consensus seems to be that the OP needs to TALK to the boss, instead of emailing him, and I agree. But, I’m wondering about some of the responses that seem to infer that the boss is the one who’s behind the times.

    Who hasn’t been in a 5-way email conversation with people all sitting within 100 feet of each other, and had the thought that this is completely ridiculous and we should all just huddle up and hash this out in 5 minutes?

    A few weeks ago, someone accidently sent an email to an entire sharepoint list about how he didn’t think he should be on the list and to please remove him. . .this was followed by 50 replies saying they didn’t think they should be on the list either, and another 10 telling people to STOP REPLYING to this message. I don’t think the original (or subsequent) messages went to anyone who could take care of the original request.

    Oh, another major frustration is passive aggressive behavior when hiding behind email. It’s a management issue more than an email issue, but this comes from one coworker all. the. time. Confrontations about it are always met with denial. Li’l ole me? I just meant blah, blah, blah.

    Like Alison, I love all the good things about email and have been actively using email since 1995, but I’ve about reached my limit with email misbehavior. I’m happy to jump on MS communicator, pick up the phone, or walk down the hall and do my part cut down on the email ridiculousness.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      (Also – FWIW, my direct manager is also offsite & I work with a team of traveling types, and I still find a way to speak with people off email.)

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s one of my weaknesses. I’m not well-connected in there, it is hard for me to find other ways to work it all out without disturbing some “balances”.

    2. K*

      Yeah, I agree. This is one of many reasons a heavily telework environment is not for me. I love e-mail, but on collaborative projects, it is a huge relief for me to be able to pop down the hall and hash things out in person.

    3. Runon*

      I kind of get what you are saying in the second paragraph/question there. But my office has too much of that and it comes with a whole set of problems. Personally I’d much rather have a 5 way email of people going back and forth. The other option is what if one of those 5 people is in a meeting, 3 people get up and stand at someone’s cube and come to a decision, one person who is at a cube farther away was left out, one person in a meeting was left out. Now how is that information communicated to everyone? What is the record? What happens if they decided something that was impossible (or impractical)? What happens when the people left out had information that would alter the decision? What happens when you and I walk away with a different understanding of what was to get accomplished and there isn’t a record of it so it never happens?

      1. Esra*

        I’m with Runon, I’d much rather have an email chain and record than five people in a room hashing things out. It’s just so much easier to track multiple projects and make sure everyone who should be included, is.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Yes, that could be a problem too.

        I come from an engineering background. How engineers work could have changed in the 5 yrs since I’ve been doing project design work, but we used to be very good at solving problems face to face. Things are getting more digital now, but it’s using other tools, not email (sharepoint, drop box, IM).

        I’m not *that* old, so I don’t know what things in business were like before email, and I’m not suggesting we go back to that anyway, but I do think we should take a look at how digital tools are used and pick the right one for the job.

        I’m certainly no expert on E-discovery, but I do know at my Big Corporation, there’s a corporate initiative to move away from email for the purposes of better record-keeping (and communication). If a group of people need to know about something, email is not the preferred platform for us to use anymore.

        1. Esra*

          move away from email for the purposes of better record-keeping

          I’m curious as to how moving away from email would make for better record keeping. Do you use a specific program? Spreadsheets?

          1. AnotherAlison*

            You spend amounts with lots and lots of zeros and implement fancy Enterprise Management Solutions.

            We’re in the early stages, so it hasn’t all come together yet. Email doesn’t go away, but it is more of a clearing house for messages from other programs (i.e. similar to the “you’ve got a new message on LinkedIn” type email.)

            More specifically, if I want to invite you to a client meeting, I will do that through our CRM tool (think sales database) interface with Outlook, but the details about the appointment live in CRM, not Outlook. After we have the client meeting, the notes go in CRM, not in an email that gets sent to 10 people. I can send a report from CRM to those 10 people, but again, the notes live in CRM.

            This is just one module. We will have something similar for all the key business processes.

