{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. AndersonDarling*

    Never, ever have I received an “urgent” email that was even remotely important. All the urgent flag tells me is “Look! An egotistical jerk sent you an email!”
    *Not to offend anyone who uses urgent flags. It’s just really unnecessary in my work.

    1. Annalee*

      It’s the same for me. At one gig where we had to use outlook, I spent more time than I care to admit trying to figure out how to set outlook to ignore/remove ‘urgent’ tags on incoming mail. I have yet to encounter a manager who actually uses the ‘urgent’ flag to indicate to their staff that they should prioritize something.

      1. Crazy 4 Teapots!*

        I only use (!) the truly urgent things like, “leftovers in the break room!” and…

        Yeah, that it. Just for leftovers in the break room.

    2. Pokebunny*

      I think they’re about as obsolete as read receipts. No one uses them correctly, and anyone who does usually end up annoying the recipient.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I seldom get them, but when I do, they actually are pretty urgent. Urgent enough to warrant the tag, at least.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, we get urgent emails for things like, “Be sure to not do this thing that violates regulations!” or “Scary guy in the parking lot–security is on the way, so don’t open the doors.”

    3. Businesslady*

      I will tolerate their use (and occasionally use them myself) if the message is truly time-sensitive–like, in-the-next-hour actionable. For example, I sent an email marked “urgent” the other day about a meeting that was canceled an hour before it was supposed to start, and I wanted to make sure no one showed up to an empty room. Or if it’s something like “hey, we just noticed this thing that we have to fix before EOD and it’s 4:30pm, aah!” I think the little red exclamation point is justified.

      But I completely agree that it’s widely overused, to the point where some people seem to think it means “I’d like you to read this email; I personally think it’s important,” which, no.

    4. Josh S*

      Real conversation I had yesterday:
      Sara: Did you get my email?
      Me: Yes. But I’ve literally been in meetings back to back all day, I’m just sitting down at my desk, and I haven’t even had a chance to read it, let alone know what it says.
      S: But I marked it with the ‘!’ so you would know it was urgent!
      [note: all her emails to me are marked with the ‘!’]
      Me: Yes. Sara, do you know how many emails I get every day that are marked urgent?
      S: But you should be able to know which people really mean it by now.
      Me: …..
      S: Well, here is what I need….
      Me: Before you start–is it in the email?
      S: Yes but —
      Me: I will read your email and respond to it. It’s obviously important enough that you came over here to talk about it. I’ll make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
      [S finally walks away so I can get 5 minutes to breathe for the first time all day. I look at an inbox of about 50 unread emails.]

      Me, halfway to myself and halfway to my co-worker: If everything is a priority, then nothing is.

      Truly, I ignore the little ‘!’ on emails because they just don’t matter. What might be life-shattering to you and your pet project might be 89th on my list of priorities, and your project might be dead last among the organization’s things-that-matter list. The more you complain how important your project is, the less likely I am to think it really is.

      1. Vicki*

        “If everything is a priority, then nothing is.”

        I was once in a department-wide meeting where an engineer actually asked the VP: “So, which of these several priority 1 tasks is really Priority 1?”

        And the VP had the temerity to respond “App of them”.

        1. A Bug!*

          I wonder if it was a bit of a “Who’s on first” situation attributable to a difference in perspective. The engineer, as a person charged with actually getting things done, was asking a logistical question about the order in which to handle the tasks. But what the VP heard was a question about the relative importance or value of the tasks in the larger picture.

        2. babblemouth*

          I regularly tell people that the point of prioritising isn’t to decide what is the most important, it’s to decide what is the least important. No one’s ever complained that their project got top priority, but people do complain when they get put at the bottom of the pile. That’s why management is a *job* and is paid bigger bucks. I have little respect for a manager that can’t make decisions like that.

    5. it will happen*

      I am the IT person at my company and I turned this off at the company level in our e-mail. There was only 1 person who used it and he used it for every e-mail he sent – oh he was not happy when it went away.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Oh, I wish we’d had someone like you at my last job. There was one person whose every email was ‘urgent’. I started passively aggressively marking “low priority” on the message threads that she’d marked urgent.

    6. ginger ale for all*

      I have seen it for tornado watches and warnings. I like it for that use. We have a system in place at the university where they will take over our computers and start flashing an emergency warning across our screens when a tornado is spotted in the area but I like the urgent e-mails that give me a warning that I need to stop certain tasks or have plans thought out before the big “get to the basement NOW” signal.

    7. insert witty name here*

      They have a place in jobs where there truly IS an urgent e-mail, as in “stop the presses, we need to yank the story before it goes to print.” (And yes, I have had to do that). Of course, this would be followed up with a phone call, but you can’t call a dozen people at one time…

      1. Markethill*

        Same in law. I use them and I see them, but only on things where, for instance, an issue comes up the day before trial that needs to be addressed. We also use read receipts and delivery notifications so that we can prove delivery.

