is it rude to write “ASAP” in an email?

A reader writes:

I’ve been a fan and daily reader of your site for months and months. I am excited to finally have a question for you. It’s nothing too earth-shaking compared to your usual fare, but more of an etiquette question.

A person in a different department wrote me an email last week, telling me that she needed something “ASAP.” It has to do with an invoice she gave me the week before. I work with her maybe once a month or so, always having to do with invoices.

This term makes me bristle for a number of reasons:

• I served in the Navy, and this term reminds me of the demeaning and condescending way that some officers and senior enlisted talked to the lowly swabbies. In fact, I think this acronym even originated in the military, in the Army.
• It seems a bossy way to write to someone not even in her department, much less a part of her reporting structure.
• It seems overly dramatic, as if to say: “I need this so badly and urgently that I don’t even have time to write out a softer-sounding alternative,” such as “as soon as you can get to it,” “at your earliest convenience,” etc.
• It kind of implies that I’m just sitting on things, and need to be prompted to take action.
• It also, to my mind, implies that I don’t know how to prioritize tasks, that I can’t set my own priorities.
• It is presumptuous in that she has no idea what I have going on, what tasks are right in front of me, or what my priorities are from my manager.
• One of the online discussions said you shouldn’t write in an email what you wouldn’t say to someone in person, and actually telling someone you need something ASAP would sound very harsh.

There is one person who I work with closely, and often, and in a very friendly way, and we have mutual dependencies for getting parts of our jobs done. He will occasionally write ASAP, as will I, to communicate that this particular item really is important and time-sensitive. But this is pretty rare.

I pondered all this, and then sent her a brief response: “Everything I do is ASAP! I didn’t get a chance to look at this yet. Thanks,” etc.

Boy, did that set her off. She fired back a three-paragraph rant, liberally punctuated with ASAPs in almost every sentence. It was a monument to ASAP. She also copied her manager. At this point, I was officially angry, and so have backed off to cool down, not wanting to write something that I would regret.

What is your opinion of ASAP? Do you use it? Am I overly thin-skinned about this?

I might add that she is not a native speaker of English. I think “ASAP” is part of the business jargon she picked up along the way. So, I’m willing to concede that if it’s as annoying as I think it is, she might not have a good context for understanding that. On a side note, we’ve actually always gotten along pretty well, so I am also wondering about how to approach her next time I see her. She is hard to communicate with sometimes due to the language barrier, so I don’t know if it would be worthwhile to try to explain why I object to her use of ASAP.

ASAP can be annoying in some contexts, but it’s also pretty standard wording and not something you should take offense over.

ASAP isn’t annoying because it’s bossy or implies that you’d otherwise be lazy. It’s annoying because it’s vague. Some people use “ASAP” to mean “normally these requests can take a couple of weeks, but I need this one back in a couple of days.” Other times people use “ASAP” to mean “if you don’t drop everything to complete this in the next hour, the company will shutter and you will be in jail by this evening — it’s truly urgent and of the highest importance.” Because there’s such a wide variation in possible meaning, it’s not that helpful. It’s far more useful for people to spell out what they really mean.

But it’s really, really common, so you shouldn’t take it personally or bristle at it.

If you need more info about when the person truly needs it by, it’s fine to write back and say, “Since I have a bunch of high priorities right now, can you tell me more about when you need this by so I can fit it in with everything else?”

Your coworker sounds like she overreacted to your email, but … your email wasn’t great. She told you an invoice from last week was a high priority, and so you should have at least told her when you’d be able to get to it. Telling her that everything you do is a high priority and you haven’t looked at it yet wasn’t helpful — and in fact was essentially ignoring what she’d just said. At a minimum she needed to hear “I should be able to process by X” so she could tell you if it needed to be faster than that or not.

And if the invoice was unusually urgent and she was trying to tell you that, it would be frustrating to hear “I’m not going to change anything about what I’m doing, and I’ll get to it when I get to it,” which is basically what you communicated. I can see why that might result in a concerned response cc’ing her manager.

As for what to do from here? Dig out that invoice and process it, and let her know that you’re sorry that you didn’t take her initial message more seriously. You could explain that “ASAP” isn’t very helpful to you because so many requests are “ASAP” but that in the future, if she explains her timeline more explicitly, you’ll do what you can to meet it and let her know if you won’t be able to.

{ 779 comments… read them below }

  1. Roscoe*

    Yeah, I think you handled it badly. You have your reasons for finding the term demeaning or whatever, but it is common enough that I think your response of “everything I do is ASAP” and not getting her what she asked for was incredibly rude. Even you say you use the term with someone you are friendly with, so you don’t have that much of an aversion, you just don’t like that someone from another department said it to you.

    I’d apologize to her and then move on.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Which isn’t to say that her behavior was okay. Hers was worse, but you can only clean up your side of the street.

      1. Seriously?*

        I actually don’t think hers is worse. Using ASAP is not nearly as rude as the response.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          A 3-paragraph rant punctuated with ASAP in response is pretty bad! I was surprised she copied her manager on that. If I managed the coworker, I’d have a serious talk with her about it. I’d have a talk with the OP if I were her manager too, but I think OP’s response was less aggregious and aggressive.

            1. BethRA*

              It is a bit much, but if I send you something for processing, don’t hear anything, then when I send a follow-up telling you that it’s actually an urgent matter and you respond with “I treat everything as urgent (Even though I haven’t even looked at what you sent me in the first place)” there is a chance my response isn’t going to be rational.

              1. Kelly O*

                With you on this one. While this was handled poorly on the OP’s part, and the other person may have responded harshly, I personally would wonder who the ever-loving-heck this person thinks he is responding like that to a simple request. (And, you know, since you hadn’t looked at it, OP, then it really wasn’t ASAP.)

                I spend half my workday chasing other people down for information, approvals, signatures, etc. A week with no response, followed by a response like that, would probably make me WANT to send a three-paragraph missive on what ASAP actually means, and why you are a jerk for responding in that way.

                I try very hard to look at all sides of these questions, but having been on the receiving end of behavior similar to the OP’s, let’s just say my response is less than congenial. ASAP is not weird, or demanding, it’s just a way of saying “I need it know” without sugar-coating it.

                1. Say What, now?*

                  I do, too. It’s frustrating as Hell when someone won’t take five minutes to answer your email. But that said… her response was out of control. It would be one thing if she sent back an email cc’ing the manager and saying that this was too important to be ignored and was client-affecting. But the whole three paragraph rant with ASAP thrown in all over the place was childish, and unnecessarily harsh. The OP needs to do the right thing but she was not an example of what that is.

                2. General Ginger*

                  Same. Someone writing me “I haven’t actually looked at your urgent request, because Everything is Urgent” would definitely make me go “what a jerk” on the inside, even if I then did my best to censor my response.

                3. many bells down*

                  I can’t actually tell from the letter if the OP took a week to reply, just that the email was from last week and they sent a reply after “pondering.” I see that the first email was sent a week after the invoice, but not when OP actually replied to that email.

                  Because I’d feel a lot more annoyed if the reply was actually a week later as opposed to a few hours. Getting OP’s reply later that day would read to me like “I’ll look at this as soon as I can.”

                4. JSPA*

                  Yep. Let’s rephrase: “not only have I not looked at what you sent me a week ago; I’m also getting snippy over the wording in your reminder, and worse, I’m prioritizing sending a castigating response over looking at it, i.e. doing my actual job, which makes it possible for you to do yours.”

                  You’re the one leaving her hanging out to dry, and acting like your time is more valuable than hers, and possibly leaving many other people similarly in limbo. How tough is it, to glance at the invoice, and notice whether it is likely, indeed, to be urgent?

                  Maybe you’re not in charge of ordering the saline bags at a hospital; maybe nobody is dying because there’s a backlog in the invoices. But even “we’re down to 5 rolls of toilet paper for a department of 40 people” is a minor (and needless) crisis.

                  People say ASAP all the time. She’s using it very normally. Ask yourself why it bothers you that she’s using it to you (and why you’re ascribing it to her being foreign, for that matter).

              2. Kittymommy*

                Bingo. This exactly. While 3 paragraphs might be excessive sending an email chastising her for using ASAP because you treat everything as urgent but admit you hadn’t even read it (a week later!), um, yeah, I can see why she used the acronym quite frankly.

              3. Delphine*

                I agree. I would also be interested to see if it was actually a three paragraph “rant” or not.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  yeah, you can get to three paragraphs in about six sentences.

                  The first paragraph is, “I sent you that invoice a week ago, and these things are normally ASAP. I didn’t think I needed to say ASAP, because I thought that would go without saying.”

                  The second is, “Today I realized that despite the fact that stuff is generally ASAP, that invoice hasn’t moved. So I figured I had better tell you I needed it ASAP–that’s why I sent you a reminder email with ASAP in it.”

                  The third is, “Frankly, I should have to tell you this stuff is needed ASAP–that’s standard. And I’m mad that you sent me a snippy email back–if everything is ASAP, then you should have already looked at this invoice and handled it. And I wouldn’t need to remind you to do it, nor that its urgency level is ASAP. In the future, please treat all invoices as if they are needed ASAP–because they are.”

                2. Lilianne*

                  Absolutely this.
                  Seeing how the OP is misunderstanding ASAP as being rude and inappropriate(when someone who isn’t their friend is using it), I am thinking he might be misunderstanding an explanation as a rant. And I can totally see why it may be appropriate to CC your manager, for example if it was the manager pushing you to get that invoice done already.
                  We can’t see the whole picture, but I am only getting that OP behaved rudely from this letter.

                3. Traffic_Spiral*

                  This. Given LW’s behavior and unreasonable views on the word ASAP, I’m not quite sold on his/her objective judgement here.

                4. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Also, it just occurred to me: just before, LW was complaining about how brusque ‘ASAP’ was, and why couldn’t she take the time to type out “as soon as you can get to it,” or “at your earliest convenience.” So if she’s succinct, she’s rude, and if she writes a longer email, she’s going on a rant. She really can’t win, can she?

                5. Jules the 3rd*

                  Traffic_Spiral: THIS. She can’t win with OP. Too brief and rude, or too long and harangue-y.

                  OP, there’s something else going on here. Generously – maybe you don’t like other people upsetting your priorities? You’ve got some unprocessed trauma from the use in naval days? Whatever the reason, your response was very passive aggressive, and bordering on unprofessional. Alison’s got good scripts, but you need to dig into your reaction a little deeper. That acronym is standard business usage, your reaction is not.

                  I hope everyone is kind to you here, and that they focus on constructive discussion. If not, I hope you’re able to find the constructive discussion and let the rest go.

              4. LBK*

                Yeah, the OP basically told her to piss off. I wouldn’t be too thrilled to get that response either, and you’d definitely get a sternly worded reply from me. Ironically, the OP is actually doing some of the very things he said made him upset about the “ASAP”:

                • It also, to my mind, implies that I don’t know how to prioritize tasks, that I can’t set my own priorities.
                • It is presumptuous in that she has no idea what I have going on, what tasks are right in front of me, or what my priorities are from my manager.

                She has her priorities too! And one of them is clearly getting this invoice from you. You basically told her “what you need isn’t actually that important.”

                And there isn’t much to this story so it could just be coincidence but I gotta say, the fact that the OP is pretty accepting of “ASAP” from a male colleague but got so outraged when a female colleague said it is not a good look.

                1. paul*

                  And…OP, it was a freaking week, to respond to an email.

                  This isn’t someone that followed up PO’d at an hour or even a day delay here.

                2. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

                  I literally gasped and said “oh no!” when I read the “Everything I do is ASAP” response.

                3. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Yeah, OP–everybody needs help prioritizing tasks sometimes! It’s not and insult if someone lets you know something is high priority. If someone lets you know one item should get bumped up your list that doesn’t mean they think you don’t know what you’re doing. It just means they expect you might not have reason to know how important that item is, so now they are letting you know.

                4. Ted Mosby*

                  Yea this was pretty illogical. When you’re working in a team you help other people meet deadlines and they help you. You figure out what to do first by looking at your needs and the team’s needs overall. Telling a coworker something is high priority is a very normal and important part of office communication.

                5. TootsNYC*

                  “• It also, to my mind, implies that I don’t know how to prioritize tasks, that I can’t set my own priorities.”

                  Well, maybe our OP doesn’t know how to prioritize–that invoice has been sitting there a week.

                6. Observer*

                  And there isn’t much to this story so it could just be coincidence but I gotta say, the fact that the OP is pretty accepting of “ASAP” from a male colleague but got so outraged when a female colleague said it is not a good look.

                  That caught my attention, too.

              5. Nita*

                Maybe all the invoices really are ASAP by the time they get to her. I know that’s the case in my department. I normally don’t even process invoices, but vendors will reach out to me for the massively past-due ones when they can’t reach the responsible person. So yeah, by the time I get involved, the invoice really is urgent, and if enough of them don’t get handled fast, the vendor will put our account on hold.

              6. MM*

                Yeah, I’m biased on this because I am essentially in OP’s coworker’s position constantly, and my coworker who handles invoicing (i.e., the person who is to me as OP is to his coworker) always takes forever to get around to doing what I need from him; I often have to march into his office and physically stand over him while he does it. So of course I’m sympathetic to the coworker here. I’ve managed to keep myself a bit more controlled and polite in dealing with him, but I constantly wonder whether I’m erring too much on the side of decorum and not enough on the side of trying to get it through his head that the situation is not okay. (When I’m dipping into my savings to pay rent because he hasn’t gotten around to paying me in over two months, for example.) I also constantly wonder if I should be trying to escalate the issue by bringing in my manager or even going to the VP (it’s a small organization and she and I are pretty friendly). So I don’t find it hard at all to understand why OP’s coworker did the things she did here.

                (I actually was wondering whether my coworker wrote this letter about me for the first few lines! But it definitely isn’t him–I’ve never gotten an email reading “Everything I do is ASAP” from him–which is a relief.)

                1. Binky*

                  You should absolutely escalate the issue if you’re not getting paid on time! Most states in the US (and presumably governments outside the US) require that employees are paid within a certain amount of time (generally within two weeks of doing the work). So not only is your coworker inconveniencing you, he’s also (likely) putting your employer in violation of labor laws.

                  I’m also fascinated to know if he’s delaying everyone’s payroll, or just yours.

              7. JSPA*

                Yep. Let’s rephrase: “not only have I not looked at what you sent me a week ago; I’m also getting snippy over the wording in your reminder, and worse, I’m prioritizing sending a castigating response over looking at it, i.e. doing my actual job, which makes it possible for you to do yours.”

                You’re the one leaving her hanging out to dry, and acting like your time is more valuable than hers, and possibly leaving many other people similarly in limbo. How tough is it, to glance at the invoice, and notice whether it is likely, indeed, to be urgent?

                Maybe you’re not in charge of ordering the saline bags at a hospital; maybe nobody is dying because there’s a backlog in the invoices. But even “we’re down to 5 rolls of toilet paper for a department of 40 people” is a minor (and needless) crisis.

                People say ASAP all the time. She’s using it very normally. Ask yourself why it bothers you that she’s using it to you (and why you’re ascribing it to her being foreign, for that matter).

              8. Akcipitrokulo*

                yeah – the rant may have been an over-reaction – but ignoring someone’s request, then picking at the language choices when told it’s important – picking on language choices where English is not first language no less! – and *STILL* not answering when it will be done and getting snooty about it…

                It’s not the most professional response ever. But it’s definitely an understandable response to such rudeness.

              9. jo*

                Yeah, the OP’s response was passive aggressive. The coworker responded with three paragraphs, which makes me think she at least was direct about her objections instead of couching them in passive aggressive snottiness.

                Sorry, OP, I get that you were writing from within a haze of feeling personally offended, but what you wrote WAS snotty.

            2. Ted Mosby*

              like ASAP, “three paragraphs” is vague to the point of being almost meaningless.

            3. Kathleen_*

              It really depends on the “paragraphs.” I mean, I write lots of 1-2 sentence paragraphs, so a paragraph doesn’t necessarily mean “many, many words.” Plus, it also really depends on how ranty it was. With the best will in the world, I’m not sure the OP will be the best judge of that since he hates ASAP so very much.

            4. Kathleen_A*

              I don’t think we have enough info to call the three-paragraph reply “insane” because it really depends on a couple of things. First, “paragraph” is not a set thing. I write lots of 1-2 sentence paragraphs, so the word doesn’t always mean “many, many words.” And second, it really depends on how ranty the email was. With the best will in the world, I’m not sure the OP is the best judge of this since he hates ASAP so much.

            5. tinyhipsterboy*

              Perhaps it’s an uncharitable reading, but I’d almost wonder if OP considers any sort of line break to be a paragraph. It could easily have been along the lines of “Actually, I do need this ASAP. [line break] When I request something ASAP, I literally mean as soon as possible instead of just along the timeframe of your other priorities; there’s a reason I asked for it ASAP. [line break] Please get this done ASAP.”

              I’m only venturing that because the OP seems to bristle at the use of ASAP so much (so many objections to it!), but it’s entirely possible it was actually 3 full paragraphs. I just can’t for the life of me figure out how one would write full paragraphs on that single acronym.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’m guessing a mountain of backstory beneath this sudden skirmish, of which OP may or may not be cognizant.

            1. Jesca*

              I agree LOL! I think I would be worried that she responded seemingly unprofessionally while copying her manager. Like, maybe I have a reputation that is getting noticed …?