            Sometimes these EMS implementations work, and sometimes they are epic failures for the companies that try them, but ask your nearby high schooler how many emails they send and I think you can agree that we’re not moving towards more emailing in the future.

            1. Esra*

              Okay, that makes sense. I used to work at a big corporation that had several custom solutions and they were either amazing or like daily root canals.

              And then the Sharepoint, oh god, the Sharepoint.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  heh heh. Seriously, as I was thinking about how we used to do stuff, I started hating SP and the 2013 way of life a little less.

                  Let’s say you were doing project X, and it was similar to project Y you did 5 years ago. You could start a particular engineering calc by using Project Y as reference. Project Y is archived. . .and that actually meant it was in bankers boxes in cave storage. You had to fill out a paper form with the file number you needed, have your admin assistant look up the correct box and request it from cave storage. Wait 2 days, and then dig through a box hoping the file you wanted includes a floppy disk that’s not damaged. Then reverse the process to get the d*mn box out of your cube.

                2. Jamie*

                  I’m not a fan of banker’s boxes – I just prefer the engineering library I set up on a separate server that gives those who need it electronic access to all historical files without the added layers of share point. Culturally I need to keep things as simple as possible.

                  I tried to champion moving to SolidWorks PDM and…not everyone loves change. Maybe someday.

            2. Josh S*

              This is where I think Google Wave really could have lived and thrived, if only some folks would have picked it up in a useful way. Oh well.

        2. Runon*

          If you could manage to move people into another space* that is digital and captures that but without the “clutter” that goes into an inbox you would be my hero.

          I just think that moving backward to in person only you loose so much of the good parts of digital. I’d rather be smart about managing my inbox than have someone commit me to something I simply can’t do.

          *I work with SharePoint, we refer to it as The S-Word. It is … despicable. On the good days. I know in theory it can be good but it is such a poor fit with our culture that it is impossible to get anyone in there including the people who demand things be done in there.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I agree with your assessment of SharePoint. It’s something we have now. Can’t recall if it’s going to survive as other systems are implemented.

            While SharePoint is a PITA, if you remember how some things were done before, it’s not all evil. In 2000, we used to share files by physically walking a floppy disk to someone else’s cube. (Perhaps that is why we used to communicate in person more than we do now. We had to go there for other reasons!) Or now, for things we don’t use SP for, we use shared drives that aren’t as secure and anyone with drive access can play with your files.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              My head is spinning with this kind of stuff. All the sharing and logging in in a big company….I’m lost in a sea of computer programs I never knew existed!
              Except IM. I love messaging instead of emailing, and I love it instead of answering the phone. :D

            2. FreeThinkerTX*

              Yep, back in the day we used to call that type of networking / data-sharing a “Sneaker Net”. As in, you stood up and walked over to another person’s office/cube in your sneakers and handed them the disk.

  13. Good_Intentions*


    I’m truly sorry for the level of frustration and annoyance you must feel about this. In particular, losing out on the seasonal position, at least in part, because of your boss’ decision to ignore your email must weigh heavily on your mind right now.

    If at all possible, I would suggest that you directly ask you boss about his preferred communication method. This will force him to clearly tell you: “Yes, I prefer face-to-face and telephone communication. Email is just too long-winded and one-sided,” or something else entirely. You will have an official answer one way or the other, though.

    Your situation is something I’ve been going through with a volunteer position I am in the process of leaving. I am in the Midwest, but the nonprofit is based on the east coast. This means I either have to constantly leave voice mail messages or email the volunteer coordinator with updates. I prefer email as I can put down details such as time, date, location, number of people, budget figures and partnerships without interruption and greatly reduce the chance of miscommunication.

    However, the volunteer coordinator prefers to take notes while we have a 30-minute conversation, which I consider to be a complete waste of time for both of us. Unlike you, OP, I am a volunteer and can more readily set boundaries about how much time and energy I wish to expend, so I’ve clearly outlined my preference for email but received no feedback from the coast since. Oh well, I’ll be completely finished with this project in a few months!