        I get why these features would be annoying in most fields, but I think that those of us who actually need them for work tend to use them responsibly.

    1. John*

      I hate getting read receipt requests. It’s like the sender announcing they don’t trust me and are collecting evidence that I did, in fact, open the email.

      1. ZuKeeper*

        I used to have a client, client A, that was so bad about responding to emails and giving me the ok on things that I had to use them and also send a cc to the other client, client B, who also had A as a client and was waiting on their approval as well. It was annoying, but I had to be able to prove to Client B that I was sending A the information and that A was not acting on the info. It almost always ended up with Client B calling A and then calling me and telling me to run with the project, and oh, the deadline is still the same. So really, I guess the read receipt didn’t do anything but cover my fanny.

        But I never used the urgent, and it used to annoy me when I got email requests marked that. Buddy, I have 15 clients ahead of you. Your lack of planning is not my emergency! Unless of course you are client C who equals Big$$, then we drop everything and just work on your job, even though you never, ever asked us to.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I tend to do the same thing. However, I will do this with students from whom I am expecting a timely deliverable or response (and very occasionally with alumni participating in our programs). Students rarely check their college email (or if they do, they are doing it while walking to/from class and often don’t respond and then it goes down the memory hole), so this is an additional spur to reply. Plus, it’s excellent CYA for me when some student tells higher ups at the university, “I never got anything/College Career Counselor NEVER told me anything about this.” Oh, yes, you/I did. What’s more, I can prove it.

      2. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Agreed. Unless they his reply to all and sent it to the whole company, usually being the 50th person to respond to it saying that they aren’t the right person to handle that request. Those I always send the read receipt to. I might be a little evil.

    2. Aphrael*

      You can set outlook to automatically decline all receipt requests.

      Which I do, because I also hate them.

    3. Hornswoggler*

      This is a bit of a difficult one. I send a lot of tender applications as I’m a freelancer. They usually specify a very precise deadline – say ’12 noon on Monday 25th’. These are big documents which involve input from several people over many days of work, and which I kind of need to know have been seen. I put a read receipt on these, though I also add a note in the covering email saying something like “I have requested a read receipt so that I can be sure I have met the deadline”. If I don’t get a read receipt, I ring up. Nobody has ever seemed pissed off about this, and I often get interviewed, so I don’t think it’s spoiling my chances. My utter nightmare (only happened once) is sending a tender and finding it hasn’t reached the recipient by the deadline because of some technical fault.

  2. AnonInSC*


    At my office, we do use it occasionally. For example, when I know my boss has 100 unread emails and I need him to see something sooner rather than later. But I do this b/c it’s a system we’ve worked out for the “must read” emails vs the “info to share b/c you need to know/I need input but can wait” emails.

    1. NGL*

      Yep. At my last job, my boss was the type who still stayed connected while on vacation, so we used the Urgent flag to let him know that yes, this e-mail we really needed him to see/respond to. But again, we’d worked it out in advance.

      I think maybe once or twice I’ve received e-mails that were relatively urgent and marked appropriately. I work in social media so there’s time sensitive things/fires that need to be put out occasionally.

      1. SystemsLady*

        That’s a great idea, and I should request people to do this next time I’m on vacation.

        I got CC’d on two long email threads (one something I vaguely wouldn’t have minded knowing about, but also something I wouldn’t have contributed to even if not on vacation) and ended up getting even more emails than I usually get during my recent vacation.

        Urgent flags would’ve made peeking at the subject lines and content for something I needed to act on every couple of hours less of a chore.

    2. Chinook*

      My office uses urgent flags too, but usually because something needs to be dealt with today or the odds of something bad happening greatly increase. Example – we urgently need the boss to reply to this email about how we are going to fix this issue in the field and we know said boss isn’t near her desk to answer the phone but always has her cell phone with her in meetings. But, then again, I work with people whose goal it is to never make the news about the black stuff escaping the metal tube. Luckily, we have never had an issue, since I have been here, that has been urgent enough to have someone call me and make sure the boss reads her email ASAP because that would be very, very bad.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      Yeah, I do this too with people who I know get a flood of email every day. But we’re talking maybe once or twice a week, tops. I also use the “not urgent” tag with these people, for emails that are just FYIs.

  3. OlympiasEpiriot*

    At my company, it seems that only the marketing person ever sends an email market urgent. I get emails from clients about retaining wall collapses, adjacent construction’s excavation practices that have resulted in the basement being flooded and crane collapse and NONE of them are flagged ‘urgent’. Only our marketing person’s announcements that one of our partners has been mentioned in ENR or from our HR Dept telling us the insurance rep will be in our office in the next week.


    1. Koko*

      I work in marketing and communications and we use the urgent marking regularly but not frequently and not for that!

      We use it when we want to make a public statement or cacpitalize on a fundraising opportunity but we need non-marketing to approve the statement. Because their work is not at all communications or fundraising based they tend to deprioritize emails from comms staff – slow, slow replies, requiring follow-ups, etc. – in favor of their own work.