            2. Emelle*

              I worked with someone that would ignore invoices I submitted until I got calls from vendors and had to drag my manager *and* the accounting manager into the emails. I feel a catharsis just on the mere mention of a three paragraph rants email with ASAP liberally sprinkled throughout.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                It’s especially bad if your organisation, like my old one, has a public commitment to pay invoices in 15 days, but in reality it’s more like 2 months… I absolutely hated having to be the one to explain to partners I’d passed it on, as urgent, and would remind them, but had no answer for why they were already overdue, and no ETA on when they’d get the cash…

          2. Observer*

            No, the OP was passive aggressive, which is worse in some ways. Also, “thanks” in this situation really comes of really badly.

          3. Is It Spring Yet?*

            I wonder if the 3paragraph response didnt include Why and who the asap is connected with.

            Not having close to native level knowledge of english could result in alot of statement sentences that attempt to avoid ambiguity.

            Im thinking.

            I said this was ASAP because the jones file is holding up xxx and y. Your response to my ASAP was not appreciated. I expect you to do XYZ when i make a time sensative request.

            Next time i expect to see such and such turn around time.

            To someone already annoyed like OP it could come off as a rant instead of a quick and firm setting of future expectations and expressing annoyance at the

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I thought “worse” referred to her three-paragraph angry email?

          1. Seriously?*

            Sorry, I misinterpreted. Although I’m also not sure if her three paragraph e-mail was worse or not either since I don’t know the content.

        3. Captain S*

          Well I think it was the second angry email where she punctuated every sentence with “ASAP” they’re referring to. And that’s pretty bad.

          1. Jesca*

            Well I mean, maybe. Or maybe they took her email back explaining what ASAP means (as in, ASAP doesn’t mean getting it a week ago, not looking at it, and then angrily telling her off stating that everything is treated as ASAP for them …) as being mean like the initial request? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. They screwed up. They need to fix their end of it.

        4. Genny*

          In my line of work, not responding to something for over a week is considered incredibly bad form, and you’d better have a reason for it (like prepping a VIP for travel, managing a conference, or working on a major congressionally-mandated report with a rapidly approaching deadline). I probably wouldn’t respond the way LW’s colleague did, but my reply would be pretty dang terse if that were the response I received to an “ASAP” request.

        5. Chelleski*

          I was just going to say this. I also don’t think it’s relevant that the coworker’s first language is not English, even though LW is trying to make it so.

          1. Specialk9*

            Of course it’s relevant, but in the ‘give your coworker MORE benefit of the doubt’ kind of way.

          2. Julia*

            I’m a non-native speaker of English and Japanese, and the last time I worked in a Japanese-speaking office, I looked up every little word or phrase that hadn’t been drilled into me in writing or politeness class. (Japanese has its own polite language.) People usually praised me for my polite language. Every tiny slip-up was chastised.

            My Japanese co-worker, however, said the rudest sh*t in person and in emails (as in, wrong politeness level AND language, generally rude, etc.) and all people did was shrug and say, “well, she’s been living here (abroad) for too long, she can’t help it.”

            I’m not saying non-native speakers cannot make mistakes, even grave ones. I know I make a lot. But a lot of times, we actually look up words or phrases before we use them, or we use them because we’ve been taught to. When you look around the internet, it’s usually “native” English speakers (linguists have a lot to say about the concept of the “native speaker” anyway) who cannot tell the different between there/their/they’re etc.

      2. Spring*

        I strongly disagree with this, sending that extremely hostile email to her is much worse than her replying and ccing her manager.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think she probably didn’t come off well CCing the three paragraph email to her manager.

          1. Spring*

            I’m not sure she came off well, but I can pretty certainly say LW came off extremely badly by sending a really hostile email in response to a simple request than she came off by responding.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I don’t think either of them came off well, but I honestly don’t understand why people are quibbling over which was “worse.” To claim that every request one gets is asap while admitting to not having bothered to look at a particular request in a week (!!!) is way over the top. The co-worker’s reaction wasn’t great, but that doesn’t mean LW’s behavior was any less out of line. Especially since the provocation factors were so different (a presumably urgent need for something vs. taking offense to a commonly used abbreviation that the vast majority of people would not find at all offensive).

              Yes, the co-worker overreacted, but I feel most of my sympathy flowing in their dirrection. In a very real sense, LW started it by responding to the request for something “asap” in the manner that they did.

              1. Clewgarnet*

                My team makes teapot lids. We’re dependent on another team to tell us what shape these lids should be. They often send us incorrect/incomplete information, and are extremely slow to respond to requests. (In our world, extremely slow means 1-2 days. Waiting a week for a response is unheard of.)

                I have standing orders from my manager to cc him on any communication with them, and to feel free to be as cutting as I want, especially at the point when I’m making a request for the third time.

                I can’t help wondering if the OP’s co-worker is in a similar position…

          2. KX*

            She had to cc her manager. This is now the third time she has had to ask the letter writer for the information, and the manager probably wants to know why the process has broken down. The letter writer is lucky that the coworker didn’t copy the letter writer’s manager, too.

            You shouldn’t have to ask a coworker three times for information.

          3. InfoSec SemiPro*

            It depends on the relationship with her manager. (and the email)

            I have a lot of credit with my management chain. Usually, difficult situations come to me to get worked out. Things that I copy my management on with a “I can’t with this one” tone get backed pretty far, because when the departmental mediator can’t anymore, its bad. To the point that when I escalate things that aren’t bad, just need more heavyweight politics than I can do, I warn my bosses ahead of time so they don’t assume the other party is being unreasonable.

    2. Seriously?*

      Also, ASAP is not always synonymous with “as soon as you can get to it” or “at your earliest convenience.” ASAP conveys more urgency and it may in fact be inconvenient or require reprioritizing things to get to it sooner. I agree that a timeline and reason are needed (such as “this report is due at 5 and can’t be turned in without X”) and preferably an apology for the inconvenience but it does not necessarily imply that you do not know how to prioritize your time or are slacking. It could be that there is information you lack about the urgency of this particular task as opposed to other ones you have done together.

      1. nnn*

        That’s what I came to comment. To me, “as soon as you can get to it” or “at your earliest convenience” means I will complete my three tasks that need to be delivered to clients today, and then turn to the task you are requesting.

        ASAP means either I will drop everything and do it, or I will do it at the soonest moment I can do it without compromising client deadlines (depending on the nature of the task being requested).

        1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

          Yes, this is perfect. I use ASAP when I really need it urgently, and I explain why I do. “At your earliest convenience” is extremely squishy and basically means “thanks for getting to this, like, within the week or so.” I do think it’s important to describe the urgency a bit, because that allows the reader to actively prioritize as you describe.

      2. Luna*

        Yes, exactly.

        While I agree that giving a concrete deadline is always best, sometimes it’s not possible. I only ever use “ASAP” when it’s for something that is of high importance but with no set deadline (like, this invoice needs to be processed ASAP because an important client is getting really antsy and has been waiting a while to get their money).

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          I would include this language in my email requesting expedited processing.

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        Totally agree. ASAP means reprioritize your work. “At your earliest convenience” does not.

        1. Bibliovore*

          For me, “at your earliest convenience” might also mean to reprioritize work, though with less upheaval than ASAP’s “as soon as possible” — I’d bump an ASAP item to immediate attention and potential overtime, and an earliest-convenience item toward the top of the not-immediately-critical list. Of course, if anything prevents my appropriately timely work on a request, I’d briefly tell the requester (or my manager, depending on the request and source) what’s eating my time and for roughly how long, and that if the new request would be needed sooner to please either clarify its priority or find someone else to work on it.

          For me, somewhere between “ASAP” and “at your earliest convenience” is “as soon as feasible” — don’t drop everything, but don’t wait until it becomes convenient. But I agree that all of those are vague and that specifics help.

        2. Cornflower Blue*

          Same. At your earliest convenience = when I CAN do it.

          ASAP means ‘drop everything and do this immediately, please, this is super urgent’.

          Honestly, if I’d received a request to do something and a week later got told that now it was ASAP, I’d be scrambling to do it and apologetic as well as a little WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME WHEN YOU SENT IT THAT IT WAS THAT IMPORTANT OMG.

      4. AMPG*

        I often use ASAP when the timeline I originally requested has already passed, so I’m basically asking for my task to now become the highest priority.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Same here. If I’m saying ASAP, it’s usually a followup to a deadline that has passed. I’ve already sent reminders that I need it by noon on Friday. If it’s past noon on Friday and I still don’t have it, I need it ASAP.

          1. AMPG*

            And in that case, ASAP is actually a *more* polite way to say “get this done NOW.”

      5. JSPA*

        Actually, “at your earliest convenience” used to mean (and to some people, still does) that someone better do it on the double, and drop everything. Despite what it seems to say, it does NOT mean, “do when comfortably convenient.” It means what OP seems to think “ASAP” means. And in common usage, ASAP means what, “earliest convenience” seems to say.

        Please don’t use “at your earliest convenience,” especially with older, more senior or better-read co-workers, unless you want to come across as a complete boor. The usage seems also to have been military, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam eras.

          1. James*

            In Shakespeare’s time the word “presently” meant straight away rather than when I feel like it, which makes lines like “they fell upon him with such fury that they presently dispatched him in the market-place” sound strange

        1. CM*

          I actually bristle more at “earliest convenience” because it’s just a coded way of saying ASAP. But I realize that’s just me being weird. Neither is especially rude. I would just prefer to hear, “I need to get this to the client by the end of the day today, so this has become urgent. Will you be able to get me an answer by noon? Thanks in advance.”

    3. AK*

      Agreed, especially if that “Everything I do is ASAP!” didn’t include timing or an answer to the coworker’s original question, which was obviously urgent enough in their eyes to warrant a follow up.

      I don’t think I’ve had a client ever request anything from me “when you can get to it”, they all need replies/information/calming down “ASAP”, sometimes even request things yesterday (as a joke, but still). It’s just the nature of our business that everything is fast paced, but no one ever says it with any of the subtext OP has added here. Maybe the nature of the other department’s work just needs things on a faster pace than OP realized.

      1. Lilo*

        I’ve said this before on here but I hate, hate, HATE the “i need it yesterday” line. 9/10 times the urgency is due to lack of planning, not unforeseen setbacks, which then magically becomes my problem. UGH /rantover

        1. SierraSkiing*

          When someone says “I need it yesterday”, they should have asked me yesterday! I’m with you there.

      2. Puffyshirt*

        I agree with the opinions here, but I tend to bristle beyond what is reasonable someone says “thanks in advance”. Ugh. That’s a good way to ensure you’ll be thanking me for nothing bc it’s at the bottom of the pile. Lol. Doesn’t everybody have bizarre pet peeves??

        1. Dobermom*

          Personally, I hate “please advise.” I don’t do or say anything about it when someone uses it, but it really grinds my gears and I can’t pinpoint why.

          1. AnotherJill*

            I hate that too. It’s the written equivalent of staring at me and tapping your foot.

          2. Sam.*

            “Please advise” annoys me because it always seems pointless. Either they’ve already asked a question, which I’ll obviously be answering, or they haven’t actually articulated what they want to know, so I can’t effectively “advise” them without further information. I don’t do anything about either, just think, “Ugh,” and move on.

            1. Wintermute*

              I use it but the context is usually “I have an error message I have never seen before. the help text from our vendors is, as usual, less than illuminating, we have no historical examples to look at how it was done last time, and there is no obvious solution prompted by the error text or context. You’re the subject matter expert on this system, and I need your guidance here.”

            2. Massmatt*

              I have generally used it and seen it used in the context of having to send multiple requests for the same information and gotten no response. So no, it’s not pointless, it’s good that you are “obviously” answering requests but that isn’t always the case with everyone. The OP seems to have indicated that he had not responded to her original request after a week.

          3. Out of Office Message*

            “Please advise” is usually used passive-aggressively, either “I think your decision is stupid and I want you to confirm that you are asking me to do this stupid thing,” or “Your rule is not being implemented because you did not tell anyone about it and I’m irritated with you for not telling anyone.”

            1. Insert Clever Handle Here*

              I always think it’s interesting to see the different impressions the same phrase gives in different offices. In my office, “please advise” means “please advise me on what course of action to take with this issue” and is used in emails to the person responsible for determining the course of action. I sent an email today that was: “Here are the redlines to the teapot design contract from the supplier we discussed earlier. Please advise on the Limitation of Liability redlines. Would it be possible to have a response by Friday? The business unit wants this issued by midweek next week.”

            2. Specialk9*

              I’ve only seen “please advise” from Ken Dolls – that overly slick worker, of both genders, who wear suits when nobody else does, drive Beemers even in their 20s, and are overly formal and buzzwordy to impress the imaginary crowds watching their every move. But I’ll admit I spent too long of a stint in an org riddled with Ken Dolls, and I was well past BEC stage when I left.

          4. nutella fitzgerald*

            I usually use “please advise” when I’m tattling on someone else’s bad behavior. Like if I were the coworker, I probably wouldn’t have written 3 paragraphs to OP, but I would have forwarded the “everything I do is ASAP” to my manager with “I’m having some trouble getting this invoice processed. Please advise!”

              1. Turquoisecow*


                That’s how I’ve seen it used as well. The coworker would write, “this invoice should have been processed (x time) ago, and now (consequence). I cannot (y action) without this processing. please advise.

                Subtext : you haven’t done your job. Do it. Often with manager(s) on copy.

          5. Turquoisecow*

            I hate “please advise” for several reasons, but I really hate that many of my coworkers don’t know the difference between “advice” and “advise.” The “please advice” emails annoy me more.

          6. Clewgarnet*

            I have a coworker who spells it “ohk” instead of “OK”, so I always read it as a slightly disappointed, “Oh,” in response to a reasonable request. For some reason, it completely gets my back up! However, I’m aware this is entirely unreasonable, so I forcibly squash my back down before responding.

          7. InfoSec SemiPro*

            I’ve gotten over this one because it is super common from one of our non English speaking offices and 97% of my job is advice and guidance. I just re-write the tone in my head to something closer to “Hey, can you help me understand this?” even if in context its “Good Christ, answer my email.” (When I’m feeling very snippy, the re-write has a “bless their heart” kind of feel. They totally need the advice, probably more than they can tell. Good thing I’m here.)

            It was gain some zen on the issue or have an aneurysm.

            1. sb*

              Yeah, I’ve had to grit my teeth and get used to this one for the same reason; the people using it don’t mean it in the passive-aggressive nasty way *I’d* mean it if I used it. Same with “Kindly”.

            1. Insert Clever Handle Here*

              My way of saying that is ending an email with “thanks” with a period in front of my email signature instead of “thanks” with a comma. I’m pretty sure no one else picks up on it, but it makes me feel better and is much more professional than “do your f*****g job.”

              1. Deus Cee*

                I wouldn’t bet that no one picks up on it – very few millennials will end sentences on social media with periods because they think it sounds unnecesssarily harsh (I’m not quite millennial but I’ve noticed it a lot since reading linguistics research articles on the subject)…

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Not quite a millennial in which direction? I’m an old millennial and I think those linguists are a) actually talking about gen-z, not millennials, or b) looking for a clickbait-y thesis to publish, and/or c) completely full of shit.

          8. MoreNowAgain*

            Oh no :( I say this ALL the time. Probably in 95% of my emails – but it’s never because I’m impatient etc. it just seems to be the common business vernacular.

            “Hansel – I rec’d the below email chain in re: to the recent line extension for Teapots. Can you please advise?”

            “Gretel – The most recent Teapot P&L was heavily skewed from the 8+6 forecast, please advise.”

            …I hope I’m not inadvertently grinding all of my coworkers gears! Although I’ve been praised for my concise and professional tone in emails, so maybe it’s industry specific?

            1. Insert Clever Handle Here*

              It’s bound to be industry/office specific. It’s perfectly normal in my industry to see “please advise” being used without these undertones.

        2. Libervermis*

          I also just loathe “Thanks in advance”! I tell myself that it’s a meaningless convention phrase, most people are not trying to manipulate or pressure me by thanking me for something I may not have even agreed to yet, but whenever I see it there’s this brief hackles up/talk self down pattern.

          Recently I saw “Thanking you in advance” as part of someone’s signature and was baffled by that choice of default closing.

        3. LBK*

          FWIW, I use “thanks in advance!” as a way of acknowledging that I know my request is onerous and that the person will have to do it (eg it’s not something I need to wait for them to accept, so it’s not presumptuous to thank them for it ahead of time).

          1. LeRainDrop*

            Same as LBK. I don’t understand why someone would be upset to hear, “thanks in advance!” Like, they don’t want to receive thanks until they actually complete the request? They don’t like professional courtesy? They don’t like kindness?

            1. LBK*

              I mean, I do see how it could be annoying if someone is asking you if you can do something that you have the option to say no to, and then ends it with “thanks in advance!” because it could be interpreted as presuming you’ll say yes before you even have a chance to decline. But I think that’s reading a lot into it and that the person isn’t thinking of it that way/doesn’t mean it to be any different thank just ending the email with “thanks!”

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yeah. Of all the douchey things someone can do, an extra ‘thank you’ is pretty low on the list. What’s next – hating that mean bitch Sarah who brings in cookies? Hating Bob from accounting because he’s always so dang chipper in the morning?

              1. Sarah*

                Ok, but really, why is Bob so damn chipper? I haven’t had my diet coke yet, BOB.

              2. DArcy*

                I dislike “please and thank you” because two thankfully former coworkers used it to constantly criticize the rest of us for handling things differently than they wanted. . . even though they were brand new junior staff.

                And they CCed the company president on all of them.