    I wish you nothing but the best OP as you try to work through this, and rest assured that many other people are going through similar communication issues across the country.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      In this case, I think the person who gets the say about the preferred communication style is the volunteer. I used to be a volunteer coordinator before I moved and I had to communicate with about 12 agencies. I considered it part of my job to find out how best to get an answer from whomever could provide it. Yes, it meant remembering that Suzy preferred email and Bob preferred a phone call but it got the job done and kept my volunteers happy and productive. Ordinarily, I much prefer email but my preferences took a back seat to getting the job done.

      Of course, if something time-sensitive or truly in-depth came up, I would call the email people. But I would apologize for interrupting them and explain the situation as quickly as possible. We worked with foster children and sometimes things happened quickly and an email wouldn’t cut it.

  14. Anonymous*

    While he is the boss, people will have to morph around his likes and dislikes to a certain extent. However, like I have seen on here a few times about what makes a candidate appear to be in touch or out of touch with modern times, I think this boss is a bit out of touch. Many people communicate via email nowadays for personal items and business. He should get used to it; if he switches companies, he might not have any choice. But in the meantime, the OP will have to find other means to communicate, including picking up the phone.

    1. Lanya*

      Many of my clients are terrible at responding to both emails and voicemails. The only time we really get any work done is with weekly and sometimes daily scheduled conference calls, depending on the workload. That might be an idea for the OP.

  15. Julie*

    If you’re worried about things not being “official” if they’re not in writing — which is reasonable, given the ease with which people can say, “that’s not what I wanted” if there’s nothing written down — you might try this. After you’ve had a conversation or a phone call or whatever, just send a quick email saying, “Thanks for chatting. I just want to reiterate that you mentioned that you want A, B, and C done by Thursday. Let me know if there’s anything I didn’t understand properly, otherwise I’m gonna assume we’re on the same page.”

    Now, you’re not going to get a reply. The guy isn’t responsive by email. But at least now you have a paper trail unless you need to prove something later. It’s a good habit to get into, I’ve found.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    One thing you might want to try is putting the purpose of the email in the very first line:

    “Boss, the purpose of this email is to inform you”
    “Boss, I need action from you regarding the following:”

    Sometimes people bury the point in an email and it’s not clear what you’re asking for.

    1. jill*

      I think this is great advice. It seems like frequent in person meetings won’t be possible given the OP’s location, and while other options like gchat or video chat might be possible, I think email still will be necessary.

      While the OP is norming with the manager on this, they will want to think about what systems will make it so that it’s super easy for the manager to read and respond to emails.

      E.g. does it make more sense to send one consolidated message each day/week/whatever with all requests, questions, and deadlines together? Or to send one message for each work area with a clear, consistent subject line so the manager can search quickly? Something else? Does the boss have an assistant who might be able to print emails for him to read? Could OP and manager come up with a clear schedule that OP will send messages on Monday for confirmation by Friday, or something, so that there’s a consistent time in the manager’s schedule to review these messages? Should the OP send out a message before a phone check in to review live, or immediately after to recap?

    2. Lindsay*

      Yes. My boss is not an email person. It’s not a generational thing – he’s younger than me, has an iPhone, and sends and receives email on it. However, it’s become clear that it’s not his preferred method of communication.

      When I do need to email something to him, I make sure to include the deliverable I need from him in one line, separated out into its own paragraph at either the top or the bottom of the email. The deliverable also needs to be one specific thing – “Should I change X to Y or leave it as is?” vs “Do you have any feedback?”

      When I do this I get a response – either by email or in person telling me. If I don’t, he skims, thinks it’s an informational email, and misses what I need him to do.

  17. Mike C.*

    In my personal experience, the people who avoid email avoid it to avoid accountability or change their minds at the last minute. Not many of us have time for those sorts of games.