      The “urgent” flag means “This is actually becoming more of a PR disaster or golden opportunity missed with every passing minute that we don’t address these questions” or “We are literally hemorrhaging money every minute that we don’t have a fundraising pitch up addressing this and our competitor does.” It means, “It’s fine that you ignore my routine emails but please, please read this one because it’s one where minutes matter.”

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Well, I’m not usually (like…never….like No One Pays Attention To My Marketing Requests Nor Ideas) someone who could help on that. Our marketing person literally marks every blast letting us know about a partner being interviewed with that red exclamation point. These are *not* urgent. We have paper copies up on a bulletin board. And nothing has collapsed.

        >rolls eyes<

        What you're describing makes sense and bears absolutely no relationship to what I described.

        1. Koko*

          Yeah, I can’t imagine putting an urgent marker on a media hit list! Those come so frequently and don’t require any action. Your marketing person is ridiculous.

  4. MaryMary*

    I had a client who thought marking an email urgent/high importance/red exclamation point meant it travelled through the internet faster. Like a high speed lane for email. So if she wanted to make sure an email arrived in our inbox ASAP, she’d mark it urgent.

    Maybe your candidates are trying to make sure their application gets to you before everyone else’s. ;-)

    1. Pokebunny*

      You should tell her that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so if she wants an email to arrive faster, she needs to pay for the service and mark it urgent.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      IBM actually did have their Intranet set up this way at one time. They may still, for all I know. Maybe your co-worker worked at a place that did that, and thought it applied to the whole Imternet? Which wouldn’t be THAT stupid.

    3. AW*

      Well there was (is?) that whole hooplah over net neutrality where opponents said that creating a high speed lane for certain types of traffic would be a good thing. Maybe they heard about that but got confused on whether that happened or not.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    I’m in PR and a lot of what I send is urgent because it’s an externally visible crisis, a quick turn on information for a reporter or something of that nature.

    It’s common in my field and in my company based on our priorities, and I don’t think anyone thinks I’m an egotistical jerk for having a sense of urgency by acting in the best interest of the business.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      The ones who come across as egotistical jerks are the ones who put “urgent” on “our division was mentioned in a press release!” Ooh, you’ve blown your own horn. Fantastic.

    2. Dan*

      Serious question, no snark:

      Do the recipients of your email also feel that a response is needed quickly? I mean, it could be important to you, but is it important to them as well?

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Yes, because it’s important to the business. It’s not a case of “someone else’s fire is not your fire.”

  6. Fawn*

    I’ve been guilty now and then of marking an email as urgent – but only in the sense of “this needs to happen right away because it’s related to this event happening tomorrow”. I also mention why it’s urgent in the first line of the email.

  7. Cleo*

    Weirdly, I’ve found marking emails low priority is the surest way to get a quick response. I assume the “oh, get to it when you get to it” vibe indicates it’ll be easily handled.

    1. Ama*

      Huh, interesting. I used to communicate regularly with a person who marked all her emails to me low priority (even when sometimes they were pretty important and she herself, though junior in her field, is pretty well-respected), and I always wondered why.

  8. Lily in NYC*

    I only do it for something last minute – like if my boss has to cancel a lunch date and it’s only 30 minutes from now, then I send it with the red exclamation point in the hopes that I catch the person before they leave their office.

    Our HR director has a glitch in her outlook and it always sends her messages the opposite way, as “low importance”. I don’t know why I find it so amusing, but it makes me laugh when I get an email from her with a one of those blue arrows pointing down.

  9. Karyn*

    I have a former boss who I love dearly, but who flagged emails as high importance constantly. I asked my IT Guy if he could somehow disable that damn button. He laughed and said that Boss did that to everyone and to basically consider high importance as normal, and normal as low importance.

    One day, I got no less than 20 “High Importance” emails. So I printed them all out, brought them into his office, and said, “These are all of the high importance emails you sent me this morning. You can have five of them today. Choose wisely.”

    He stared at the stack of paper for a minute, chose the five, and for the next six months, I didn’t get another high importance email. Every time he started to act up, I’d do the same thing and he’d calm down again. It was surprisingly effective.

  10. Tammy*

    At my company, the urgent tag seems to be used (correctly, in my opinion) by HR and Finance to tag things which require more immediate attention. It’s also used (incorrectly) by salespeople and spammers trying to sell us stuff. I haven’t actually seen a job applicant use it, but I would not be favorably disposed to one who did.

  11. Anonymous Educator*

    Nobody who isn’t an employee of your company (or tied directly to the company in some way, like a trustee) should ever send you an email with “URGENT” in the title. And, really, the only thing that’s urgent is an Uncle Billy from It’s a Wonderful Life scenario. And, in that scenario, you don’t send an email. You call… you track down someone in person.

    Email, by its nature, isn’t urgent. That’s why I love email.