                1. CM*

                  I have only heard “please and thank you” said in a condescending way, and mostly to children.

              3. ellen*

                ha. I’ve had coworkers hate on me for bringing in cookies, cake, and brownies. My workplace had a once a month “thanks all!” kind of thing where, technically, everyone was encouraged (not required) to bring in treats for everyone. What would actually happen is one manager would get a dozen donuts and I’d cook something, sometimes a lot of somethings. I got tired of only 12 people getting a stale donut as a treat, although I never said boo about it.
                The coworker in question actually started accidentally putting the food that I brought in into a sink, and then accidentally pouring water all over it. Three months in a row. I pity the afternoon and evening shifts, because they didn’t get ANYTHING those three months.
                As for the topic, I suspect very strongly that the person that asked for things to be done ASAP had already heard from her boss about “and why isn’t THIS done yet?!?!? and what will you do about it?!?!?” and wanted to make sure that everyone knew what was going on.

                I have also been known to – sort of – thank in advance when asking for a favor, but the gratitude expressed is for the reader taking the time to consider my request. “thanks for taking the time to read this!” as opposed to “thanks for acquiescing to my request that you raise my next three children and knit me a bathrobe.

        4. This Daydreamer*

          I have a coworker who signs all of her emails with “Best regards”. I grumble to myself about it every single time.

            1. This Daydreamer*

              This is a small organization (fewer than 20 paid staff) and our emails are very informal, except for hers. It’s almost like someone wearing a suit while working in a garden center.

              1. LBK*

                Makes sense. As I noted (with the wrong suffix, oops) it used to be my signoff when I was in a role that involved emailing a lot of external people/internal people I didn’t know that well, but I removed it now that I’m on a smaller team and don’t talk to anyone external. I agree it’s a little stuffy for just emailing the coworkers you see every day.

            2. MsSolo*

              Traditionally, it’s Kind Regards, or Best Wishes. Best Regards feels a little weird because the adjective describes the type of regard being offered, not the extent of it. I’m pretty certain there’s some old school formal letter writing etiquette about when to use each one, depending on whether you’re making a request, perhaps?

          1. LeRainDrop*

            In my experience, “best regards” is an extremely common ending among lawyer emails. It’s how I typically end mine.

            1. This Daydreamer*

              I work in a place that is far less formal than a law office. Most of our emails are two sentences or less. One word replies and emojis are common. It just really sticks out as cold and overly formal.

              1. AnonymousInfinity*

                I came from working in law and now work in a semi-informal email environment. I start every email with “Hi, PersonA” (or “Good morning, PersonA”) and end every email with a “With thanks,” or “Thanks.” When I get into a long chain of emails that devolve into one word replies, I break out into cold sweats when I even try to ditch my greeting and ending. I can’t do it. See, my old boss in law used to pull me in to her office and literally scream at me for a misplaced comma and not-formal-enough emails, even for emails that were interoffice communication only. So, even for those one-word super casual emails at my semi-informal work place, you’re getting a “Hi, Person” and a “Thanks” from me. (Also, if my emails ever get subpoenaed, I’ll look fabulously polite to a jury. :))

          2. Turquoisecow*

            I’m not crazy about “regards,” with or without the “best” or “kind” or whatever. It seems excessively formal, and no one actually ever says the word “regards”, so it just sounds odd.

            I just sign my emails, “thanks, (my name).” I can’t bring myself to write anything formal. I don’t even like having a signature.

            1. Someone who tries her best*

              Dear People,

              I am reading through these comments, and it is just really sad. Some of us were taught to be more formal when writing. Many (if not most) of us have good intentions. So, can we PLEASE go back to the polite adage of assuming the best of someone until you know (for a certainty) that they don’t mean the best?

              Good heavens! I’d be afraid to write to any of you! And, now I worry that every email I send to anyone is being analyzed with this same lack of grace. It’s truly depressing!

              Respectfully (I’m sure there’s something wrong with THAT too),

              Some who tries her best

        5. TootsNYC*

          I actually don’t mind that one (“thanks in advance”) as much as I hate the advice-column format of:

          “Please do this thing that you actually might not want to do and aren’t required to do. Thanks.”

          Like, thank me after, IF I do it.

          At least “thanks in advance” acknowledges that it’s early (but I wouldn’t like it if they were asking me to do somethign that was actually optional).

          But I remind myself that other people don’t think it’s that awful.

          1. AnonymousInfinity*

            “Thanks in advance” sounds super informal and almost patronizing to me. When I’m putting someone out, I usually say, “I really appreciate your work on this and any help you can provide.”

            1. Sandman*

              I like that verbiage. I tend to use “thanks in advance,” but this is better.

            2. Zillah*

              Yeah – I often say, “Thank you so much for your time!” or something similar, but it’s the same basic premise, I think.

          2. Birch*

            I think in that context, “thanks” means “thanks for taking the time to read this email and consider whether you can help.” That’s what it means when I use it. It’s just an acknowledgement of the communication, not thanking you prematurely for something you might not do.

        6. Jules the 3rd*

          In general, I don’t take any of the ‘softening’ terms to heart, because differences are what makes the world interesting. If we all talked the same, it would be boring.

          That said, “it was just a joke”, used to excuse some misogynistic / racist comment (aka probe to see if you will take it) makes my hair stand on end with anger.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Reading all this – I am glad to know that the amount of time I spent agonizing over my .sig was not in vain. ‘Thanks’ seemed to informal, any variation of ‘regards’ or ‘sincerely’ too inflexible.

            Thank you for your time,

        7. James*

          I hate “apologies” instead of “I’m sorry” or “I apologise”. With “apologies” it is unclear who is actually apologising, and it comes across as that is the attraction of the phrase (somebody not wanting to take responsibility).

          1. Nickel&Copper*

            Where I work has a group email box that 4-6 different people could be emailing out of, so “Apologies” or “Our apologies” in that case is the go to for addressing issues caught in a report. It lets the client know we were all sorry we didn’t catch the error, at least that is how it feels to us.

      3. Ihmmy*

        I use “when you can get to it” for requests to denote it’s not particularly time sensitive or urgent, that there is some time before it’s due to be completed. Especially if it’s a rare ask for someone, or an onerously big project

      4. Kelly O*

        “Everything I do is ASAP!” is not accurate when it’s taken a week to give that response. Just saying.

        1. PlumJam*

          Not to mention that the coworker was requesting that this item be done as soon as possible. If everything worker does is ASAP, then that is signaling that this request will not be given priority.

        2. LBK*

          Well, I guess it is if you interpret ASAP very literally, in which case a week or two later might be “as soon as possible.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            but if I’ve told a colleague that something is ASAP, then if it’s not going to be the third thing you do, I want you to tell me that, so I can figure out some other solution.

        3. Jennifer*

          Hear, hear.
          Everything I do is ASAP (my industry is like that, everything has to be done immediately when asked), so I do it in the next 5 minutes. If I don’t, heads go boom. I can’t imagine doing this, I’d get so fired!

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I have to admit, receiving a response like “Everything I do is ASAP!” would have me seeing red. A three-paragraph rant may be excessive, but OP seemed to have been searching for offense and behaving accordingly. This one’s on OP; apologize, clarify what’s needed, and make it better going forward.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*


          Especially when you’re dealing with money stuff.

          I did AR at my old job and was frequently chasing down payments from our clients. I could easily see a situation where an invoice got lost in the shuffle and failure to pay means cessation of service. Not addressing something like that in a timely manner (which a week+ is not in most AR/AP circumstances) can have some pretty far-reaching consequences.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            Exactly including becoming a “cash in advance” customer if payments are frequently delinquent. Happened to my old boss.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Also – Det. A’s response is technically a 3 paragraph response. It’s a totally reasonable length. I’m not going to put too much credence into OP’s characterization of it as excessive. (whew – all that distancing language, trying to be kind / thoughtful about believing OP)

            And copying your manager on the 3rd request (invoice, follow-up a week later, 3 paragraph response) is totally reasonable.

        2. Delphine*


          She gave OP a week with an invoice and then followed up to ask if OP could get it done as soon as possible, and instead of responding in the affirmative and apologizing for the delay, the OP chose unhelpful snark.

        3. Alli525*


          I would have walked straight into our supervisor’s office if I’d gotten that email from OP. As if “ASAP” was universally regarded as rude!

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I’d be super pissed if this was the response to my following up on something I’d asked for a week earlier and had not heard back from the person yet. I wouldn’t have written a 3 paragraph e-mail, but I would have replied with a, “I sent this to you a week ago saying it was urgent. Please get it to me by COB” type thing with my manager and the person’s manage copied

        5. Jadelyn*

          Absolutely agreed. I’d have closed my eyes, taken a 10-second deep breath to stop myself shouting “What the F*** is your problem?” to the office at large, forwarded it to my VP and immediately marched into his office to ask him to go talk to that person’s grandboss or other higher-up who can Have A Talk with that person and their manager about appropriate responses to requests. It’s just the level of sheer dismissiveness of it! OP’s email was the pseudo-polite business-speak version of “Piss off, I’ll get to it when I damn well feel like it.” and we all know it.

    4. OP*

      I welcome you to view my response, WAAAAAY down below. I had a lot of “ASAP” tasks to deal with today, so couldn’t respond earlier.

    5. London Calling*

      I do payables and I get a lot of stuff that has to be paid ASAP all the time. On a bad day I might FEEL like saying ‘everything I do is ASAP’ but I sure wouldn’t say it.

      *this term reminds me of the demeaning and condescending way that some officers and senior enlisted talked to the lowly swabbies* OP – this is your issue to deal with, not the other person’s.

    6. MamaGanoush*

      Yep. Although her response to OP was rude, OP’s response to a pretty innocuous, commonly used term was also rude, and I’m sure it seemed like it came out of nowhere. If I had gotten that email, I would have thought, “Ooookay, someONE has a stick up their #$%@” — it would likely color every further interaction I had with OP. Not a good thing — maybe I am someone who can help you out. Maybe I am someone who knows someone.
      An apology, however, would make me think better of the OP.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If everything you do is ASAP, then nothing you do is ASAP because you can’t literally be doing everything all at one all the time.

    1. Amber T*

      Yeah, I understand if your job deals with things that typically have a quick turn around, but she was letting you know that this needs to be handled more quickly than normal. You could have disagreed or asked for further clarifying information, but you nitpicked on a non-native English speaker’s choice of words. At this point, she’s looped in her manager, so let her manager handle it from here.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I have given my non-native English speaking coworkers a lot of leeway with what they write and say. Having said that, I try to avoid ‘ASAP’ because I do think it is slightly…brusque. You probably are reading too much into it, which is good to recognize because then you aren’t spending your professional time thinking that people are deliberately being rude to you.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          I have wanted to use ASAP in an email before but when re-reading the email, it always does seem a little brusque, so I usually end up either writing it out (which somehow looks less peremptory) or being more specific as was suggested.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            I tend to give the specific time I need it by rather than ASAP. “Please send me X by $date. If this is not possible, please let me know the earliest you can get it”

            1. Jadelyn*

              As a person who receives requests more often than I make them, I wish everyone did this. Someone says “ASAP”, I’m left going “…yeah, you and everyone else I’ve spoken to today, take a number. How “AP” are we talking here – is this “work all the OT you have to and make a miracle happen to get this to me as soon as is literally possible based on the laws of the physical universe”, or “as soon as you can fit it in around your regular work”?” and I have to go back and ask them to clarify, or offer them my estimate on when I can get it to them based on my general sense of priorities and what I can or can’t move around to make room for what they want – and then I have to wait to see if they push back on my estimated date of completion.

              People who say “I need this by the end of the week” or “within the next couple weeks” are my favorite, because it makes my own process of planning my work so much simpler.

          2. JSPA*

            Hmmm…thinking back, people who pronounce it as “ay-sap” tend to mean, “jump to it.” People who say, “ay ess ay pee” tend to mean, “hey, I really need this, can you bump it up in priority?” Could be that the meaning is bifurcating; the military pronunciation and implications vs. the everyday “we’re falling behind on this, need it fast, thanks.”

            The military can also suck people into a mindset where everyone who’s not above or below you or in your immediate team is somewhat irrelevant to your process. That’s not a particularly healthy business attitude.

            1. SebbyGrrl*

              THIS EXACTLY!

              I was in the military and I know exactly what tone OP ‘heard’ and perceived.

              JSPA I was going to write out the pronunciation just as you did.

              Further OP, you also answered the requestor in loaded (awful) military ‘slang’- I would have heard/perceived that as dismissive and also an undertone of “You’re not the boss of me!”

              In that light one can see why the Requestor then got SO peeved.

              “I do my job as I see fit, stay in your lane.” is supremely not collegial or a good way to handle inter-departmental concerns.

        2. LSP*

          I’ll use ASAP occasionally in an email, but only when:

          a) it is actually very urgent, and
          b) I include more information to give some idea as to timeline, reason for the quick turnaround, and an apology for any inconvenience.

          Using ASAP without additional information is not helpful, but I also don’t understand OP’s visceral reaction to it. Reacting that sharply to something so innocuous would make me weary of working with you. Honestly, the same goes for your coworker and the three paragraph rant. No one comes across as a professional in this scenario.

          1. Idyll Wyld*

            OP’s reaction to it bothers me even more considering her and another coworker use it with no bother.

        3. Teapot Tester*

          I hate ASAP for that reason, it is brusque. Writing it out is less so for some reason.

          1. TootsNYC*

            but sometimes you want that brusque. The longer wording can be taken as less urgent.

        4. LBK*

          I think it can be brusque but it depends on the context. For instance, I don’t think something like this is particularly brusque: “I have to get this together for the CEO by Wednesday, so if you could send me your figures ASAP I would hugely appreciate it.”

          1. boo bot*

            Yeah I think it tends to pair up with other brusque email quirks, which makes it all seem worse. The boss who continually replies “No” “See me” and “?” is also often the boss who attaches a document with no text in the email body but “ASAP”. I don’t find it endearing, but I do think it’s a type of communication one has to just get used to.

            I was going to say I never use it, but actually I do – only when talking about myself. So I wouldn’t say, “Please get this back to me ASAP,” but I would say “I’ll get this back to you ASAP!” (In my case this usually means, I can probably get it done today but I think I can get away with doing it tomorrow and I might want to spend the afternoon frolicking with butterflies, or watching videos of llama surgeries, or in some third way enhancing the quality of my work.)

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh yeah, I react to all those too. Some of my favorite bosses have been really abrupt by email – for several due to poor typing ability – but it definitely feels like stroking a cat against the grain, even if I like them.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        And…one of LW’s objections to ASAP is “it kind of implies that I’m just sitting on things, and need to be prompted to take action.” Which she is completely proving accurate by nonchalantly (and deliberately?) ignoring someone’s urgent request.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Well, in OP’s defence, we have to sit on things while we prioritise others – we can’t work on everything at once! I think OP is hearing that her coworker is accusing her of just doing nothing, while in fact she IS getting to things as soon as she possibly can, based on priority.

        2. Amber T*

          Yep. I fully admit I’ve requested something get done ASAP before (and I’ve received requests for something ASAP as well – it’s pretty standard language here). For us, it’s flagging “hey, I think this request needs to be done quicker than others.” Depending what else is on my plate, that’s not always the case, or it means that I have to delegate or bring in someone else, or I have to communicate different deadlines to other people. But yeah, I’ve never assumed someone thought I’m just sitting on my hands when they’ve requested something ASAP (I’m more likely to think that if you say “when you have some free time…” because there’s very little of *that* in my job).

    2. Captain S*

      I’d be really annoyed if someone was like “everything is ASAP”

      Like… that’s so obtuse and passive aggressive I can see why the coworker got upset. I wouldn’t have personally sent the ASAP email but it sounds like a glorious thing to both send and receive. I live for minor workplace drama like that.

      1. Sarah*

        I’m not going to lie, there’s a part of me that would see that and go, “Well, let’s just see what’s ‘possible’ when you need help.” (I wouldn’t, I take pride in my reputation, but the petty beast who resembles me would want to.)

        1. Jadelyn*

          That’s what I refer to as “I value my reputation too much to actively push you down the queue next time you need something…but I’m sure as hell not going to bump you up the queue by so much as a micrometer, either, and I will not bend even the slightest on every single requirement of process and procedure.”

          For hiring managers I like and trust and who’ve helped me out in the past, I’ll go ahead and generate and send them the offer letter for their new hire while I’m still waiting on the last stragglers to approve the new hire form, when I’m sufficiently confident that the approvals *will* come and I don’t want to make the manager wait just to get one more rubber-stamp from someone who’s not even directly involved but whose name has to be on the stupid form.

          You pull something like this and get on my bad side? Oh, no no no, I am not so much as starting to think about looking at generating your offer letter until I have received and verified every. single. approval that I need.

          It’s amazing, how much of a jerk you can be just by insisting on following every single rule in the most exacting way possible. And yet there’s nothing they can do about it – they know as well as I do that this is the official process.

          1. Specialk9*

            I get this reaction, I totally do. But I just got throughly screwed at work by someone in HR acting like this, and punishing me (in a huge career impacting way) for something someone else did. It sucks, a lot. So please remember that when righteous indignation makes your spine go rigid, you may be hurting other people other than who you are mad at.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I understand your frustration, and I’m really sorry to hear that happened to you – but I also think you’re projecting that on me unnecessarily. Getting a hiring manager an offer letter this afternoon vs tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon isn’t going to kill anyone’s career. If it’s important, I’ll set aside my irritation and make sure things get taken care of – trust me, I have a very finely developed sense of when larger concerns need to override my desire to be petty to someone who’s been a jerk to me.