    1. moss*

      completely agree. AND the person in my life who you have to ask 15 thousand times over email until they finally cough up the answer….are over-the-top charming in person. It’s unreal. Very manipulative.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      From another perspective – I get about 600 emails a day on average. I try to triage them and do what I can, but things do slip through the cracks. That’s why being up front about what you need from your boss can help a lot.

    3. Ashley*

      Then, do so !

      Just say something like “Due to such and such that have happened since…” or “It occurred to me overnight that … so, I now want this done that way”. He’d be loosing accountability by not saying anything.

      This isn’t the case with my boss though. Offline communication just isn’t in his mix.

  18. Lisa*

    Hoe does this guy not get fired for no communication? I am assuming his boss uses email, and he can’t ignore all emails.

  19. KC*

    And if you boss prefers face-to-face communication over phone or email, you might suggest getting Skype set up. It’s free and it allows for face-to-face communication. I’ve worked with teams where various members were off-site (and sometimes offshore) and Skype was something we used to get everyone virtually into the same room.

    1. KellyK*

      Good suggestion. Skype is really useful. It’s also nice for getting multiple people on a call quicker and easier (and much less expensive) than a teleconference line.

  20. Chriama*

    Speaking of emails…
    (Ok, I’m actually going on a tangent here but I’d like to hear people’s opinions)

    It’s a little long, but here’s my situation:
    I’m an HR assistant at a large (Canadian, if it makes a difference) university. One of my duties is to send out rejection emails to everyone who didn’t get interviewed. Usually I’ll get a couple of people thanking me for letting them know, which I don’t respond to, but sometimes I’ll get an email that requires a response, e.g. someone will let me know that they’re applying for a position in a different department and I’ll have to tell them to send their applications to that department (just because you know the name of someone who works in HR doesn’t mean you should address your cover letter to them — especially when they’re a part-time university student haha)

    The situation:
    I just sent out some emails for a position that received over 70 applications (on average only 6 people get interviewed for any position), and I got this response:

    “Hi [Chriama],
    I am wondering if we can have a short (25 min) conversation to discuss how I can best represent myself to get to the interview stage in future applications to [university]. I look forward to hearing from you. -[applicant’sFirstName]”

    Is this normal? Should I be impressed, or just amused? HR directly emails everyone who was actually interviewed, but when you didn’t get an interview and you’re applying to a large institution like a university where there are likely to be many applicants, is it worth your while to ask for feedback? Also, 25 minutes seems like a lot of time out of a workday.

    My instinct says to just gently let her down, but how would you phrase it?

    1. EG*

      Dear Firstname,
      Thank you for your e-mail. Unfortunately, due to the number of applications that we receive, we are unable to provide individual feedback. I wish you the best of luck in your job search.

      1. Sascha*

        YES. This is great. Do this.

        As for if it’s normal or not…I’m not sure since I’m not a hiring manager (I just participate in interviews, but I don’t contact applicants). To me it’s a little odd to request an in-person meeting for feedback, it feels too much like she’s trying to score an interview without actually being called in for one.

      2. Chriama*

        Wow, that’s really simple and to-the-point.
        I got so caught up in the context of everything (how many applicants, how busy my boss is, the fact that we keep all resumes on file for 6 months) that I couldn’t see how to be diplomatic and still say “not a chance”.

        Is there any way I can give her advice about this, though? Is there a nice way to say “don’t ask for feedback when you’re 1/1million applicants”? Is that even good advice? I can see it being possible to get that feedback if you’re applying to highly specialized jobs, but my gut feeling is that this is another weird thing that only makes sense when you’re thinking like a Job Seeker.

        1. Sascha*

          I wouldn’t give her advice on that, because even if she was just one of a handful of applicants, there is no guarantee that she will receive the feedback. I would end the communication with the above email. I think if you offer advice on how to ask for feedback, she will push again for feedback on application/candidacy.

        2. fposte*

          There are actually posts about this in the archives (too many for me to link to, in fact–just use “feedback rejected applicant” (without the quotes) as your search in the Google search box to the right and you’ll find them if you want more info. But this is not a hugely weird thing for a job-seeker to do, though she’s overasking on the time. So don’t tell her not to do it, just tell her you can’t.