    1. Random Citizen*

      Yes, exactly! Emails can be important, but if it’s truly urgent, I’m not willing to bank on the chance that the person will check their email right away – I need to know that I reached them.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I had a print vendor who used to send his emails marked as “high priority” when every he delivered a project. It drove me absolutely batty and I stopped using him.

  12. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    The last urgent email I sent at work was confessing to pulling the fire alarm BECAUSE THERE WAS A CHEMICAL LEAK IN THE LAB. I sent it via cell phone, from the meeting point. After I also called 911. Slowest building evacuation I ever saw.

    1. TL -*

      Oh, yeah, I love labs. 6 alarms going off and the fire trucks outside and there’s always at least three people who just need a minute more.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Well, it’s not a real emergency unless there are at least 3 fire trucks. 2 is clearly just routine, and you can finish what you’re doing before leisurely going outside.

  13. Beezus*

    There’s also a “low importance” flag. I have literally NEVER seen anyone use it.

    A few people here use the “high importance” flag on emails, but I don’t know that anyone actually prioritizes reading or responding to emails accordingly, so I don’t think that matters.

    If I have a really time-sensitive issue that I have to convey via email, I usually start the subject line with URGENT or HELP. I almost never ever do that, so I have a decent success rate when I do.

    1. addiez*

      I use low importance! Generally when I’m sending out a semi-work related email like an article about our field that might be interesting but is very low priority

    2. Karowen*

      I use low importance for courtesy emails – telling people thanks for helping out on a project, etc. But then, everyone at my company seems to be really savvy with the urgent button (which is incredibly surprising given the proliferation of reply-all and ridiculous email signatures).

    3. Margaret*

      I’ve used low importance at least a couple times – it’s when it’s literally a “if you’re completely bored out of your mind some day within the next year, could you look into this” type of request. I know at least once to our IT helpdesk email, something like I wondered if there was a way to change the default setting on some program. It wasn’t actually a problem preventing me from doing anything, but would save me a second of efficiency here and there, so it’d be nice to deal with eventually but definitely super duper low on their priority list.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I send requests to the tech desk w/ the “low importance” flag.

      I like to have a good rapport with them!

      I also label stuff “medium urgency.” I never flag it “urgent,” though I will say that: “This is urgent, because I’m paying money to mission-critical freelancers who cannot get onto the system.”

    5. LQ*

      I tried to use it for a while on things that were like “Eh, you will want to have this in your email box for 3 months from now when you go searching for it but don’t worry until then” kinds of items. But it seemed to confuse people more than anything.

  14. LawBee*

    In my office, it’s for emails sent by the partner to his associates who are stuck on planes without wifi but were supposed to respond within ten minutes.

    1. Super Anonymous, Esq.*

      In my previous job, it was for 11pm Sunday night email requests for PDF copies of documents that (a) were already stored in the cloud-based document management system that Partner had required the firm to switch to so he could access it through an app on his iPad, using the folder structure he explicitly specified when the system was set up; and (b) had been emailed to him at least three times over the prior work week.

      I will let you guess how long I managed to work there.

  15. Kristine*

    I think I’ve used the “high importance” marker 2-3 times in my career. Most recently was a few months ago when a sponsor informed me *on the morning of the event* that they were pulling their sponsorship. I thought my director would want to read that immediately.

    I have one vendor who sends everything as “high importance”. Even if it’s just an email saying “Thanks for your order!” It drives me bonkers.

  16. JMegan*

    But, but, but, my job applications ARE urgent! How will I ever Stand Out As A Candidate, unless you see that little red exclamation point beside my name???


    1. Charity*

      That’s foolish. You should have the gumption to walk right up to the hiring manager and hand him or her your a printout of your email in person, the way the pioneers used to.

    2. Random Citizen*

      Silly applicant. Clearly you will never stand out until you camp out in the boss’s lobby!!!!!!!!


    3. ginger ale for all*

      This reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s career advice. Last night, on his radio show he told a 60 year old woman who had just gotten laid off of her sales job to tell people that she would work for them two months for free to prove her worth.

        1. asteramella*

          Nope, he’s recommending FLSA violations for people in their 60s. Unpaid internships have specific requirements besides “working for free.”

      1. BananaPants*

        I heard that on the podcast while on the treadmill at the gym and almost started yelling at my phone. On one hand, the poor woman sounded scared and like she needed a bit of a boost. On the other hand, someone giving career advice today should know that what he was suggesting was ILLEGAL. (Of course, if anyone tries to tell him that his suggestion wasn’t a good one, he’ll go on a Twitter rampage or rant about it on his show.)

        These days, the older a person is the harder it is to land a new job – ANY job. Frankly, the caller was right to be scared. In the last 8 years or so I personally know a number of people who were laid off at 60+, including my dad. *None* of them found comparable work – frankly, most who did find work again worked for a lot less money than they made previously, basically just surviving as long as they could get Medicare and/or until they had to start drawing Social Security to get by.