              1. ellen*

                Someone didn’t get me the insurance information that I needed in order to successfully visit a doctor for what turned out to be a life threatening health condition. I wonder if my asking – not so politely- for the third time in three months if they could get me even just a phone number that I could call so *I* could obtain the numbers I needed to access the insurance policy that I had been paying on for six months or so ASAP somehow tripped someone’s trigger, and was why I didn’t actually get that information until the LAST DAY of my two week’s notice that I gave after finding another job, having given up on ever getting help with anything from the company that I worked for. (short form timeline – started paying for insurance in January. First request made in June, second in July, third in August. Looked for a new job in September and October, quit in mid November. Get the phone number November 14th. Started work at the hospital that treated me for life threatening infection November 20th. Final treatment for infection in my back happened in February of the next year.)

          2. MoreNowAgain*

            Ah! Get away from me with your red tape! ;) This is one of the #1 reasons that when I start at a new company I befriend the admins, receptionists, AP & AR employees, and (if applicable) any warehouse staff. Their power is often underestimated!

      2. Naptime Enthusiast*

        We say that jokingly in my office. “Everything’s Priority #1, but which one is REALLY Priority #1?”

      3. Alton*

        Yeah, it makes me think of situations where I’m under pressure and can’t get timely assistance on something because the person I need help from sees my concern as low-priority. Sometimes that’s just how it is, but it isn’t a fun position to be in, and the last thing I would want is to be chided for my word choice instead of having my concern addressed.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Give everyone at the company a horned helmet and a spear, and there’s a five-act opera lurking in this story.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          BWAHAHAHA! That could be said of so many of these letters, couldn’t it? Heehee.

      5. Someone else*

        Yeah, I think if what the OP had meant/said was “I have literally 200 requests that all say ASAP and it’s not humanly possible to turn them all around instantly, so I need more specific info try to distinguish between them, and there is a point of diminishing returns where I’m spending more time figuring out the re-prioritization than I would just going through all the various ASAP res I’ve got” she MAY have had a valid point. (I’m not saying that’s a script that would’ve been OK here either, just that it’s more understandable than “Everything I do is ASAP.”)But it seems like her beef is actually more like “using the phrase ‘ASAP’ at me is belittling and I will not stand for it and I do have lots of high priority stuff so you’re gonna have to convince me you really mean or Imma ignore that just on principle” which is…not great and also a radical interpretation of buckets of extra subtext ascribed to the phrase ASAP that I don’t think most people believe to be present. It might be OK for an inner monologue, but the handling of this was not good on OP’s part. You want someone to be more specific, ask them to be more specific. You basically tell them to buzz off, do not be shocked when they are both pissed and escalate to higher ups.

      6. Laoise*

        I hate people who ask me to do things ASAP for my job. Haaaaaaaaaaate it. HATE.

        So I respond, “please let me knoe the actual date you require this by, because we manage many urgent requests and must schedule them to make sure nothing is overlooked.” I have it saved in my drafts folder on Outlook — and it’s 100% accurate about my position.

        Then I go home and work on my cross stitch that says “ASAP IS NOT A DATE, YOU JERKS”

    3. tusky*

      ASAP doesn’t necessarily mean immediately. I can be treating 10 things simultaneously as ASAP, but still only working on 1 at a time, if I’m working as quickly and efficiently as possible. The 10th thing won’t get done immediately, but it will still be as soon as possible. This is why I avoid using ASAP–it is so variable and context-dependent as to be meaningless.

    4. CityMouse*

      Yeah that statement sounds like you can’t prioritize and triage as needed. It is a bad look.

    5. Trout 'Waver*

      From a certain deterministic or Calvinistic point of view, everything in the world happens ASAP.

        1. LeRainDrop*

          There used to be a partner in my office who wanted everything done ASAP. One time I stayed up most of the night to work on it, but I think I slept a couple hours, so that was not good enough. She was like, “I needed this as soon as possible!” I was like, “I stayed up most of the night and completed it as soon as possible!” She was like, “That’s not good enough!” I was like, “So you wanted me to complete it faster than possible? I’m not able to do anything faster than possible, by its very definition!” The more senior partner started laughing — the bully lady was well on the firm’s radar for being completely unreasonable.

    6. OP*

      this was actually the point I was trying to make, in line with Alison’s comment, that ASAP is a meaningless term; don’t we do everything as soon as possible?

      1. sunny-dee*

        No, not at all. What she is telling you is that this is a major priority over other things. If you have three tasks, you can’t do three things immediately and simultaneously — you do them sequentially. If you treat “everything as ASAP,” then it doesn’t matter what order you do them in, because you’re saying everything is equally important.

        What she was saying was that that task was a high priority (at least for her and her manager). It’s reasonable for something else to be a higher priority for you (like, maybe a VP asked for something or there’s a regulation deadline to meet) — but then you SAY that. You tell her where this falls in the priority list.

        Instead, you basically told her you were blowing off her task until you felt like doing it, which is the opposite of “everything is ASAP.”

  3. Anonymous Poster*

    I understand you have a history with the acronym, but it’s very common and not generally meant in a demeaning way in a business context. It’s fair to ask for more information on when the due date really is (That’s something I do quite a bit), but your email sounds like you took the acronym personally and were very defensive. And it escalated.

    Next time, I’d really suggest asking for more information on what the real driver behind needing this item soon is, and it will help your prioritize. But I wouldn’t attack the acronym. You’re coworkers trying to solve a problem, not hurling insults at one another.

    1. Specialk9*

      That acronym makes my blood pressure shoot up too. I talk myself down, but I always react with strong irritation. It feels brusque and like they’re barking orders rather than being collaborative peers.

      But “as soon as possible” is totally fine.

      1. Curious Cat*

        I think it’s incredibly interesting that ASAP brings such a sense of URGENCY, whereas “as soon as possible” or even “asap” come across as more reasonable, yet they all mean the same thing. How odd our interpretations of words are based on how they’re written :)

        1. Starbuck*

          Perhaps because it’s in ALL CAPS and seems like SHOUTING? I notice myself reacting that way to things in caps sometimes when there’s clearly no shouty intent. How does ‘please reply to my comment asap’ look/feel?

        2. TootsNYC*

          but that urgency Curious Cat is talking about may actually be the clear communication the colleague was looking for!

          It had been a week.

        3. Moonbeam Malone*

          This is really interesting because customarily we capitalize acronyms, and the general exceptions are when they’ve basically become understood as words in their own right, and as much as I instinctively balk at lowercase “asap” because, hey, that’s an acronym, you can definitely make the case that it’s understood as a word at this point.

    2. Mmmmmk*

      I’m so with you. I can see from the comments it’s more commonly seen as brusque than I may have realized, but the OP lists multiple really detailed reasons why they took it personally which couldn’t possibly have been known to the “offender”. As I read the next and then the next all I could think was WOW you’re taking that extremely personally! I definitely use ASAP (more with things/assignments/projects than people and timelines) and will now use it more carefully but this reaction was super over the top.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yeah, I *really* don’t think it’s fair that colleagues are supposed to know that OP used to be in the military, and in the military X happens, so Y is a sore point for them.

        1. Specialk9*

          That part felt like owning up to her stuff, to me. The rest, yeah.

          I both totally viscerally get the urge, and have fought it down too many times to count because it’s not reasonable. OP is not in the wrong for the emotion, but is in the wrong for the snippy PA response when already incommunicado for a week on something urgent.

          Time for a big mea culpa apology.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            It’s totally wrong for the OP to treat an emotional response as an actionable fact.

            Feelings are not facts. Do not act on feelings as though they are facts. If you do, you will lose relationships and jobs.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              I was unclear in my statement. Retaliation based on feelings blows things up.

              And OP did retaliate by writing a snarky email and then refusing to reprioritise.

          2. Observer*

            No, it’s not the OP owning their stuff – it’s the OP explaining why they are right and the CW is wrong. Because they “pondered it” and then sent a passive aggressive “buzz off” in response.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Different things remind me of previous situations. I tend to view it as my problem to sort out. I think it’s really important not to mix workplace cultures, don’t make an overlay out of former toxic place and put it on new nice place.
      Each new work place deserves an opportunity to prove or disprove itself. This is a variation of a teacher who judges one kid by what his or her sibling did in the past. Being professional means giving people a pass from time to time, or waiting to see if there is something substantial to be concerned about.

      The first thing to consider is that not everyone is out to tick us off. They just aren’t. We really are not that influential that the whole world wants to annoy us.
      The second thing to consider is that we ourselves have probably rubbed someone the wrong way. And we have done this more than once. Yet we have no idea that we did it.

      When something like a person’s word choice rubs me the wrong way, I know I have to ask myself, “What else is going on here? Why is this bothering me so much?”

  4. Zibidibodel*

    I’ll just say that I was in the Navy for a long time as well, but have no problem with the phrase ASAP. I don’t recall it being used as a negative term when speaking with me while I was new or anything, not that I’m devaluing what the OP said, but I don’t think it’s a military-originated acronym. The military just uses a bunch of them.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        Yeah, it’s definitely military as you discovered but I certainly never heard it as a negative term. It’s just a short-cut.

      2. TootsNYC*

        It’s not ONLY military! not anymore (maybe “asap” spoken out is more likely to be used in the military)

    1. Marillenbaum*

      My favorite is SNAFU: “Situation normal, all f****d up”. (Note: this may not be strictly accurate, but my dad was in the Army and told me that’s what it meant, so if I’m wrong, feel free to blame him)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Before FUBAR there’s FUMTU: Fouled Up More Than Usual. If you can assign multiple party blame, there’s also JANFU: Joint Army-Navy Foul Up.

        2. This Daydreamer*

          The version I learned was farked up beyond all recognition. Either way, it’s a favorite of mine.

        3. Clewgarnet*

          And that’s how foo and bar became common placeholder names in programming.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        The late Rick Jolly, who was in charge of surgery at Ajax Bay in the Falklands, wrote a brilliant book “Jackspeak” which is a dictionary of Naval slang. I’m sure SNAFU with the asterisks is in there with that meaning.

        My personal favourite is AWOL (Absent Without Leave) which gets used by me whenever someone else in the department has disappeared.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Oh! That’s what grounded literally means! I somehow never made that connection.

      2. Alli525*

        I had no idea snafu was an acronym!! And I’m a Words Person (TM). What a fun fact – I love it when a word secretly contains a profanity.

  5. Jill*

    The OP completely overreacted. A much better reply would be something like “when you say you need something ASAP, it’s not clear how soon you need it. Instead of saying ASAP, it would be much more helpful if you tell me when you need things.”

    1. Pollygrammer*

      A perfectly good reply would just have been to do the damn thing.

      LW seems to have a chip on her shoulder about being asked to do something by someone “not a part of her reporting structure.” So that makes me think that part of this is about how dare somebody below me on the food chain make an urgent request like this?

      1. Lilo*

        I don’t know, I sympathize with LW if her job is anything like mine. I work in a support position and almost every task I’m given is ASAP which causes almost nothing to get done because i’m constantly interrupted to take care of higher level ASAP tasks. I once had a coworker ask me for something while I was in the middle of working on something very critical for our large event the next day. It was about 1 pm and I told her i couldn’t get to it right that second, but I could have it to her by end of business. She slammed my door because i physically could not accommodate her right that second. And that’s just the staff.

        Clients are just as bad. It is very clearly explained that applications must be submitted at the beginning of the month in order to be approved by the end of the month. Yet like clockwork every last business day of the month I have at least 10 clients calling and emailing me urgently because they just remembered to apply and need it expedited THAT DAY because of their lack of planning. and this is on top of the work I have from the clients who DID submit their documents on time. So yeah, I understand the frustration.

        1. Alton*

          I sympathize with both the LW and the person who e-mailed them. It can be frustrating to feel like someone is being demanding, but it can also be frustrating to have something on your plate that feels critical and to have to rely on other people to give you what you need to do your job. In both positions, I feel like there are more empathetic, diplomatic ways of handling it.

          1. Lilo*

            Oh yeah, definitely could’ve been handled more diplomatically, I’m just a little bothered by everyone basically saying she should’ve dropped everything and taken care of it.

            I even have some coworkers who have turned on the setting in outlook that automatically puts the “high priority” red exclamation mark on every email they send *eyeroll*

            1. LBK*

              I think the missing piece of info here is whether there was a deadline OP was flouting. If the invoice wasn’t due for another week then the coworker was out of line; if the invoice was due by 5pm that day and the OP hadn’t even replied to acknowledge she’d received it yet, then I think the coworker’s urgency would have been justified.

              1. OP*

                OP here.

                A lot of people are really focusing on the actual urgency of the invoice. I work in the largest school district in my state and I get invoices 6 months old – I mean, it takes that long for them to be received in our office and make their way to my desk for approval.

                This particular one was dated first week of January – I received it in April. I was not asked about it three times, as some have inferred. I was handed it and received the email in question the following week. Not one week later, I am talking Thursday to Tuesday.

                I didn’t mention these details because I considered them irrelevant. I was not interested in how many hours/days/weeks were enough to justify pulling out an ASAP, but with the expression in general.

                1. Observer*

                  It’s still several days, which is generally well out of the typical “asap” range.

                  And, by the way, the fact that it takes so long for stuff to get to you does not mean that it’s ok for you to delay things further. In fact, unfair as it is, the fact that it takes so long for stuff to get to you may mean that it’s even more urgent for you to move on it expeditiously.

                  As to your question about the word – you’ve gotten a lot of responses on that. Basically you are totally off base, and your reaction was totally out of line. I say that understanding what you wrote here.

                2. LBK*

                  Those details are relevant, though, because there are cases where ASAP is more justified and ones where it isn’t. There’s no black and white answer, so if you want a firm “yes, it’s always fine” or “no, it’s never fine,” that answer does not exist.

                3. Observer*

                  LBK, I agree. But there is nothing in these additional details to really explain the OP’s fairly out-sized reaction.

                4. LBK*

                  Sorry, I should have been clearer – my comment was in response to the OP’s argument that he didn’t think the timeline was relevant because he just wanted to know if “ASAP” was okay in general. I agree with you that given the situation, his response was disproportional.

                  I did used to regularly get people in my old job that would send me something at 9pm (when no one in my industry is expected to be working), then call me at 9am the next day demanding to know why it isn’t done yet. In those situations I’d tell the person to slow their roll. But in the OP’s case where it had been 4 business days and it seems he hadn’t even replied to confirm receipt yet, I don’t think a follow up with some urgency attached was unwarranted.

            2. Dankar*

              Oh, those people! I just found out that my students are missing my red-flagged emails (once in a blue moon, when visa/status regulations are involved) because they get about 17 such emails PER DAY from another department.

              1. Ursula*

                This happened to me when I was studying abroad. I got red flagged emails from the student union about a party that friday or from the student welfare people about a yoga class they were doing. Stuff I wanted to know but not red flag worthy stuff. It meant the red flag started to mean nothing to me. And I almost missed an email warning me to renew my visa.

              2. Genny*

                A trick I started using when I was staffing a senior officer is to mark the really important emails “low priority” (it’s the blue down arrow). No one uses that denotation, so when she saw it in her inbox, she knew it was actually a high priority.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I’m happy to give OP the benefit of the doubt here. Some people ask for everything high priority, while that isn’t really possible. It sounds like OP and her coworker might be on different pages for the turnaround of this product, and it makes sense for them to talk that over, since we can’t know from here which one of them is being more realistic.

        1. Amber T*

          But OP’s issue wasn’t that the coworker wanted it more quickly than normal, it was “ASAP is rude.”

        2. another scientist*

          OP mentioned that they’ve worked with the other person in the past but only last week, the email requested ASAP processing. If I get regular, normal requests from a colleague and then suddenly one is ASAP, my conclusion would be that there is probably a good reason for requesting this.
          If the coworker is constantly in ASAP mode, then sure I’d be annoyed, but that wasn’t mentioned here.

          1. Samiratou*

            I read it that the OP has to do something with one invoice a month from this coworker. Coworker sent her an invoice two weeks ago, and last week she got the ASAP email. So, she’d already sat on the invoice for a week before the ASAP email.

          2. pleaset*

            “If I get regular, normal requests from a colleague and then suddenly one is ASAP, my conclusion would be that there is probably a good reason for requesting this.
            If the coworker is constantly in ASAP mode, then sure I’d be annoyed, but that wasn’t mentioned here.”


        3. Canarian*

          But it’s pretty clear the coworker isn’t one of those kinds of people who ask for everything high priority. She sent the invoice, waited for a week, and then – after receiving no response or acknowledgement – sent a follow-up nudge requesting that the week-old invoice be handled ASAP. I agree it makes sense for them to talk over reasonable turnaround times, but ideally that conversation would happen sometime sooner than a week out from receipt of the invoice.

        4. OP*

          Thanks, this was my point. I have days where I am literally calling, talking, and emailing as fast as I can. I have tasks such as these invoices that can be done anytime during the day, as long as they’re done, and then I have tasks that have to be addressed RIGHT NOW because I am involved in construction and IT projects and people are literally standing by for my answer.

      3. Luna*

        This- LW, if you work in say, a finance office, then people in other departments do have the right to request that certain invoices be processed faster than others. They are the ones running the projects and interacting with the clients. They do not have to be your direct manager to make this kind of request.

      4. Kelly O*

        Silo thinking kills me.