    2. Ellie H.*

      Hi Chriama,

      I would respond that unfortunately you are not equipped to give feedback about applications to specific departments because you do not review the applications yourself and are not responsible for hiring, so you won’t be able to discuss this individual’s application or the application process.

      It sounds like this person just assumed that because you responded to him or her, you were the one making the hiring selection, which is not the case. If you really wanted to I suppose you could contact the application reviewers (faculty, probably) to see if they are willing to provide feedback but my guess is that you and they won’t feel like doing that.

      1. Chriama*

        Haha, you’re missing the whole picture because I tried to keep it concise (how’d that work out?)

        I work with the HR reps who handle the positions along with the hiring managers, so do know who sifted through all the applications. However, she’s really busy and it’s easier for me to tell her what I’m going to say than forward the email to her and ask what to do about it.

        I was more amused by the email than anything. I wanted to know if this is advisable, and if not, if there’s any way I can tell her to stop doing this with other jobs. It’s probably not my place, right?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wouldn’t tell her to stop asking — because some employers will give feedback (although it’s more rare when it’s someone who didn’t even get interviewed), but she should stop asking for a phone call (let alone a 25-minute one) … but I don’t think it’s really your place to tell her that. She should figure it out if enough people turn down the request.

  21. Suz*

    This sounds just like my boss. With her, it’s not that she prefers in-person communication over email. The problem is the volume of email she gets. It’s way too much for anyone to keep up with. So she has made it clear to her staff that if we need something ASAP or by a certain date, to talk to her about it. If it’s something like having her review a document, I’ll tell her that I emailed it to her so she’ll make a point of looking for that email.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I’m in the same situation with my boss. I know he gets tons of email and he most likely won’t get to read mine, so we’ve agreed that for urgent things we’ll use IM and phone, and we’re free to set up meetings with him if the outlook calendar shows he’s not busy. (He’s in a different country so there’s no chance of popping into his office.)

  22. The B*

    I had a boss like this. She wouldn’t answer e-mails. She was also a very disorganized person. The problem was she would also not give answers in person or the phone. She just stalled and stalled. Often we would miss our deadline because she hadn’t approved something. It made us look bad.

    The only thing came up with that kind of worked was giving as much buffer time as I could. So if I needed an answer in a week, I would ask 10 days ahead. I also tried to get as many of my questions answered in person and paperwork signed on the spot. Sometimes this worked and sometimes I was waved away and simply told to come back later.

    I tried to get authority to authorize/sign-off on some tasks, and that worked on some things/purchases, but the office was very chain-of-command oriented and I couldn’t get them to authorize me to make bigger decisions.

    Anyway, I ended leaving that place and now I’m middle-management at another place, so it worked for me.

    1. EM*

      My old boss was like this. He could never make a decision. He also had to be the project manager for every single project out of that office. I started saying, “I’m going to do it this way unless I hear differently from you”. I swear, all of the work that got done in that office was in spite of our manager.

  23. Jill*

    My boss and I are in seperate locations, and he gets a lot of emails and is on the phone constantly. I’ve found it helpful to use the email subject line more efficiently – e.g. “URGENT – Response needed” or “FYI only” or “Need direction today to proceed”.

    1. Josh S*

      You can even put the whole message in the subject line sometimes (for interoffice email only; I know Outlook works, other programs may not). That way you don’t even have to open the email, or you can get the whole message on the pop-up notification in the corner of your screen without needing to leave your current screen.

      Subject: Today’s 4pm meeting changed to 4:30 [EOM]
      Body: n/t

      (The [EOM] stands for End of Message, for reference.)

      1. Chinook*

        +1. I have taught every office I have worked in these tricks and it really does work. For phone messages, I even put the phone number in the subject line (even if the body has more details) so that my boss can call them back easily from his cell phone.