  17. ThatGirl*

    Our group managers occasionally use the urgent flag for tasks that need to be prioritized above and beyond our normal workflow, and are time sensitive. It’s a good way of saying “read this e-mail as soon as you get the chance” and they don’t abuse it, thankfully.

  18. Kyrielle*

    The urgent flag is for:

    The alerts that went out at my previous job, supporting public safety software (police/fire/EMS) that a client had a major event/issue happening unexpectedly and the support teams needed to stay clear of their systems unless handling a critical issue, and that critical issues needed to be handled with X/Y/Z in mind.

    The time paychecks were going to be delayed by two days and employees were to contact payroll/HR asap if they needed a cash advance because of auto-bills.

    …yeah, that’s about all I can think of.

  19. TootsNYC*

    Well, the emails that I send at 10:30 pm (or 2am) that need near-instant response are marked urgent.

    And at other times of day, if I know the entire organization needs that task to move forward ASAP, then task-related emails that require a response will get tagged “urgent.”

    But even better is to craft the subject line carefully.

  20. Jen*

    I use urgent when it is something that must be read immediately, and only to people that don’t read/respond to email quickly.

    Eg. Company president- NEEDS SIGNaTURe BY COB (marked urgent).

    Boss- NEW INFO YOU MUST SEE FOR MEETING YOU HAVE IN AN HOUR (we work in separate offices).

  21. Menacia*

    One woman in my company sends emails IN ALL CAPS, uses the high priority ! sign, and read receipts, regardless of the importance of the message…she’s special.

    1. JMegan*

      I have one of those too. Guess how much faster I read her emails because of it? (Spoiler: not at all.) The urgent flag has its place, but it really needs to be used with discretion or else it’s meaningless.

  22. anonanonanon*

    My office switched over to gmail a year ago, which is great, because aside from writing URGENT in the subject line, there’s no specific button to mark emails as low or high importance.

    Before that, I had one colleague who would sent out URGENT emails whenever there was leftover pizza or cake in the kitchen.Free food does disappear quickly in our office, but it’s not worth an urgent marker. But I think a lot of people don’t understand what “urgent” means the same way I think most news companies don’t understand what “breaking news” is anymore.

    1. Random Citizen*

      But… but- pizza! And cake!

      Side note: Politics aside, I was dreadfully amused by CNN’s interview with Trump after the GOP debate last night when a summary of his comments was listed in the “Breaking News” box on the screen. For instance: “Breaking News: Trump – “Romney was a terrible candidate.” (Because obviously a presidential campaign from eight years ago is breaking news.) And my personal favorite: “Breaking News: Trump – “Rubio was pouring down sweat.” I haven’t the foggiest idea why CNN decided those comments should be listed as breaking news.

      1. anon for this*

        CNN really does not understand “breaking news”. My favorites are when they declare the anniversary of an event as breaking news. Last Week Tonight called them out for their ridiculous breaking news segments on one of their recent episodes. It was great.

        1. Random Citizen*

          Yes! Because clearly no one anticipated a coming anniversary. It was a shock! Really! Like the well-publicized debate – obviously nobody knew it was happening, so any related comments naturally become breaking news. Do you have a link for the episode where they got called out for it? That sounds amusing. :)

          1. AnonInSC*

            I was so annoyed with that last Saturday watching the returns to see how my state voted.

            Sorry everyone.

  23. Nancie*

    Urgent: The entire system just crashed. 47 people who earn an average of $25/hr and an instrument that leases for $5k/day are currently cooling their heels.

    Also Urgent: your pay sheet is #$*ed up, and if you don’t correct it in the next hour, you’ll spend the next 2 weeks in paperwork hell.

    Urgent depending on the workplace: someone just put cupcakes in the breakroom. You have 15 minutes to get there before they’re inhaled.

  24. Lady Kelvin*

    I really don’t see the point of urgent emails. If something is actually urgent and needs an immediate response, you need to call me. Emailing me something just means, get to this when you can. But then again, I’m an atypical millennial who finally got a smart phone last year but doesn’t keep email on it/doesn’t check work email after 5pm or on weekends.

    1. TootsNYC*

      ” If something is actually urgent and needs an immediate response, you need to call me.”

      I did that too, and you didn’t answer.

      There’s a voicemail message waiting for you that ways, “This is urgent, and I sent you an email too. Here’s my question. I’m going to walk over and see if you’re there.”

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, the email can carry details the phone can’t, and I know you need those details before you can respond.

        So I’m trying email first. If I don’t hear from you in 10 minutes, I’ll call and ask you to read that email.

    2. Fawn*

      Sometimes the paper trail is useful, particularly if the request is from a junior from to a senior (as it often is in my case). Or if one of us is working remotely, or if there are details in the request that need to be put in writing. IMO, phone calls are good for status updates; requests are best through email. But then again, I come from an office culture where email is monitored like IM.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I see the point. For example: trying to catch someone I don’t work with who is coming to my office for a meeting but it was canceled – I want to save him/her from an unnecessary commute to our office and I don’t know the person’s phone number. How else am I supposed to reach him? I never learned how to do smoke signals.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      In my case, urgent emails-rather-than-phonecalls usually have attachments, e.g. a last-minute edit to a document that someone needs to upload as part of a grant application deadline.