        Just because you’re in Ops and I’m in Finance, doesn’t mean that our jobs are not dependent upon each other. I may need your input to bill a customer for your time, or to know what the Teapot Dome invoice was for so I can know if it bills back or not. Conversely, Ops may need information from Finance in order to find out if they have enough resources or are within limits for future planning and/or changes to existing projects.

        Where I am on the org chart doesn’t matter. I pull together agendas and reporting for the CEO. A lowly EA may need to ask the CFO when his report will be in, or what can I do to help get the report.

        We’re all working together toward one goal – company growth and profitability. We all have our own parts to play in that, but my part is not superior to yours because of my department/title/years with the company/heel height, whatever. Our mission is the same and we have to understand each other and work toward that, or none of us will be successful. Getting your britches in a wad because you don’t like an acronym is hardly a productive way to further the mission.

          1. Kelly O*

            Aw, thank you. Kelly O was busy in the silos. Then moving the silos… you know how it goes. Now I’m back to preaching against silos.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally agreed. OP did not handle it well, and it flamed into a thing. First preference would be to do the damn thing, second preference is to ask for clarification. Somewhere around “option 1 million and nth” is to write a passive-aggressive response that blows off your coworker… whose place on the departmental org chart really shouldn’t matter when it comes to things like professional courtesy.

        1. CityMouse*

          The most crucial people in my organization are actually three office administrators. In the org chart, you would not see them on the top. But if you have a weird problem that needs fixing, one of those three always, always knows how to fix it. We occasionally have had interviewees be rude to one of them (one sits in the greeting desk) and those people get nixed immediately.

      6. RAM*

        If someone says they need it “ASAP” I do expect a quick note (nothing fancy, just literally one sentence will do) about why it’s so urgent. Like “I need to get the the teapot designs ASAP so that we can process the order before the clients’ deadline next week!” would be met with a prompt reply. Someone saying “I need this ASAP!” would also make me frustrated. I wouldn’t reply with the snark, but I also wouldn’t bend over backwards for them.

    2. CityMouse*

      My mentor taught me to manage a list of things to do by figuring out what needs to be done in what time frame, but flexibility for taking on new tthings is very important too. That response sounds clueless about how time management works. Of course not everything is ASAP. Some stuff has to be prioritized.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Frankly I’d have still been really annoyed by that response. Don’t condescendingly lecture me on how I should phrase my requests as if you’re my manager – if we’re peers, you have no standing to try to “coach” me on my email verbiage. If you need clarification, just ASK FOR IT using your words, like adults do.

      “I understand, but I’m under some pretty heavy deadlines at the moment – can you clarify when you need this by?” or “I have another project that has to take priority right now, but I can get this to you by COB tomorrow. Please let me know if you need it sooner than that and I will see what I can do.”

    4. TootsNYC*

      It seems overly dramatic, as if to say: “I need this so badly and urgently that I don’t even have time to write out a softer-sounding alternative,”

      And I’d have bristled to receive that–don’t “school” me, buddy–you’ve had the invoice for a week.

    5. bookbot*

      In my jobs, things become ASAP when an administrator has suddenly decided they need some information that needs to be compiled, or (because it’s government work) some magical money appeared or disappeared and now we need to process orders as quickly as possible before the money runs out.

      I always take ASAP literally to mean, as soon as you can do it–how soon can you do it?! I always respond by telling them at what point I will be free to work on it, give an estimate as to when I can get it done, and ask if that deadline works for them.

      I take it as them asking me to move this task to high priority, but with their an awareness that I may have other high priority tasks on my plate as well. I certainly never took it as a personal attack. Then again, if I had purchase orders lingering in my mailbox that I hadn’t responded to or begun to process, maybe that ASAP would mean, “why haven’t you done this yet?” and it might need to indicate I had some time management issues. Then again, I don’t know OPs workload or schedule, so I can’t really guess at how long an invoice should take to process.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      We actually take about how to handle “ASAP” requests in my orientation process. My objection to it is the same as Alison stated in her response – it’s vague and doesn’t set expectation on either side. When my folks are not given a specific deadline (like “today by 3 p.m.”), they are supposed to pitch a reasonable deadline back.

      “OMG! I need this invoice processed ASAP!” – Nothing helpful here.
      “The invoice is waiting to be processed. Would having it done Thursday by noon work for you?” – Status update and deadline offered.
      “NOOOOOOOO! The vendor’s going to walk if we don’t pay them by COB today!” – Aha! The REAL problem (and deadline).
      “Okay, let me talk to my manager to see how best to get that prioritized for you.” – Make sure skipping the queue on this particular one won’t cause other issues.

  6. wheeeeeeee*

    I’m morbidly curious as to what the response email looked like. I can’t imagine using ASAP that often.

    In any case, it sounds like everyone here mis-stepped and you’re taking a relatively normal word too seriously. Take a breath!

    1. Hearing Girl*

      I’m honestly a little skeptical of the OP’s description of it as a “rant.” If OP thinks the mere use of “ASAP” is beyond-the-pale aggression, a “rant” could literally be anything.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, I’m kinda wondering about that. How often have we found that what one person characterizes as a “rant” is, to someone else, just a quick reply?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I would have had the hardest time trying NOT to answer with:

      “So does that mean yes or no?”

      But that would be throwing kindling on the fire, I think.

    3. Shelby Drink the Juice*

      I personally don’t use it often. The time I pull it out is when someone’s been given a reasonable deadline and missed it and I get prodded on why a team member didn’t get their stuff done. I don’t micromanage, and people are given reasonable time to get things done. So yep, I’ll say ASAP when they’re already late and holding up the next part of the process.

  7. Alianora*

    Wow. OP, I realize that you may be feeling more strongly about this than usual because of the angry email she sent, but ASAP is such a common term. It’s maybe slightly more aggressive than “as soon as possible,” but not an inherently rude word in my experience.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Plenty of people don’t read it as ace-app, they actually see ASAP and think “as soon as possible.” Some people are just native jargon speakers.

      Like FYI–I see that and read “for your information,” not the acronym, and I don’t think it’s rude.

      1. Alianora*

        That’s an interesting perspective. Idon’t think it’s rude, but it does have a different connotation to me. Kind of like writing “Dear Alianora” vs “Alianora –” vs no salutation. I don’t find any of them rude, but some are more abrupt than others

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          I actually hate emails which address me by name without including a salutation! Something about it just rubs me the wrong way…..although plenty of people in my area use it, so it’s nothing new. I just….quietly bristle to myself when someone sends me an email like that. (It may be down to a personality conflict from a former coworker who I felt used to talk down to me and used to send emails like thatall the time, or it may be from having worked in a fairly formal office where no one would ever dream of dropping the salutations…..)

          1. I'm in the Wrong Story*

            This made me reflect on my own salutations (not using one isn’t okay in my mind, but “dear” seems equally wrong in a business context). I have a whole range based on formality, from “good morning/afternoon” down to just “hey.”

          2. Scion*

            What salutation would you prefer vs none? I mean, “Dear” seems pretty non-work appropriate.

      2. Alton*

        Yeah, I feel like pronouncing it like “a-sapp” feels more brusque. When I see it, I usually spell it out in my head or just read it as “as soon as possible.”

      3. A.*

        Yea I thought it meant as soon as possible. I wouldn’t take offense to that. I would just think ok this person needs this request right away.
        I think the OP needs to get adjusted to the civilian workforce. There are not as many rigid rules and deference to hierarchies.

        1. ASAP!*

          This is simply not true. Acronyms aren’t more blunt ways of saying the exact thing they stand for. ASAP one HUNDRED percent means “as soon as possible,” nothing more nothing less. It does not mean “as soon as possible but more aggressively.”

          1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

            I think she’s referring to the tone of ASAP versus “as soon as possible.” It’s like the difference between lol and “I laughed out loud.” Both technically mean the same thing but carry different feelings. Acronyms tend to be used in casual and familiar contexts. I think they also tend to convey feelings and intent rather than only literal meaning, so sometimes saying lol doesn’t mean you literally laughed but that you found something funny. ASAP might carry a more blunt, urgent, demanding feeling of “I need your attention” versus the more literal, formal phrasing of “as soon as possible.”

            (I hope this makes sense, it’s hard to articulate connotation without sounding weird sometimes.)

            1. tusky*

              Oops, commented before this posted. This is approximately the point I was trying to make.

            2. Alianora*

              Exactly, thank you. It can vary between communities, but it’s not true to say there’s never any distinct difference.

          2. tusky*

            But tone, syntax, and context also affect the meanings of words. Consider the addition of an exclamation point, which can make a phrase read as yelled. Similarly, typing in all caps can add emphasis or connote aggression (as you have demonstrated). So, using an acronym might well change the tone to one of aggression, even if that isn’t the intent.

          3. Who the eff is Hank?*

            I’m with you here. I rarely use ASAP in work emails but when I do, I literally mean “as soon as possible”, whatever that means to the receiver. They may be able to get to it right away, or maybe in three days, and either of those is fine. I usually give certain deadlines because my work is very event-based but if it’s something with no true deadline then I’ll use ASAP to mean “whenever you have time for it, just please don’t forget about it for the next month”.

            1. Thlayli*

              I’m also someone who uses it to mean “as soon as possible” and when I read it I read it as “as soon as possible”.

              I’m really surprised to learn that people think it means anything else. What other acronyms do people think mean something different than what they are abbreviating? Do people think there’s a difference between TV and television? Between BRB and be right back? It’s literally the same thing.

          4. nonegiven*

            Yelled by a superior officer it is more aggressive. OP probably hears a yelling officer when they see ASAP in an email.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              That is what I am thinking, too. OP is tying it to previous experiences and adding more than was ever intended. Not everyone who uses ASAP is yelling, nor are they angry. It’s just not clear cut like that.

              But I get how this happens. All it takes is one or two nasty people using a favorite expression and we forever link that expression to that toxic person. It takes a deliberate effort to unlink the two.

          5. Valprehension*

            Connotations exist. Words or phrases with the same dictionary definitions do not convey exactly the same information, because the information conveyed by language isn’t limited to dictionary definitions. This isn’t even a complicated concept. Tone matters. Level of formality matters.

          6. bookbot*

            Honestly, this made me want to start writing “as soon as possible, but more aggressively” out on certain business e-mails.

        1. Amber T*

          I think it boils down to Know Your Office/Industry. ASAP/FYI/one word emails/typical brusque email stuff is just standard for where I work, with my coworkers, vendors, and clients. It tripped me out for a while and I got stuck writing these long, flowy emails, and I would feel disheartened and even kind of offended when I would get a “yes” or “no” or “see below” back. Even after years in my office, my boss just joined a few months ago, and I’m still getting used to his even more brusque emails. He’s a super nice guy and even better boss… who just writes “FYI” or “please handle ASAP” in emails.

          1. another scientist*

            this is what I came here to say. I’m also in a field where email can take over your whole day, while not being my core job. So many people will take any shortcut they can, using acronyms, not signing or just typing their initials instead of a signature. It took some getting used to, but I urge you not to read anything else than a time-saving strategy into this person’s use of a common acronym.

            Besides, ‘As soon as possible’ to me implies considerable leeway, what is ‘possible’ for your workflow is entirely up to you.

            1. Ursula*

              Exactly I went from a University environment in my native country where casual emails, one word emails, not signing off are perfectly acceptable to another country where I spoke the language but wasn’t sure about social norms and one word emails in this country are incredibly rude.

              I found it quite hard to tell how important something was though because soft language is the norm in this culture sometimes “can you possibly get to this whenever you have time if your not to busy” means “do this ASAP” I personally would have preferred to be told “do this ASAP” as at least it would have been clear.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      OP’s example of preferred softening language was “at your earliest convenience” which–a week after I sent you something, I don’t mean “at your earliest convenience” which could be two months from now.

      Softening language can be important for smoothing social interactions, but not when it obscures your meaning. Don’t say “at your earliest convenience” when you mean “by four o’clock” or “the client is really getting upset at the delay and I need this as soon as you can possibly produce it.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d much rather see “ASAP” than see “at your earliest convenience” where it subtly means “do it now”. Just tell me what you need and when you need it, I am tired of guessing.

        1. Kelly O*

          I agree with you – “at your earliest convenience” is an overly fancy and (to me, at least) slightly passive-aggressive way of saying “I need this NOW, you lazy person!”

          But I know my bias, so I just let it roll. I have a boss who would never use a $1 word when a $10 word was available. I still think it sounds worse than just saying “send it now please.”

    3. TootsNYC*

      also–the whole “oh, are you so important and busy that you don’t hae time to type out a wordier, ‘softer’ version?” snark?
      • It seems overly dramatic, as if to say: “I need this so badly and urgently that I don’t even have time to write out a softer-sounding alternative,” such as “as soon as you can get to it,” “at your earliest convenience,” etc.

      Gimme a break.

      I’ve just spent the day typing a whole bunch of stuff, and you can be sure I’ve been using abbreviations and acronyms all over the place. So yes, ASAP is much faster than “as soon as you can.”

      It’s also much shorter than, “I need it as soon as you can possibly get to it.”

      And the options our OP suggests, above? Those are pretty wimpy for an invoice that’s been in her possession for a week.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Well, maybe, but there are dozens of people on here who also have experience and find this very common (me included). It’s entirely possible that your own dislike of the term has colored some of your perceptions.

  8. Engineer Girl*

    Oh my goodness.

    Taking offense at ASAP? Really?

    OP, your biggest problem is that you are creating whole fairy tales behind people’s word and actions. Yes, fairy tales. You at making ASAP about class and respect and personal insults. None of that could be true. You don’t know.

    And that is why you ask clarifying questions before you fly off the handle and escalate.

    You also didn’t give your coworker the benefit of the doubt. You know that they struggle with English yet you immediately chose offense.

    I would look deeply at why you take offense so easily. If you don’t, it will negatively impact your career.

    And stop telling yourself fairy tales.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      One more point. Your email is filled with “it seems”. That means you are judging through your emotions, not through actual real world facts. Appearance is not reality.

      1. Kelly O*

        I don’t often propose marriage in blog comments, but am willing to make an exception.

      2. LeRainDrop*

        Spot on, Engineer Girl. OP’s letter makes him sound very unreasonable to me. He’s clearly bringing in baggage from a prior context that just is not really there in the office/business context. Using the term ASAP is totally normal and while it’s not precise, it does at least provide some info needed for prioritization. OP’s response to the follow-up email was extremely rude and unhelpful. There was no reason for him to be so abrasive to the colleague.

        1. TootsNYC*

          we normally default to “her” at AAM, just from habit/custom. But I did find myself wondering here whether our OP is female or male.

          1. bookbot*

            The fact that they have no problem with asap being used with their male colleague, but bristle when a woman (a non-native speaker at that) uses it has me raising my eyebrow a bit.

            1. TootsNYC*

              ditto. (though it doesn’t mean anything about our OP’s gender; the stereotype would be that the OP is male, but women can be just as sexist)

              1. bookbot*

                Definitely. I can admit that as a woman I internalized a certain amount of misogyny growing up that I’ve had to unlearn as an adult. Honestly, working in industries (eduation/public libraries) that have a higher percentage of women helped with that. Especially because many of them did not soften their language because we were all way too busy for anything but direct requests.

              2. LeRainDrop*

                That’s true. Another point in the letter that made me feel OP was male is that OP thought female colleague’s use of the term ASAP made her sound “bossy.”

            2. Observer*

              Yes. And add to it the explicit expectation that the CW take the time to use softener- which they DO NOT expect from the male coworker when he has an urgent need.

              Yeah, I don’t know what is in the OP’s head, but it really seems to be quacking like a particular duck.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      OP, this is a harsh comment from Engineer Girl but it is absolutely true. It sucks getting feedback like this but it is a stellar way to grow as a person and a professional.

    3. SpaceNovice*

      It’s not a fairy tale–it’s the wrong context. OP didn’t understand the civilian usage for it and had baggage from their time in the military. They still didn’t react well, though, you’re right about that–and you’re also right that they definitely need to step back a moment before reacting in the future. Which is why they’re writing into AAM in the first place–they realized they might have read things wrong.

      1. LawLady*

        No, I think there are some fairy tales going on here. OP says that ASAP implies that she doesn’t know how to prioritize her tasks. That’s not because that’s what ASAP means in the military, it’s because that’s what ASAP means to OP.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This one gets me. How am I supposed to know when someone needs something unless they tell me?
          In work places the work flow comes first, we have to do stuff to keep the work moving. I would not want to work in a place where I had to guess how important something was to a cohort. Priorities change constantly, I am surprised that anyone would expect to set their own priorities and be able to stick with that list of priorities. No, stuff changes.

          I worked in one place where things would change daily, I mean BIG changes. Set up A and do A. The next day tear down A and set up B and do B. No thought was given to the fact that two days were just lost to set up time. We’d all crawl home, flippin’ exhausted. This place was the worst I ever encountered.

      2. BethRA*

        But OP wrote that she uses the term herself: “He will occasionally write ASAP, as will I, to communicate that this particular item really is important and time-sensitive.”

        So yes, I think it’s accurate to suggest she’s inventing reasons to feel offended.

        1. Kat G., Ph.D.*

          Yeah, that was especially weird for me. Why is one person allowed to say ASAP, but another one isn’t?

          1. Alli525*

            Because English isn’t her first language, of course! /s

            It is a very weird double standard, especially because it doesn’t sound from the letter like Coworker has a long history of over-using “ASAP.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              because he’s a man, and she’s a woman.

              And he works “closely” with the OP

              1. HQetc*

                I mean, maybe, sure, but that’s a major assumption.