        As for how I teach new staff about EOM – I just use it as normal and then, in the body, put “EOM=end of message (i.e. there is no need to open the email.” I always get positive feedback from it.

  24. Lulu*

    I agree that it may be a good idea to have a conversation about this and establish the best way to handle things that may need to go through email, as well as have some kind of regular 1:1 calls/skype sessions set up so you know when you definitely have access if you keep missing him on the phone at other times. I’ve also regularly done the email-confirm-of-conversation-details, mostly because I’m paranoid I’ll have left something out of notes or there could be a difference in perception of what was said, and it’s just easier for me to refer back to.

    I worked for someone who ended up in a position where he was just on email overload, so he might actually read your email, but 2 days later. (In my situation, the phone was not really an option unless the building was on fire, and even then…) I handled this by: making sure the subject line was VERY CLEAR (as per Katie The Fed’s suggestion); calling and telling him I’d sent him an email re: ____ that I needed him to read; compiling a daily or biweekly digest of questions/issues, so I wasn’t contributing to his email problem; finding ways to work around it if I needed a quick turnaround (not always possible, of course!). If I couldn’t find him and needed an answer, I’d send an email or leave a message saying I needed to know x by 2pm, and if I didn’t hear back, I was going to do y. All in all, this was not an ideal way to work, but you work with what you’ve got…

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you’re going to have to become more of a phone person, but perhaps you can compromise a bit? Agree that the majority of your communication can be on the phone, but establish that you’ll be sending a bi-weekly question/issue summary that he will agree to review, in addition to anything with a ! in front of it? Maybe if you assure him that he’ll only have to deal with a few emails a week vs a constant stream, he’ll be willing to do at least a little email business.

  25. Elizabeth D*

    Admin says you need to talk in-person but given that you work mostly offsite, this advice doesn’t help you much. Perhaps a gentle discussion is needed to define communcations methods. Ask if phone is possible if he is unwilling to adapt to email.

  26. Laura uk*

    I think all the advice is very good as ever. I’d add it’s about being effective. It’s as true as managing down or up. My personal preference (as is Alison) is email. I’ve equally got one direct report who hates one to ones (but I push it) who just sticks her head up and says “what do you think about x”, and another remote worker who wants to speak every few hours and chew the fat. Equally, my boss is busy so I mainly email but I have the confidence to stick my head round the door sometimes and say “hey sorry, I need you to sign this off.” I’m lucky I have these relationships but I think what I’ve learned is I have had to adapt my style whether managing up or down based on the personal preferences of the person involved. Of course of its a horrible bad fit either way it can pose problems but the best career decision for me has been to adapt to individual’s style where possible. I get the best out of my team and also get the best out of my CEO by realising people have preferences.

    1. Lulu*

      ” another remote worker who wants to speak every few hours and chew the fat Ugh, this too – I find it’s a lot more likely to get sidetracked when I have to speak in person! Not that I think you shouldn’t be social with coworkers (at all!), but when you’ve got a lot on your plate I find it’s much easier to keep things moving when there aren’t opportunities to engage in irrelevant conversation every 5 minutes. (Can you tell I’m Team Email?)

      Regardless, in this instance the core question is “my manager operates this way, how do I work with that?” So yes, adaptation is the key.

    2. Jamie*

      another remote worker who wants to speak every few hours and chew the fat

      I’ve actually found that to be the biggest challenge with remote workers – is the relationship building aspect. The tech part is easy – config a laptop, smartphone, VPN and I’m pretty much done. But workers who are strictly remote – in another part of the country and only come in a few times a year at best – workplace relationships just don’t organically develop the way they do when you see people each day. If you don’t try to mitigate this they can feel like outside clients whenever you have to deal with them – and that’s not good.

      I can easily see some remote workers being overly chatty on the phone in order to mitigate some of the distance. Not the best way to do it, but I can see why they do. Especially when the remote worker is in sales and they need the relationship more than someone with just a quick technical question.

  27. Laura uk*

    Not entirely sure if the ‘managing up’ thing has any meaning. Not saying you don’t do it but maybe you wouldn’t express it that way.