    5. ACA*

      I had to send an urgent email to someone earlier this week because I’d been emailing him for a month with no response, the deadline was coming up, and not only was he not answering his phone – he didn’t even have voicemail set up on it!

      And, of course, he still hasn’t emailed me back. Jerk.

    6. Willow Sunstar*

      It depends on the line of work. I once was copied on an urgent 40-chain email where the delivery truck guy delivering a load of berries had messed up his log and napped when he shouldn’t have, and now the berries were going to be delivered hours late. When dealing with fresh stuff it makes sense to mark some things urgent, but also don’t copy the poor admins who can’t do anything about it. I felt very sorry for the poor truck driver though, since they’re the expendable red shirt guys on the Star Trek away mission.

  25. AP*

    I work with a guy who marks every. single. email as urgent and always adds his own email in the CC field. His mailbox must be pure mayhem.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, why do people do this? There is a guy at work who cc’s himself on every email he sends. It’s like he doesn’t realize he has a “sent emails” folder?

      1. keri*

        Maybe it’s something to help his desktop and phone sync up? My phone’s set to BCC me on any emails it sends, because otherwise they don’t always show up in the Sent folder properly, and if they do, they don’t form the email thread as if I’d sent them from within Outlook. I have no idea why, but the BCC ends up being very useful when something urgent comes in for me to handle (otherwise, I only look at the subjects and delete the spam/useless stuff so that my inbox is a little more manageable in the morning).

  26. Yggdrasil*

    I’ve had voicemails from recruiters marked as urgent. Apparently there’s a way to do that? Anyway, what I told them when I called them back guaranteed I’d never get another call, urgent or not.

    1. AW*

      What even happens when a voicemail is marked urgent? Is the message louder? Does it get moved to the front of your queue?

  27. TowerofJoy*

    Ugh. Slightly OT but I have a coworker that marks EVERYTHING they send as “Urgent”. At first I just thought they didn’t realize it, but now I’ve gotten confirmation they do it on purpose. Obnoxious.

  28. AEB*

    Staging site for a pharma client was getting indexed by Google (which required them to notify the FDA among other things). Our discovery of the indexation is the only urgent email I’ve sent in the last year!

  29. Charity*

    I think urgent is fine if it is genuinely time-sensitive. Like, “The meeting was cancelled; don’t get on that flight from San Francisco to Boston!”

    A phone call would be better if it was to one person though; it might be impractical to call an offsite team of 50 people individually.

  30. Omar*

    So I solve it by deleting the flag column from my inbox folder display. I have no clue which have been marked urgent and have never cared anyway. The message itself will tell me what is urgent.

  31. BethRA*

    Can you also tell them to stop sending photos with their applications? Especially when the photo in question not “professional” but “the most professional looking one” they have?

  32. Brett*

    I tried to think of the most urgent email I ever sent. I went back in our archiver to check and see if it was marked as urgent. It wasn’t. Probably because we wrote it in between phone calls from CNN, the Weather Channel, and several other news agencies.

    (The real email is a public record. So no issues with posting this modified version.)
    “Subject: Several Tornadoes in
    Report of mass casualties in at . Anyone would like to monitor for us please do. Report to and
    Any help appreciated. Thanks”

    So, you could use that as the low bar for “Urgent” :)

  33. Dan*

    Love it. HR at my last job always marked everything with the red exclamation mark, but it was never time sensitive. The irony was that they weren’t habitual emailers, and the stuff they did send was important. But it wasn’t *urgent.* The thing to me was that since they weren’t habitual emailers, and the stuff they sent us was important, it wasn’t necessary to *tell* me that. Marking it as such was redundant.

    My snarky comment is “just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to me.” Or, “just because you think it needs to be read *right now* doesn’t mean I agree with you.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      well, there isn’t a flag for “not time sensitive but truly important enough to not get lost in your email queue.”

      Of course, if there were one of those, it would get overused.

      I see the “urgent” flag as “notice me!” but I reserve the right to decide whether I need to act right away.

      And the subject line tells me how urgent it is.

      1. AW*

        well, there isn’t a flag for “not time sensitive but truly important enough to not get lost in your email queue.”

        Yes, but there are categories. I’ve never seen anyone use them for email but I use them a lot in my calendar.

  34. Noah*

    I removed that column from my Outlook view long ago. People can mark an email “urgent” all they want, but I get to decide what is and is not urgent to me based on the subject line and content.

    I normally read/respond to all emails within an hour though, at least during working hours. Sometimes the response is just “I’ll get back with you within X amount of time” but I respond.

    We have one admin who sends almost every email as urgent. Urgent to her apparently means it needs to be done sometime this week. Urgent to me means drop everything and start working to fix this now. Difference of opinion I guess and it is easy enough for me to ignore it by hiding it.