                And the fact that this other person works closely with the OP is actually important information, and I’m not totally sure why you’re quoting it that way. I’m brusquer in emails with certain people because I rely on our prior context, and so I have some information about how they’ll react to my email. I’m more careful with people I know less well (or people I know don’t handle brusqueness well).

      3. Not a Morning Person*

        It is still telling a story. OP used an assumption that, of course, the other person has the same interpretation of a term or word and then made up a bunch of reasons that the person would deliberately choose to use it as a term of disrespect. Maybe, but most likely not. For whatever reason, the stories we tell ourselves are always the worst interpretation. Not, they are using that word/term because it means they need something faster but instead we tell ourselves, they are using that word/term to show me that they have power and are being bossy and trying to prove that I am lazy, and on and on and on. That’s awfully far to take the interpretation.
        But even if it is understandable because our brains are so egocentric and try to protect us from harm, it’s not healthy or productive. We have to short-circuit those kinds of reactions. So it might be “normal” to tell yourself a story about what someone else means, but if the meaning we are getting is “that person is deliberately trying to disrespect me” then very often that is a fairy tale. So, personally, I think using “fairy tale” is accurate. YMMV.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          … I also realized I was thinking literary instead of colloquialisms because I myself haven’t heard fairy tales used that way in decades. (Fantasy versus fiction: fantasy can never happen IRL but fiction could potentially happen.) So I guess I’m demonstrating the entire point of the letter, oops?

          (I definitely agree that it’s a story that the OP was telling themselves and that their reaction was inappropriate, though.)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Ironic isn’t it? In the process of our brains trying to protect us, we incur more injury when we act on these Negative Nancy thoughts.

          If we look for reasons NOT to get along with people, we WILL find those reasons. The real art is in finding ways to get along when the road seems a bit rocky.

          1. Susan Sto Helit*

            It also happens when you already dislike someone (or, for some people, feel prejudiced against a certain demographic). Everything suddenly becomes the worst possible interpretation, when the same behaviour from someone you liked wouldn’t sound a single alarm.

      4. Jess*

        What would be the context in which OP’s response was right? I’m not sure that it would have been any more appropriate in a military context. I agree OP’s personal baggage re its use may have originated there, but I wouldn’t assume that OP’s reaction is at all common among those who share that experience.

        I worked in the defense industry for a few years where a majority of my office was active duty or retired military. Sure, ASAP was pretty frequently used but I have a hard time reading any type of disrespect into the way people used it. It meant the same thing it does in a non-military context: as soon as possible. And I never saw anyone who attached any particular baggage to its use.

        The only difference might be that the military context is particularly acronym-laden. But when everyone speaks in acronyms, the use of an acronym generally reads as less brusque than it might in a different context.

        1. CityMouse*

          As a Navy brat and someone who has done some civillian work with the military, you’d 100% get chewed out for tha kind of reponse in the military, especially if you dragged a manager (read CO) into it.

        2. SpaceNovice*

          The response is inappropriate no matter the context, definitely. Perhaps it was due to their particular unit that baggage got attached to the acronym but they could have misinterpreted it then, too. Which I suppose really isn’t the point in the end which it is–the point is that their response wasn’t appropriate and that ASAP didn’t mean what they thought it did.

        3. Calpurrnia*

          Same here, in my last job (government contractor in aerospace industry with tons of ex-mil folks) you very quickly sink or swim in the sea of acronyms. I’ve gotten one-sentence emails like “FYI, the LM CTRs need the Q1 TFM data for IAD and DCA from ASPM for Q1 ASAP – can you get it by COB?” That doesn’t read as rude or brusque at all – it’s a completely straightforward request when you speak the language.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I can’t think of a context where this would be the right response. If the co-worker had been flat out rude, that’s when I might have taken it to a manager though, but being rude back (although I don’t think the co-worker’s original use of ASAP was rude) is usually not a good idea in a business setting.

      5. CityMouse*

        My Dad was a long term naval officer and I have never known him to be so word picky. Maybe this is an enlisted versus officer thing but being in the military doesn’t isolate you from society. People use ASAP in all kinds of personal or non work communications.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s still a fairy tale. OP is constructing elaborate explanations and imputing bad intentions onto their coworker (and it sounds like those bad intentions are not often justified even in a military context). Engineer Girl was blunt, but she’s not wrong… much like the “ASAP” coworker.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          Yeah, I forgot the colloquial vs literary usage of “fairy tale” since I haven’t heard it used that way for… years, I think? My bad. In this case, it’s accurate.

    4. A.*

      I think because in the navy, you would never dream of telling your commanding officer to do something asap. OP made a point of saying his coworker is not in his reporting structure, so I guess how dare she command him to do something. It just seemed like a normal request to me. Much like asking someone to respond with something by cob (close of business).

      1. CityMouse*

        Yeah but that makes OP sound a like a new Lieutenant who tries to pull rank for no reason on a sergeant or chief petty officer. Bad idea. Real bad idea.

        1. A.*

          Yes I agree. The OP needs to relax. People aren’t going to be as deferential in the civilian world.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yup. This sounds like trying to pull or establish rank in a situation where it’s completely uncalled for. The appropriate response was to do the invoice, then send it to her with “Also, in the future, when you need something prioritized, please just give me the date you need it by – ASAP is a little unclear and I appreciate more precision.” Instead, LW got rude and dismissive – I would definitely have looped in a manager at that point.

    5. lost academic*

      THIS. Was scrolling down to see if anyone had made my thoughts into a comment yet and naturally you nailed it.

      It’s projecting onto your colleague and more than a little presumptive because it demonstrates that at no point did the LW consider where the colleague was coming from. A certain amount of consideration and empathy are necessary in a collaborative environment. Critical time to unpack this laundry list of assumptions about “ASAP” and possibly some others on a regular basis.

    6. OP*

      This all seems pretty judgmental – you don’t know me at all. Because your experience is different than mine, doesn’t make mine less valid. I don’t know the norms of your industry(ies), but I know mine. Please look at my summary response below.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I don’t have to know you to see that you gave a snarky passive agressive response.

        This isn’t about experiences but appropriate actions. Yours was out of line.

        As they say, you can’t totally control your emotions but you can certainly control your response.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Your response to your coworker seems pretty judgmental – you don’t know her at all. Because your experience is different than hers, doesn’t make hers less valid.

      3. Susie Q*

        You seem to lack any sort of self awareness or ability to recognize that you are at fault.

        Just because your feelings got hurt, doesn’t mean you’re right nor does it excuse your behavior.

  9. LawLady*

    ASAP is commonly used in my office and was commonly used in my last job as well. It’s usually in emails, but I’ve also heard people say they need something ASAP in person. OP, I think this might be a you-specific hangup and you should apologize. She acted inappropriately as well, but since you were inappropriate first you and you need to keep working together, an apology is appropriate.

  10. Lily in NYC*

    I so rarely use the term ASAP at work – I save it for instances when I desperately need something and the person I’m emailing is causing delays (and like in OP’s case, they are always invoice-related). So if I used “asap” and not only did it take a few days to get a response, but the response was snarky, you can bet I’d be annoyed. I wouldn’t send a 3-paragraph email, but I wouldn’t be very happy.

  11. Episkey*

    I actually feel the same way about ASAP and try to soften it a little — HOWEVER, the last time I did this (by saying “at your earliest convenience”) my boss actually got mad at me and said I didn’t communicate the request correctly. So now I suppose I will be more liberal with my usage.

    1. Jess*

      I usually just write it lowercase if I want to soften it, as if it’s a word. I have no idea if other people read “asap” as less brusque than “ASAP,” but to me it’s the all caps that make it jump out from the page.

    2. MLB*

      See that’s the issue. “At your earliest convenience” says to me that what you’re requesting is not a high priority. If I have a deadline, I send that in an email, but if it’s an important or critical thing that needs to be done as soon as humanly possible, ASAP communicates to the others that they need to get to it quickly. Not necessarily drop what they’re doing immediately and work on it, but as soon as they’re done with the current task. I honestly don’t understand how it could be taken as offensive.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Use actual times, in both subject and body of the email.
      Subject: Invoice, by EOD
      In the body: “Can you get this back to me by EOD?’

      Subject: Invoice, 2 day turnaround
      In the body, “Is it possible to have these turned around in two days, generally? What might drive delays?’

      You have to be thoughtful about time differences (ie, I’m in Eastern US and would never ask Asia or Europe for ‘EOD’, but might for California) and how long it will take – setting realistic timelines builds trust, so that when you need the exceptions, they believe the urgency is real.

  12. SpaceNovice*

    TELL the coworker the history behind ASAP for you–sit down and have an actual chat, not a quick one-off comment. You two aren’t having the same conversation. At all. To you, she was treating you like a worthless subordinate, and to her, you were acting weirdly angry and defensive to the point that it insulted her on a personal level. Both are you are mad for legitimate reasons and both of you handled it poorly. (While it’s understandable you reacted that way, at least you now understand what it means in the civilian context.)

    This is just a horrible misunderstanding… which means it likely isn’t a permanent wedge between the two of you if you talk sooner rather than later.

    1. Captain S*

      If someone sat down for a formal chat about the use of a common term, I’d be real worried about them as a human. A quick apology email is plenty IMO.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        Haha, I meant nothing more than a couple of minutes to talk–a really formal meeting would be weird, yeah. A quick email could work well enough.

    2. BritCred*

      Doing so as an apology for overreacting to a simple request: Maybe.

      However… do stop short of making coworkers responsible for an over reaction and trying to get others to not use it in the future when its completely normal usage in business. You can’t enforce that on everyone, you have to adjust to the fact it will be used and used quite often.

      OP, there is nothing wrong with ASAP and you jumped to a lot of conclusions just off its usage. Neither is there anything wrong with someone who you obviously are expected to work with asks you to prioritize something for them whether they are directly in your “reporting structure” or not. And its not bossy, its a request.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        I need to be more specific about what I meant–sorry! I meant a short apology as in “sorry I took unreasonable offense. Won’t happen again.”

    3. Amber T*

      I get that OP has a personal hang up about this, but using ASAP is so part of many business norms, that no matter how professional OP makes this conversation, it’ll still have a Regina George feeling of “you can’t wear hoop earrings anymore.”

      Imagine if a coworker sat you down and told you that wearing a red shirt was offensive to them because that’s not how they did it in the military. It doesn’t matter how professionally the request could be presented, the request itself doesn’t align with how most businesses operate.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        Yeah, a request like that would be weird. Sorry, I meant as in a quick apology.

    4. TootsNYC*

      If I were the coworker, I wouldn’t be the least bit interested in the OP’s history w/ ASAP. Suck it up, buttercup. (You were in the military? I expect better from you because of that; I expect you to be tougher, to be more focused on the core and less derailed by all the emotional stuff. I expect you to be able to be the one in charge of your emotions.)

      This is perfectly reasonable acronym in the world of business, which is the world the OP inhabits now. The OP needs to get used to it.

      I don’t care how formal, informal, whatever. I don’t want to have this conversation,a nd it’s NOT going to make you look good to me. You’re going to look like a major special snowflake who needs safe spaces and demands trigger warnings (and not in a good or reasonable way!–those are concepts I have some sympathy for, in extreme situations)

      Do the damned invoice promptly next time, and keep your emotions to yourself.

    5. SS Express*

      For me, saying “sorry I reacted so inappropriately to you saying ASAP the other day – it’s because I used to be in the Navy, where that term had different connotations” would probably make it worse. I mean, I assume the OP doesn’t keep turning up in uniform or signing off emails as “Captain Blah Blah” because they do in fact understand that it’s a different environment, so it’s hardly a good explanation. And a bad explanation is worse than no explanation at all because it highlights the lack of a good reason while suggesting that they think they *did* have a good reason, plus listening to it wastes my time while probably helping them feel a bit better…neither of those things would improve the situation, or my opinion of them.

  13. Jaguar*

    OP, you have baggage around “ASAP” that most people don’t. I rarely use the term myself, but when I hear it, it reads exactly as, “this is urgent” with no extra context, tone, whatever.

    But I also know that there are so many people that are difficult to work with and if I say I need something urgently, they’ll get their backs up or have a little moment about it. If I had gotten that e-mail you sent back from someone, I wouldn’t send the three paragraph reply, but you’d now be someone that’s officially difficult to work with and I’m going to circumvent as much as possible.

    You should probably look at this less as an issue of “how can I get people to stop saying ‘asap’?” and more of “how can I fix my working relationship with someone I sent a poorly thought out e-mail to?”

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I agree with this. I would also add that they should look at why this acronym would set them off so much. Was it who sent it? The OP having a bad day? I feel like there’s something- off about the level of information that the OP took to justify their stance.

  14. animaniactoo*

    OP, I have to say that is a LOT of reading into why someone would use that kind of phrasing.

    Like, a lot. No, I mean, really A LOT.

    I don’t know if just this particular phrase is your pet peeve in which case – hey, it’s your peeve and as long as you keep it in its cage feel free to hold on to it. Or if you tend to view a number of things in this way, in which case I would say you might do some work on learning to look at things with the benefit of the doubt. Like, she used ASAP because she expects you are pretty busy and wants you to know that there actually is some urgency to this request if you can please squeeze it in sooner than usual. Look for the positive, not the negative. Especially when it’s irking you. Unless there is a lot more context to the particular person doing the irking.

    1. Sarah*

      ” Like, she used ASAP because she expects you are pretty busy and wants you to know that there actually is some urgency to this request if you can please squeeze it in sooner than usual. ”

      That’s totally how I would read it. I had a whole system of escalations at my old job before I’d get to using ASAP, but when I used it it meant, “I know you’re busy and you know I don’t do this unless I have to, but my boss is checking in with me every five minutes, so please help me.” (It was one step before using URGENT in my subject line, which is something I absolutely loathe.) If I got a response saying, “Hey, this is going to take me x time/I have y other priorities, when do you need it by?” that would at least give me something to go back to my boss with. “Hey, I told Jane it was urgent and we needed it ASAP, but she has to do x before she can get to it,” would allow my boss to decide to escalate or not. But if I turned to my boss and said, “Jane says she does everything as soon as possible,” she’d have nothing to go on and I’d probably end up calling and being a little short.

    2. LBK*

      Like, she used ASAP because she expects you are pretty busy and wants you to know that there actually is some urgency to this request if you can please squeeze it in sooner than usual.

      This is such a good observation. I’m usually more specific about the urgency of something when I’m sending it to someone that I know is super busy precisely because of that fact – I know they are constantly prioritizing and I want them to make sure they have all the info they need to prioritize my request appropriately.

  15. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    What makes this extra funny to me is that my company has a specific type of process labeled as ASAP, so that “finish that ASAP ASAP!” is a legitimate statement. It also can result in misunderstandings. “Please do this ASAP, client is throwing a hissy.” “This isn’t an ASAP though…”

  16. Camellia*

    When I mentor folks I try to teach them to say as their first response, “Tell me more.” This works in so many situations. Someone gives you an impossible deadline. “Tell me more.” Getting them to help you understand why the deadline, exactly what is needed, and so forth, lets you craft a more appropriate response.

    1. soupmonger*

      If someone I asked to do something urgently for me told me ‘tell me more’, my first reaction would be to snap at them. People are busy. If I need something doing fast, I need it fast. I don’t expect to have to explain chapter and verse – I just need it. Now.

      1. Princess Loopy*

        I think this is very context dependent, though. In my job, I have a lot of autonomy over what I take on, and if I asked for more information and didn’t get it, it’s pretty unlikely I’d add whatever you wanted me to do to my schedule.

        Also, if you tell me you need something urgently and I ask for clarification on the timeline/deadline and get snapped at, that’s…not good. Urgent means different things to different people, just like ASAP does, and for lots jobs and industries, there’s lots of negotiation on what’s most urgent. Asking follow-questions is totally normal in many situations.

        1. soupmonger*

          I was objecting to the words ‘tell me more’, which sound like an invitation to begin a discussion. If I need something fast, and ask for that, I’m not inviting a discussion, I’m issuing instructions. ‘Tell me more’ just waves a red flag.

          1. Princess Loopy*

            I’m really curious as to what kind of work you do and where you are in the hierarchy. I can see that in some cases, it’s absolutely fine to need/want something, tell someone, and have the expectation that that will be the end of discussion. I’m responding (both emotionally and in writing) based on my own job, in which I have relatively few people who can just issue commands and expect me to follow them without question. I get to decide what I do, and I also get to ask for more information or a discussion on priorities and methods if I want to. Even my bosses and I have some back and forth about what I’m doing at times, and I get substantial input in most cases.

            I understand that some jobs and requests don’t follow those guidelines, though! And frankly, I think the situation the OP describes with an open invoice that needs processing is one where I would jump to. I’d be mortified to have sat on something like that for two weeks if it were due earlier, and I would, if fact, get it done ASAP.

            1. soupmonger*

              I actually run my own business. I also never issue any kind of commands like this – I’d never ask anyone to do anything I’d not do myself. However, if things need to be done swiftly, they are done swiftly, because I communicate clearly to my team when needs to be done and when. I was commenting here on the ASAP issue, and just how utterly unhelpful a ‘tell me more’ response is to a pen urgent request.

      2. Canarian*

        I didn’t interpret this to mean to literally use the words “tell me more.” I think those words just stand in for the general rule that requesting more information or detail is often a good way to clear up miscommunication and avert conflict. If you asked someone to do something urgently and they asked you to clarify what you mean by urgent (within the hour? by the end of the day? first thing tomorrow? COB tomorrow?) would you snap at that?