  28. Eve*

    Or it could be possible that he get spammed a lot with other’s peoples e-mails. It might help to make more concise e-mail titles.

  29. Annie*

    I am NOT a remote worker, but have two bosses who have to review all press releases, stories, newsletters, social media posts, etc. Sometimes they are responsive, sometimes they are not. Unfortunately I have implemented something similar to what Lulu said above:

    “I worked for someone who ended up in a position where he was just on email overload, so he might actually read your email, but 2 days later. (In my situation, the phone was not really an option unless the building was on fire, and even then…) I handled this by: making sure the subject line was VERY CLEAR (as per Katie The Fed’s suggestion); calling and telling him I’d sent him an email re: ____ that I needed him to read; compiling a daily or biweekly digest of questions/issues, so I wasn’t contributing to his email problem; finding ways to work around it if I needed a quick turnaround (not always possible, of course!). If I couldn’t find him and needed an answer, I’d send an email or leave a message saying I needed to know x by 2pm, and if I didn’t hear back, I was going to do y. All in all, this was not an ideal way to work, but you work with what you’ve got…”

    HOWEVER, despite clear subject lines, multiple emails, printed emails hand delivered to them, multiple face to face and phone conversations asking for review/approval–my coworker and I still get ignored. We are at our wit’s end and don’t know what else to do to get our work completed.

    1. Susan*

      This is
      Insane! I think you should contact their boss and pose the question you asked here about how critical this is to production and completion of your work. It seems your company as many are purposely protecting themselves and even sometimes their assets by not replying to emails that an employee can use later on against them. It is for their protection and the companies, not yours. Get to the bottom of this and if it can’t be resolved, I would look for a job and in the interview ask this email response question so that you know next time what position the company has for this and where they stand prior to working there.

  30. ryan*

    I find this information to be the most helpful

    ” If I couldn’t find (said boss) and needed an answer, I’d send an email or leave a message saying I needed to know X by 2pm, and if I didn’t hear back, I was going to do Y. ”

    I’m batting about .350 on responses to emails from my new boss.

    Well played @Annie

  31. EJ*

    Unfortunately, just talking isn’t an option for some people. I work for a medical device company, where we have to keep a record of everything we do (for the FDA), including keeping records of discussions if they could lead to changes in the system. This means having an email trail. If we don’t have a record of these discussions somewhere, it could mean information getting misinterpreted or lost, and could mean an audit. There needs to be some way to communicate to a manager that an alternative to verbal discussion is necessary, especially in this kind of environment.

  32. Susan*

    Sure…”You Asked A Boss” your going to get a “Corporate” response. Ask an “Attorney” you will most definitely be told to get important facts in writing. If your boss does not email, he or she is protecting their job and the companies perhaps fallen agreements. If you have no documentation and lets just say for arguments sake here.. your boss tells you that she/he will take care of an incident or situation that happened between you and a co worker. Your taking their “word” they did this and that they even discussed it with their boss. But.. what if none of it happened? The situation heightens and you feel threatened on the job or with your life now. Your boss whom does not write emails can simply turn around and say she never mentioned a thing. Because telephone conversations and verbally speaking nothing is on record for your own protection. I had this happen to me once. I can’t remember now.. it has been some time ago, but it was an important situation I needed in writing. The boss tried to make light of it and to go about their day. I firmly stated I needed them to email me back. I simply used the tactic that I would forget if I don’t see the email. I believe he/she knew I was not an idiot or push over. I also at the time was a Paralegal. They teach you this. Well… needless to say the boss forgot they emailed me and the situation came up later on and I was then and only then able to turn around and use the email as my documented proof. But… had I not had the email from the boss, I would be out of luck. Even perhaps a job. Sure… you can’t expect the CEO of the company to take their time to email you for things your Supervisor or Manager can.. but.. if they have a company email and it is given to you to use, then they by all means should use it. I am also having this problem now. Hope this helps.

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