  35. Bowserkitty*

    Somebody JUST pulled this on me yesterday when it truly didn’t need it, but for a general email. I believe the age gap may be a factor.

  36. LBK*

    To an extent, I think there’s confirmation bias happening among this group – they seem to be annoying and useless because I’d venture that the average AAM reader actually reads and responds to all their emails, so marking something as urgent comes off as a bit patronizing for those of us who are generally on top of our inboxes. For a former manager of mine, the only way you could get him to read an email sooner than next week was to flag it as urgent – that basically told him “no, seriously, you need to read and respond to this within a reasonable time frame”.

  37. Wendy Darling*

    I worked with a guy who sent almost every email as urgent. If he had five (not actually urgent) questions he would send five emails in 10 minutes, all marked urgent.

    I went urgent-blind and so did the rest of my team, so the time he sent us 3 urgent emails because he needed us to make a decision in the next couple hours or lose a vendor, we all ignored it for a few hours and blew the deadline because we assumed it was just Urgent Email Dude crying wolf again. Whoops.

  38. Q*

    If you send an email or other correspondence marked urgent or rush and its not, it automatically goes to the bottom of the pile. Consider it punishment for wasting my time.

  39. PizzaSquared*

    The wonderful thing about using Google Apps instead of Outlook is that the Urgent flag doesn’t exist (if people send with it, it’s ignored). As is read receipt and “recall message.”

  40. ashleyh*

    I used to work at a zoo and my rule was if an escaped animal was on a murderous rampage, then it’s urgent. Otherwise, STFU.

  41. LQ*

    Some people have good judgement on Urgent (my director sending things out when the entire system is down – HUGE DEAL for everyone at the org).
    Some people have really bad judgement (the coworker who thinks coffee club is urgent).

    I think it can be a good tool (I see something from Director marked Urgent I stop everything I’m doing or the conversation I’m in to read it).

  42. ACA*

    I rarely use it, but I will when the situation truly merits it – like, “Dear student, You need to submit this paperwork ASAP if you actually want to graduate.”

  43. LA*

    I have a coworker who uses it a lot to the point I have outlook take off the urgent from her emails. I have used a handful of times and since I rarely use it, people know it is really urgent, unlike my coworker.

  44. MM*

    I use it (very, very rarely) to signify that the item is “importanter”…if it’s truly urgent I would call or see someone in person.

    However, though annoying, I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal for a job applicant to use it. It shows a little naivety maybe, but they probably just want to be sure you’ll see it. Which you have. Not really a big deal or harmful, just personal preference (though I guess it could also depend on how you use the urgent feature at your organization).

  45. DeskBird*

    The only time I have EVER used the urgent flag was the day I found out the 800 number on our new-ish website was not in fact our 800 number but a number for a phone service of an adult nature. The web guys were not picking up their phone. Then I had to wait for every single executive at my company to call the number to ‘double check’ before we could authorize a change.

    +1000 on the application thing though. I get SO MANY. And i am not even the one they go to.

  46. Mindy Lahiri*


    I would also add marking your voicemails about your application as high priority. I really dislike our voicemail system and the fact that this is even an option for callers drives me batty. Checking on the status of your application that you submitted a hot minute ago is unfortunately not at a reason to sort your voicemail to the top of the queue.

  47. Sydney Bristow*

    I came across a company once that had it set up so if someone received an urgent email but didn’t open it within some period of time (less than an hour, I think) that they’d be paged on their company cell phone. It seemed ok most of the time but every once in awhile somebody would abuse it and there’d be a lot of outraged people who were getting paged for no reason. This mostly happened with email distribution lists.

  48. Puffy*

    The only time urgent was ever properly used in my organization was to announce the tragic death of an employee’s son and to explain that we’d be closing the following day so staff could attend the funeral if they wished – now THAT was urgent.

    I’ll never forget the one email (sent company wide) from the receptionist. It was flagged as urgent with a subject of “PLEASE READ!!!”… she was simple stating that someone had taken her stapler on accident and she would like it promptly returned to her desk because she was borrowing her supervisor’s stapler.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I think my favorite was the time I got an “URGENT! PLEASE READ!” letting everyone know that the hair dryers in the women’s locker room at another office were broken. Meanwhile, the email stating “do not use the latest firmware version; it will set your device on fire”? Not marked urgent.

  49. Sara*

    UGGGGGGH urgent emails. I have to work with this donor who funds an event I manage, likes to be very involved in arrangements, and abuses the urgent email thing like no one else I’ve ever met. Mind you, this event happens once yearly. It is also the same every year, with only minor changes. Yet seven to nine months in advance I will start getting emails marked urgent for things like: “Will you have the PowerPoint done in advance? Can you make sure to ask the caterers about vegetarian options?”