        1. soupmonger*

          I did interpret it to mean literally the words ‘tell me more’. If I ask for something quickly and say ‘ASAP please’ and I’m then asked for the actual deadline, I’ll provide it, quickly and politely. If I’m invited to have a conversation via ‘tell me more’, I’ll not be quite so polite.

      3. Starbuck*

        If you are my supervisor, fine. If you are my coworker, it’s still my prerogative to prioritize my work (at my manager’s direction), not up to you. That’s when extra context is helpful “[Mutual boss] says this is our team’s top priority today” vs “I was meant to do this last week but didn’t get to it and now I’m asking you because I’ve got a mountain of work to get through before my vacation next week” etc. Why is it ok to snap at people just because you are busy? In my industry anyway, such behavior is not acceptable.

      4. Moonbeam Malone*

        I’d look at “tell me more” as the guiding principle rather than the literal wording to use. In OP’s case it might have been appropriate to say, “Hi, I have a bunch of high-priority items ahead of this on my agenda right now and would normally get to this in X amount of time. What’s the absolute deadline on this?”

  17. Amtelope*

    “I need this ASAP” may not be the best way of communicating “I need this urgently” because it’s vague. However, it’s also probably not true that everything you do is urgent/a rush job/high-priority/etc. If someone needs something urgently, they should say so, and tell you when they need it (plus some context if they’re asking you to prioritize this over other work): “I need this invoice paid by COB tomorrow. We must pay our vendor by that date, or we will face fines. Please prioritize this if possible.” Or, “[Big boss] wants this invoice processed immediately. Can you get to it this morning?”

    Also — if I gave someone an invoice to process and they hadn’t even looked at it a week later, I’d be disconcerted. Do other people in your company know that you have a week+ backlog? Communicating realistic wait times may help avoid situations where other people get frustrated waiting on you.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      We know the original email was last week. We don’t know when the OP replied. (For their sake, I really hope it was also last week.)

      1. Oryx*

        “A person in a different department wrote me an email last week, telling me that she needed something “ASAP.” It has to do with an invoice she gave me the week before. ”

        It actually sounds like the original email was from TWO weeks ago, and then OP sat on it for a week so the coworker sent the ASAP email as a follow up when the OP didn’t respond.

    2. MLB*

      This is the problem I have with this interpretation. To me ASAP means it’s urgent. If I have a due date, I will provide one. But if the person I’m sending it to has a lot on their plate, I would expect them to let me know this and I will help them prioritize my ASAP request. People need to communicate with each other and stop getting their panties in a bunch over insignificant wording. And emails can be taken wrong because you’re not getting a sense of tone like you do when you’re speaking to someone. I personally read and re-read emails often before I send them to make sure I’m not saying anything that could be taken as offensive or rude, but regardless, sometimes you just need to step back and assume (most times) that the person sending the email wasn’t trying to be an asshat and have a conversation with them.

  18. Millennial Lawyer*

    I reaaaally think the realities of your particular job have a lot to do with what that term means. I’m a lawyer and my clients will NOT give me anything in less time than a week if I say “at your earliest convenience” or something softer. They are too busy for that. “As soon as possible” (I don’t use the acronym) communicates that I am flagging for high priority. Then my client will let me know what their timeline looks like.

    It sounds like you both really handled this wrong. Are there preexisting issues with you two? I’d take the use of ASAP in stride.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      Right, it’s worth noting too that “at your earliest convenience” does NOT mean the same thing as asap. It means “when you can.” ASAP means I need it SOON!

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I would use that phrase to mean “this isn’t urgent, whenever you can get to it is fine”. “ASAP” would mean “this is a high priority, and if you’re not able to make it one on your end, let me know so we can work something out”.

  19. Decimus*

    There are at least three grades of “ASAP” to me:

    1. “Joan discovered we forgot to file important paperwork with the government and if we don’t fix this ASAP the company will shut down.”
    2. “Big Boss wants his office redecorated so file the invoices ASAP.”
    3. “I have a particular cruise I really want to take so please file my vacation request ASAP.”

    These are very distinctly different. But it does sound like LW didn’t use the best wording possible and now things really have blown up.

    1. Washi*

      I agree with your general point, which is that ASAP is often completely (to me) unobjectionable, as in your first example. But I don’t get the difference between the second and third examples?

      1. LizB*

        I think Decimus is making a distinction between the personal needs of someone high up in the company hierarchy vs. the personal needs of a lower-level employee. In some companies Big Boss’s redecoration ASAP really does need to be prioritized over Alex in Marketing’s cruise ASAP because if Big Boss doesn’t get what they want when they want it, there could be real employment consequences for the invoice-filer, whereas all Alex in Marketing can do is glare.

      2. JanetM*

        The difference I see (and I could be wrong) is “Big Boss” wants something, as opposed to “I” want something.

  20. Samiratou*

    I wouldn’t generally give a second thought at ASAP, but I don’t usually use it unless I need something, well, as soon as possible. No hard deadline, yet, but there will be soon.

    On invoices, in particularly, sitting on them for a week genuinely could be problematic depending on the situation. If she usually contacts you roughly monthly with an invoice issue and you take weeks to get back to her, it could be she used ASAP to try to get you to do it sooner than in a few weeks (eg. she keeps running up against invoice terms because you can’t be bothered to approve your bit in a timely manner, making her job more difficult with vendors).

    Sounds like you both need to lighten up a bit, here.

    1. Secretary*

      YES to this.
      Part of my job is following up on payments after I send out invoices from our company. It is annoyingly common for companies to pay their invoices late and most of the time it’s because somewhere in their Accounts Payable department there is one employee (sometimes more than one!) that sat on our invoice for a week.

      As part of following up, I start friendly and with emails, but if I’m not getting a timeline I will escalate to phone calls. If I’m really not getting info I’ve actually figured out how to get ahold of people in the accounts payable dept to find our invoice (maybe like your coworker?). This sounds extreme, but if I don’t do this I’ve seen estimates with a one week estimated turnaround go 3 months.

      If you’re coworker is client facing, she may be getting all kinds of heat about those invoices that you’re not getting. I would cut her some slack on the ASAP thing because she may be getting it way more than you.

      1. Luna*

        YEP. I’m not saying you are someone who is like this, OP, but I have had a LOT of bad experiences with finance people over the years. It takes forever to get things processed, and even the politest of follow-ups sets them off. I once had a finance director get upset at a staff meeting because he thought others were being unreasonable about turnaround times- the particular issue he was upset about had been something he was first asked to fix two YEARS earlier!!!

        So yes, you had baggage about the wording your coworker used and sent her a really rude reply- but she might also have a lot of baggage with previous negative experiences, and clearly your response hit a nerve with her. I think you should definitely apologize.

  21. KHB*

    “There is one person who I work with closely, and often, and in a very friendly way, and we have mutual dependencies for getting parts of our jobs done. He will occasionally write ASAP, as will I, to communicate that this particular item really is important and time-sensitive. But this is pretty rare.”

    This jumped out at me. It’s maybe worth thinking about why you don’t mind so much when your male colleague writes “ASAP,” and why you’re fine with writing it yourself, but your female colleague seems “bossy” when she uses it. I suspect it’s something other than the acronym itself that’s bothering you.

    1. LizB*

      I also noticed this, and was wondering how the OP knows that hearing ASAP from Close Coworker means “this task is really important” but hearing ASAP from Invoice Coworker means “this coworker is dramatic and judgmental” instead.

      1. Lily*

        I had the same thought. Especially since OP has worked with this person before and this is the first time she used ASAP.
        OP’s male colleague isn’t her boss, has no issues with him using ASAP, but when this coworker used it, she characterized her as “bossy”. Even though in the side note she stated they’ve gotten along well so no previous animosity.

      2. slartibartfast*

        This stood out to me too. A dramatically different perception of the same word being used in what sounds like, at this remove, identical ways.

    2. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I agree. At the very least, the OP should have looked at it and then determined if it could wait. A week is a long time to let something sit unlooked-at in my opinion. How can she even know that it wasn’t time-sensitive and really important. The “not a native speaker of English” and “not even in her department, much less a part of her reporting structure” were also clues that the OP has more of a problem with this particular person, rather than the acronym.

      1. There All Is Aching*

        Absolutely agree with you here. What did “non-native speaker of English” have anything to do with the situation? I mean, the OP — presumably a native English speaker — went on a Zapruder film-level analysis as to why they were offended by something that many native English speakers would read as innocuous, common and part of the flow of working in an office.

    3. AnotherJill*

      Yeah, I thought that was really weird too. There definitely is a double standard in play here.

    4. Luna*

      Especially regarding “mutual dependencies”- OP, do you not realize that your emailing coworker is dependent on you to process these invoices for her clients?

      1. Oryx*

        Right, but the OP doesn’t seem dependent on the emailing coworker, hence it’s not a mutual dependency. That, I think, may be the big difference at play.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This jumped out at me. It’s maybe worth thinking about why you don’t mind so much when your male colleague writes “ASAP,” and why you’re fine with writing it yourself, but your female colleague seems “bossy” when she uses it. I suspect it’s something other than the acronym itself that’s bothering you.

      This makes me wonder if the LW is male. I know we default to female for LWs around here, but if LW is male and is okay with a male coworker using ASAP but bristles at a female coworker using it, then I think there are some pretty serious issues that LW needs to work on.

      1. Student*

        … that’s still true if the LW is a female.

        We women can be sexist against other women, too. And we should try to overcome it when we see it in ourselves.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Excellent point. And I’m honestly not sure which way is more disturbing.

  22. Turtle Candle*

    LW, this stood out at me:

    “It also, to my mind, implies that I don’t know how to prioritize tasks, that I can’t set my own priorities.”

    The thing is, telling someone that they need to re-prioritize is not an insult. It happens all the time, and usually it’s because one person has different information than another. If I’m prioritizing my rice sculpture tasks, I may decide to do rice sorting before design, but I might get a “We need the design done ASAP”–because the other person knows that the design has to be approved by a notoriously slow client and so it makes the most sense to get it to them early, and I don’t know that. Or if I’m working on the llama rice sculpture and they know that the alpaca rice sculpture is a rush job for a high profile client, same thing. Heck, it might be that her manager told her to request a speedier-than-normal turnaround, at which point she’s doing exactly what she ought.

    Now, the other person might not be right! If they go “We need the design ASAP” and you happen to know that the rice sorting must be done first because otherwise the rice will spoil, it’s fine to say, “I have to do the rice sorting first because of spoilage, but I can get you the design by Tuesday” and go from there. Or you can loop in your manager and say, hey, what’s more important, not having to buy a new batch of rice or getting the design done? And see what she says.

    But the simple fact of being asked to re-prioritize is not a slam on your skills. It’s an acknowledgement that not everyone has all the information necessary.

    This is obviously slightly separate from the literal phrase ASAP, but since you indicated that as one of the reasons you found it offensive, I wanted to pull it out and address it.

    1. AnotherJill*

      Yes. It’s not telling you that you don’t know how to prioritize, it’s simply informing you that the other person has priorities and doesn’t want this to become a bottle neck for them.

      1. Lance*

        And even beyond that… things change. What wasn’t urgent before now has a demand from the client to make it urgent, or something came up that means that plans and tasks need to be shifted… ultimately, there are all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with someone’s ability to prioritize.

  23. LizB*

    Yeah, OP, you are way too thin-skinned over this. You’re imbuing the phrase ASAP with all sorts of emotionally-charged baggage and judgment, but honestly, for 99% of people, it’s just an abbreviation for “at your earliest convenience.” Do you get this upset about people who write “just an FYI” instead of “just wanted to let you know”? Because to me, that is an analogous abbreviation-phrase pair. Yeah, the abbreviated version is more casual, but it’s not dramatic, presumptuous, or a sneaky condemnation of your work ethic to abbreviate instead of writing it out.

    1. Kiwi*

      It’s interesting how different people in this post interpret “at your earliest convenience”. To me, that means “when you can get to it without dropping anything urgent”. ASAP means “this is urgent, do it now unless you’re doing other ASAP stuff already”. Very different meanings.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*


        Especially because ASAP is *literally* an acronym for “As Soon As Possible”. It is not in any way an abbreviation for “at your earliest convenience”.

      2. LizB*

        Now that you say that, I think I actually agree with you that they’re not equivalent, because As Soon As Possible =/= Earliest Convenience. I used that phrase as an example because the OP used it… which just points back to the problem where the OP clearly doesn’t think this coworker’s request is actually urgent, or they would have dealt with this in some other much more productive way.

        1. Kiwi*

          Yeah, if I was OP’s workmate, I’d be annoyed about that.

          This post is making me think I’d better pay more attention to how other people at work use these terms. Especially my boss!

      3. LBK*

        Agreed. “ASAP” doesn’t mean “you literally need to do this now or else,” but if you tier responsibilities into, say, today/next 2 days/next 5 days, it means it needs to go into the “today” tier.

  24. ENFP in Texas*

    I pondered all this, and then sent her a brief response: “Everything I do is ASAP! I didn’t get a chance to look at this yet. Thanks,” etc.

    Wow. If I had gotten this email response from someone, I would have been ticked and written back a not-so-pleasant reply and cc’ed my manager, as well.

    Especially since she was following up on an invoice that she had sent a week before, and was told “I didn’t get a chance to look at it yet”? That makes me wonder if the OP has a tendency to not respond in a timely manner, and the requester needed a status update for her own work flow planning.

    I think the OP should take a step back and consider how his/her own communication skills may have contributed to this situation.

    1. Decimus*

      It occurs to me that “I haven’t had a chance to look at this” basically means “I haven’t looked at it to appraise the actual priority” versus “I’ve looked at this and will get it done when I can” is more “I adjudge this lower priority than you did” – which may be a problem but at least suggests some analysis was used.

      At a minimum LW may need to talk to their boss about work flow and priorities to make sure they’re all on the same page. A week without even looking at it seems like a long time without any triage.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Absolutely! I think sometimes a minority finance people can be super blasé about invoices, like it doesn’t matter if it’s paid in the agreed timeframe or not – but sitting on one for at least a week without even looking at it is a huge red flag for me, because presumably the vendor has already paid the staff etc to do the work, so needs that money back. Or if it’s an invoice that needs to be sent out, there’s a deficit in the organisation budget that needs to be filled. Either way, in my experience, from both sides, invoices aren’t something casual, that can wait around for weeks.

    2. Starbuck*

      Yes, this would be especially galling for me, especially if I knew (as OP mentions!) that they are totally fine responding to “ASAP” requests from other (male) coworkers without this bizarre emotional reaction. Hmm….

  25. Mom MD*

    ASAP coming from anyone but a boss is totally rude. That woman and her three paragraph rant has a problem. Save that e-mail just in case she does something else crazy.

    I never write or say ASAP. It’s bossy and rude. Even writing out the words as soon as possible is much better.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      This is completely a personal taste thing. I don’t use ASAP myself. But if I wrote somebody “please provide this as soon as you can” or “I need this urgently” and they openly dismissed me? That would definitely not be okay.

      If you know someone is writing they don’t think is bossy and rude, are you still going to take offense?

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      I disagree. I’ve used ASAP in emails to colleagues and clients to emphasize timelines that I’m managing (if you want X in project Y, I need it ASAP). It’s almost always in context of supplying and processing content, and I always include a please and/or thank you, but I still use it and receive it. It’s not a command, it’s extra information about the situation.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      This isn’t true. Some industries use acronyms way more than others. Its also true where there is a lot of back and forth written communication.

      Other industries have people performing parallel tasks. So if one person goes slower it holds up everyone. If a peer is keeping me from moving forward in my work I will use ASAP. That’s especially true if I’ve waited for the information already.

    4. Annie Moose*

      I was getting worried that I’d scrolled down so far without one of your “kids these days are rude and horrible because they don’t adhere to my personal preference” comments! Glad to see you’re still doing well.

      1. Sylvan*

        I don’t always agree with MommyMD/Mom MD’s comments, but I don’t really read them this way. She just doesn’t use a lot of conciliatory language.

      2. mediumofballpoint*

        +1. There are two or three commenters here who relentlessly negative and they’re making it difficult to continue enjoying this site.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      “Thank you for sending this. I will review and get it back to you ASAP.” Is that rude too? “Hey, our client is really eager to get this project closed, so I need to send the invoice. Would you please take a look at this and send it back to me ASAP?”

      “When do you need this?” “ASAP.” “On it!”

      None of the above examples are rude. Well, if they are, then apparently I am quite rude, because I would be perfectly comfortable receiving any of those in an email. I think you’re making a blanket statement where previous comments have proven that one really can’t make a blanket statement.

    6. BethRA*

      “Save that email in case she does something else crazy.”

      Uh, isn’t THAT a bit of an over-reaction?

    7. Dee*

      Considering how brusque you come across in comments, this is an interesting perspective.

      1. Starbuck*

        What a graceful and polite way of calling their response hypocritical! I’ll say it though, this seems like a pretty self-contradictory stance to take Mom MD. Hard to give your take on this very much credit, especially with how out-of-line it is compared to the consensus in this thread that ‘ASAP’ isn’t necessarily rude.

    8. WillyNilly*

      Just because you don’t like something does not make it rude. ASAP is not inherently rude (though like anything, it can be used rudely), its simply informational.

    9. Pomona Sprout*

      Did you read any of the comments above yours, Mom MD? If you, I think you will see you are greatly in the minority on this. I just scrolled through literally dozens of comments before I came to yours, with lots of variations on the theme of “The LW was wrong to be offended,” “asap is a coommonly used abbreviation that most oeople do not find offensive,” “LW needs to look at their personal baggage surrounding the use of ‘asap’,” etc.