  50. Sixth Try!*

    Sorry, trying to respond to a comment above (MaryMary’s) and keep bouncing around and locking up. So, I’ll try to type this in Word and then do a quick copy/paste before my browser locks, again. (Sorry if I’m repeating comments that someone may have already stated)

    This is sort of old school (going back to last century!); but back in the day when servers were a lot more expensive, companies would have email run on a schedule. That is to say, when you clicked “send” the email would be sent to the server; but, would then wait until the next delivery schedule before sending it on to the recipient. So, it will have looked like you sent it; but, it might be a while before the recipient actually receives it.

    Depending on the delivery schedule set up on the server it might be just a couple of minutes or an hour. Typically, servers were set up with delivery schedules of every 15, 20, 30 minutes, or even an hour – all depending on how IT set it up. (Not unlike a train schedule, arrive just a minute before the train leaves you are in luck; miss the once-an-hour train by a couple of minutes you have a long wait.) This was designed to save computing time and, thereby, save money. And, obviously, email wasn’t as instantaneous as it is today; nor was it expected to be. That’s what phones were for!

    However, if you needed an email sent immediately without waiting for the next scheduled delivery you would check the “high priority” for delivery. This would force the server to NOT wait for the next scheduled delivery and, instead, send that email immediately.

    I no longer work with IT on these types of issues; but, I believe that because of lower costs for servers the delivery schedules are either a minute or two, or there are no longer delivery schedules on servers; all email goes immediately.

    So, yes, we can laugh at that person’s ignorance (The person in MaryMary’s comment); but, they aren’t completely wrong as it did used to work that way. (and, yep, this was a long, VERY long, time ago)

    Also, for what it is worth; emails marked “low priority” would be scheduled to go with the “night deliveries.” Believe it or not, this was the standard practice for “bulk” emails, that is to say emails which were being sent to everyone in the company (such as a company newsletter). Sending bulk emails during the day would cause a massive slowdown of the servers (or even crash them). Send a bulk email without marking it “low priority” and the IT guys would be all up in your business like there is no tomorrow. I guarantee that was something you did only do once!

    Today, there really isn’t any reason to mark an email as “high priority” or “urgent” to make to go faster. But, maybe this is one reason some people still do this?

    P.S. It was also sort of nice that there was a delivery schedule because you could “recall” an email if the server has not sent it yet; and the recipient would be none the wiser. Many email systems today still allow you to recall an email (if it is unread); but, the recipient most likely will see the email in their inbox; but, it is “not available.”

  51. BananaPants*

    I work in a multinational, and when sending an email to someone who has a 13 hour time difference I will mark it Urgent if it really is. I won’t call the cell phone of a colleague in China and wake them up at 2 AM, but it lets them know that I really need them to address it as soon as they get into the office in the morning (at which time I would have already left for the day – I don’t check work email or voicemail at home). Judicious use of the Urgent flag helps bring their attention to it.

    I reserve the Urgent tag for major/very important issues – i.e. “If you don’t get this information out ASAP, someone could lose a hand”, not “There was a minor revision to Obscure Standard #406.”

  52. Willow Sunstar*

    I do data entry for a grocery store chain at their home office. Since we deal with fresh food and everything is assumed to be urgent, the urgent tag is reserved for the stuff that absolutely can’t wait for more than an hour or two. I also get lots of email and have told people over the phone when they call me to mark it urgent so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, because I know it needs to be done pretty much immediately. But using it for a job application?? Nope.

  53. Milton Waddams*

    It is urgent — for the applicant. They just didn’t get the memo that in order to be considered for a job you have to pretend that it’s really more of your passion (but not too passionate) or maybe more accurately, your hobby — so getting a new job is supposed to be treated like no big deal.

    Of course the reality for many applicants is that the minute they are unemployed they start sinking, sucked in the undertow of modern life, that requires a constant stream of money to be coming in to match the constant leakage of money moving out; no money coming in, and suddenly the landlord stops being friendly and starts being menacing, suddenly all those harmless monthly auto-pays become a little less harmless, and you start to worry about your credit. That squeaky noise your car makes is suddenly the thing that keeps you up at night, because all employers expect “reliable transportation” for even jobs that don’t have you move more than a couple feet in the course of a business day — after all, what sort of respectable person doesn’t have a respectable automobile? Under the circumstances, things really do seem worth an “Urgent” tag.

    On the other hand, companies enjoy the luxury of hiring being no big deal — it’s a way to show that they aren’t scrappy start-ups anymore, where the loss of one employee or one customer is a major emergency. Of course, this is often a form of hubris — it may take a few years to catch up with a company, but even the biggest companies can stumble, and “too big to fail” legislation doesn’t catch everybody, even in the business-friendly climate of today.

    To me at least, an “urgent” tag just means that there’s a good chance that when things get rough, they will be willing to sacrifice their image to get results. Depending on the industry you are in this can be good or bad, of course… but I wouldn’t see it as a universal negative.

  54. Just me*

    I work in publishing, so any ‘urgent’ I use is related to deadline and is, in fact, urgent. Like “Urgent – I need the PDFs to upload to the printer today!” etc.

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