      So yeah, you are greatly outnumbered in your personal response to “asap.” Just thought I’d point that out, fwiw.

      1. bookbot*

        And even if the acronym is seen as rude, the coworker’s request was not rude and sounds like it’s probably a routine task that just needed to be completed.

        There are plenty of times coworkers have sent me emails that sounded brusque to me initially, but if they were making a reasonable request I just chalked it up to them being busy and needing to get this quick e-mail out before heading to a meeting, or leaving the office. Sometimes we just have to remember that tone and intent is difficult to convey in text, especially routine work e-mails. Personally, I like blunt information more than softening language that makes it difficult for me to understand how to prioritize something or get through all the fluff to the information I need about the task at hand.

    10. Tuxedo Cat*

      I strongly disagree. Sometimes, I had an administrative assistant who needed paperwork ASAP. She wasn’t my boss but she needed something so I could get paid.

      I think the rant was rather poor form, but I also suspect this wasn’t the first bad incident she had the OP.

    11. Insert Clever Handle Here*

      I write contracts for my company. If a contract needs to be issued by the close of business today, and you still haven’t approved the requisition that policy requires be approved before I issue the contract, when you ask “what do you need to issue the contract,” my response for sure is going to be “I need that ASAP.” And I am no one’s boss.

    12. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Mom MD, I agree totally. I’m surprised how many people dismiss the usage as normal.

    1. Starbuck*

      But you’re still going to call the coworker’s response to OP’s very rude email “crazy” even without knowing what it actually said? And with OP’s own self-described emotional overreaction to a common term? That seems really uncharitable and a poor reading of the situation.

  26. MicroManagered*

    Based on your (not-great, as AAM said) email and her way over-the-top reply, my guess would be “ASAP” is not what really bothers you about this person. It’s probably worth noticing that and building some awareness around it because her emails will most likely continue to annoy you. The acronym we use around here for that is “BEC” as “bitch eating crackers.” Meaning some people bother us to the point where they can’t do anything, even eating crackers, right. But if you make a habit of replying to her like that, *you* will come off as unprofessional. Believe me, there are people I have to wait an hour or two to reply to, because their communication style is *that* abrasive to me. (So, I’m saying, I get it. I think some of the comments are really coming down on you, but I think part of human nature is some people we work with just aggravate us.)

    So I try to be aware of those people who are BEC to me. Sometimes I wait to respond to those individuals.

    And my third tip is: Pick up the phone! When an email exchange is starting to feel heated (that’s the awareness piece) or like a misunderstanding-already-in-progress, that’s the time to pick up the phone. Sometimes speaking to one another (and showing them Hey! I’m human! You’re human! We’re both here to get our jobs done!) will diffuse that tension.

    1. MicroManagered*

      *PS I just realized my use of “BEC” here could come off as gendered and that’s not my intent… I’m female, fwiw, and I think of BEC as a general term for a coworker whose every move annoys you! :)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I picked up BEC from here, and recently used it to describe a completely non-gendered work assignment. I just didn’t care anymore; I wanted it to go away; one more “Maybe you could make this section both shorter and longer” to address and I was going to… speak sharply at the computer monitor.

    2. Luna*

      +1 to the phone! So many times I’ve felt annoyed, or thought the other person was annoyed, but as soon as talked to each other everything was fine! Email can make the tone sound way worse than it really is.

  27. Abe Froman*

    OP, you said this is someone you normally get along with pretty well. You also mentioned they are not a native English speaker. So you had good reasons to assume better intentions for her, but you seemed to decide on the least charitable reading for what she was doing. I think that’s something you’ll need to consider in the future: how can I assume good intentions, especially for people you have a good rapport with.

    1. boxfish*

      Yes, it seems especially unkind to be so nitpicky about language at someone you know is not a native speaker.

  28. Boredatwork*

    OP – As someone who by my own stupidity or poor planning has created an ASAP problem for an AP clerk I understand. Everyone thinks their particular problem is the most important.

    Your co-worker overreacted and I’m sure looks a bit ridiculous to her manger. If she was on the same level as me, I’d just reply back that without a concrete deadline (I need this processed by noon, so that I can get the item in the mail by 4) you can’t let her item leap frog all of the items in your queue. Phrase this as being unfair to other departments/people who have given you concrete “asap” timelines.

    Also, if this becomes A THING loop your boss in and have some official policies set up for processing items. You could have avoided all of this if it was policy that in her initial request she was required to say, by Friday, or if you had a standard processing timeline, like 7-10 days.

    I had to have manager approval to rush processing – a barrier that may be helpful to add to your workflow.

    1. bonkerballs*

      Just be aware that writing back now saying you can’t respond without a firm deadline may get a response of “I needed this yesterday seeing as I sent it to you last week and you haven’t even looked at it.” When I use ASAP, I mean it literally, I *literally* need whatever it is I’m asking for as soon as possible.

  29. Beatrice*

    I use “ASAP” all the time. I am really just indicating that I need it faster than the normal turnaround time. I always include more specific information to help color in what kind of turnaround time is needed, and why this time is urgent. Like “Hey, I need approval on this invoice ASAP, please process as quickly as you can. The supplier indicated they mailed it on March 1, but I can’t find any record that we received it. Our account with them is now past due, and I need to get a check to them this week or they won’t ship my order next week.”

    I also get requests with “ASAP’ turnaround times pretty frequently. If the request doesn’t make the turnaround time needed clear, I respond with, “Our normal turnaround time for this is X, but I think I can get this one done by Y this time.” If there is no clear reason why it needs to be done ASAP, I push back – that is part of my job and an appropriate thing for me to do. That usually sounds like “Our normal turnaround time for this is X, and it’s understood that we’ll turn things around for Situation 1 and Situation 2, but it’s not clear to me why this particular request is urgent, can you help clarify?” If the explanation isn’t satisfactory, I often tell them they’re going to have to accept the standard turnaround time. I’m more likely to say no if a fast turnaround time would be a hardship or if the request clearly comes from a failure to plan appropriately.

  30. publicista*

    OP, maybe I’m crazy too, because I don’t LOVE the usage of ASAP. I’d even rather write out “as soon as possible.” in my opinion, unless I’m your direct report, you have no business telling me to do things ASAP. But I think it’s all in the context of how it’s said, and while it sounds like you do have a lot of baggage with that term, perhaps the email wasn’t the nicest (for example, “I’d love to get this ASAP, please!” is pretty nice whereas “Get this to me ASAP” is a demand and rather rude).

    I personally don’t see anything hugely wrong with your response, if it was written as you said it was. I read it as more of “everything I do is asap! :)” vs “Psh, duh. I’m amazing and do everything quickly” or dismissive in some way. So while maybe some think you overreacted to your coworker, your coworker WAY overreacted with their response, too.

    I echo someone else’s idea to just quickly stop in and say “Hey X, so sorry for the misunderstanding. My email wasn’t meant to come across as dismissive – long story short, I just have some baggage around that term due to my time in the Navy and how it was used with me there. If you need something done really quickly in the future, maybe you can give me a deadline date? That helps me keep urgent requests in line.” And hopefully your coworker will apologize as well for his/her behavior.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      LW wasn’t saying “everything I do is ASAP” as an explanation as to why it had taken her a couple days to get to the invoice or would need a little more time or hoped for a clarification on the deadline.

      It was “everything I do is ASAP” and so she had not and will not prioritize the invoice at all. Dismissive and rude is exactly how that comes across.

      Coworker was OTT in her response, but I don’t think her reaction was unreasonable, especially if there have been issues like this in the past.

      1. SierraSkiing*

        And since they both escalated it, OP can save face and win some adult points back by being the first to apologize and deescalate. There’s no good reason to dig in their heels.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I’m not convinced the coworker either escalated it or was rude in her response. (Just to be blunt, I don’t trust the OP’s characterization of it as a “rant.” It could be, but everything else about his emotional responses to things seems really off-kilter.)

          I would actually be pretty concerned if I were the OP. He went days without responding to an email (which is bad in my company, but may be pretty normal in some places). When someone followed up and said I need this ASAP, he was rude and blew her off. She then looped in her manager.

          To me, that actually reads as this task really being an ASAP / top priority, and she’s pointing out to her manager that OP is intentionally being a bottle-neck. That’s not a matter of “Joe and Jane need to shake hands and part friends.” That’s veering a lot more toward “Joe is being a problem and I may need to escalate this to management.”

  31. Jennifer in GA*

    LW- I find it interesting that you already have a working definition of ASAP with one co-worker, so clearly it’s not as rude/uncommon/dramatic as you say it is.

    It sounds to me like your problem is with the *specific* coworker, not the term itself.

  32. VC*

    ASAP might not be rude in and of itself, but I kinda get where OP is coming from. At one job with a horde of coworkers who had no prioritization skills and/or didn’t think the normal process for submitting work applied to them, repeated use of “ASAP” became a red flag for “this person doesn’t respect my work or the time it takes me to do it.”

    1. Argh!*

      Or it means “This person is so disorganized they expect me to save them at the last minute.”

      In the end, communication is essential. It might be possible to turn around an invoice in 15 minutes one day, but a full business day at some other time. I got reamed out by my boss once for not replying to an email (that had no deadline but had a “tight timeline”) until the next business day. My colleague was out sick and I wanted their opinion before replying. In hindsight, I could have said “Is Monday okay?” Now that I know that everything is my fault even when my boss is wrong, I try to be more proactive about clarifying deadlines.

      1. Starbuck*

        But in this cape OP admitted that a week had already passed since their coworker first sent the invoice. Sounds like OP is the one who might be disorganized, not their coworker who waited a reasonable amount of time before following up on what is probably a pretty simple routine task.

    2. Bea*

      It’s important to remember most folks only know and care about their jobs.

      So getting an invoice processed for an accounting clerk is their top priority. Whereas others who need to approve it are doing God knows what.

      So you get the “ASAP” notice from the clerk being threatened with collections while the signature you need is neck deep in a huge project that the clerk knows nothing about nor cares much about most likely.

      It’s not out of disrespect. It’s not about being able to prioritize. It’s about communication and understanding workflow around you. Which isn’t easy for most people I’ve encountered I’m learning more about all that every dat.

      1. VC*

        I think that’s true in a lot of places… but there were salespeople who had worked there for years and were extremely aware of what the turnaround times were and when the deadlines were, because we reminded them of those things every time they dropped a stack of brand new requests on our desks / in our inbox an hour before something went to press with “can I get these proofs back ASAP?!! sorryyyyyyy!!!” every. single. time. When those people dropped an ASAP bomb into our queue, it wasn’t because they didn’t understand what the workflow was, it was because they knew they weren’t going to suffer any consequences from it.

        There were other salespeople that didn’t seem to have any problems meeting those same deadlines. Interestingly enough, when those salespeople were in a bind and asked us for a quick turnaround, we were a lot more willing to go to the mat for them.

    3. Violet Fox*

      Umm yeah… I’m a sysadmin. Anytime we get a mail/ticket with ASAP, hurry, or urgent it goes to the bottom of the queue. ASAP, hurry, and urgent tell us that the user does not value our time, our professional skills, and thinks of us as people who do nothing but sit around and wait until they have a “very important” problem. It also often tells us that the person didn’t plan ahead and had something that could have been easily taken care of if we had been given enough advance notice to deal with it, but at the last minute often not so much.

      We treat the ASAP, hurry, and urgent tickets with exactly the amount of respect that the people who send them treat us.

      1. LizB*

        I’m curious, have you ever had an ASAP ticket that turned out to truly be an emergency (“Important Client will be here in literally an hour and the entire system just broke when I clicked the wrong thing”)? What do people who have a truly urgent issue label their tickets with? Or is it that there are no true emergencies, only situations that people have created for themselves through poor planning?

        1. Violet Fox*

          The latter. True emergencies are things that effect everyone, not just one person. Things like that get fixed *fast*.

          I also work at a university. We don’t have clients, just professors and students.

      2. Alice*

        You know, I used to work somewhere where the IT support person felt the same way, and made sure to show it by sighing loudly whenever I asked him to do anything.
        On the plus side, I learned to handle a lot of things myself.
        On the minus side, I spent a lot of time solving minor tech problems that could have been devoted to doing my actual job.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          I used to work somewhere with a sysadmin who felt the same way.

          He got fired.

        2. Sylvan*

          Same here.

          Eventually, I guess someone heard his strong opinion that nobody ought to need him. He was laid off. It was really unpleasant.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Wow this… seems incredibly inappropriate. Especially in a tech support environment. I would imagine that ASAP requests are things that impact a large number of users/ability to function and need to be corrected. The fact that you deliberately de-prioritize these situations is not good.

        1. Violet Fox*

          No, mission critical fixes happen mostly without the users ever knowing, same thing that spans most people. In close to two decades working as a sysadmin (and keep in mind I’m a *NIX admin in academica), I have never once gotten an “urgent” ticket that was actually a major system failure. Also because professors, not cooperate structure, every single person has exactly the same priority for things getting fixed, meaning mostly first come, first served.

          ASAP requests typically come from the people who just think they are more important then the 200+ other people we have to take care of, and who don’t understand that I am not going to drop what I am doing (i.e. work on a mission critical system or helping another user) to help them at the very second.

          Bit of a story.. my whole department, people, computers, desks, everything moved to another building off the main campus last year. The movers arrived at 8am on a Monday morning and moved things as fast as humanly possible considering the mind-boggling amount of stuff a department of over 200 people has. We started setting up computers as soon as they came off the truck (they’re identical clones with no local storage so we didn’t have to match computer with person which made things faster). By 9am on that Monday one of the “urgent” people came up to us complaining that he did not have his computer (I had no idea where he was sitting, we were putting things closest to where the movers dropped things off and then further away as we finished each desk) set up and ready to go because he needed to work and it was *urgent* and he needed **HIS** (remember they’re identical, no local storage on the machines themselves) computer *ASAP*.

          Now my department heads, in their great wisdom knew this would happen with some people even though the move itself was known about for years, and the exact date of when we were moving and how long to expect things to take to set up (about a week plus for the amount of people and computers) for around a year. He had the option to get a new laptop, which many people did, which he did not take. My department head told me, and anyone else including our receptionists that people like him might harass about their stuff not being handled urgently enough to tell them to “piss off” (actually in our local language but same idea).

          There of course was the time mail went down for about half of the campus due to power surges in the central server room. Had some of the “urgent” people then too. I’m sorry that you think it was inappropriate that I was not patting them on the head about their email not working when email was not working for around 4000 people and I was on the phone with the central people setting and setting up temporary virtual machines because I had the only server room on campus not on that transformer with the spare capacity so that he and other 4000 people could get back to work, but I guess it was more important because he managed to log into his personal gmail and write “urgent” on it. Silly me.

      4. BethRA*

        Yeah, our IT guy has taken a similar approach. He’s now on a PIP because it seems for some people “urgent/ASAP” really does mean “I am on deadline/working on an important filing and my computer died/can’t access the network.”

        1. Violet Fox*

          Then they should say “I am working on a short deadline and X happened to Y computer in Z office.” Not omg urgent! urgent! If there are multiple complex/ and or time consuming problems happening at once I need to know if someone actually has a deadline or if they are just impatient. “urgent” does not tell me if you have a deadline or not. I am not a mind reader.

          The difference here is also that I have the permission and blessing of both of my department heads and team put anything labeled urgent in the bottom of the pile.

          1. BethRA*

            So, maybe focus on the part where they’re saying “I am working on a short deadline and X happened to Y computer in Z office.” and less on your feelings about them having added “ASAP” or “Urgent” to the email? Or follow up with a request for more information?

            Because I can guarantee you that will get you better communication and cooperation in future than just being petty about the use of “urgent” or “asap.” People should treat you with respect, but they’re less likely to do that if they feel that your disrespectful and dismissive towards them.

          2. MoreNowAgain*

            I agree with your sentiment but a lot of this comes down to your own personal preferences. At my place of employment our IT dept encourages us to use terminology like that to indicate the sensitivity. They don’t know the intricacies of our jobs anymore so than we do theirs – they can’t judge what is or is not urgent (i.e. an issue impacting everyone is not always more urgent than an issue impacting one person depending on their role or the situation).

            Sounds like this is something you have very strong feelings on, so you may not realize it – but you’re coming across as making a fair number of blanket statements despite mentioning that you work in a very specific environment that differs from many business industries. Not all SystemAdmins feel the same :)

      5. Eye of Sauron*

        Oh so you work in my company’s IT department?


        Here’s my funny story about an IT problem. My laptop crapped out one day, well actually it seems it was possessed… all it would do is ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] I let it run for about 2 hours as I ripped of keys from the keyboard and cleaned it hoping it was something stupid like a crumb… anyway I called the help desk after admitting defeat and told them my problem.

        They were very helpful to let me know that I could send them my laptop and I’d have a loaner in about a week. (yeah my boss would have loved that) I thanked them and said by chance I’m traveling to your location tomorrow and I can drop it off, but I need it back before 8 am the next morning. I got all kinds of hrumphhing and grumping and attempts to push me off. So I of course told them no problem, you get to this whenever you can. Oh, you may want to come up with a good story to tell your new CTO who I was supposed to be presenting to the day after I arrive in City. I don’t care if I’m not able to present to him, but that might be a little awkward for you to explain.

        Moral of the story… you never know who is watching out for you and trying to make you look good.

        But of course this isn’t the same thing as being a SysAdmin, I’m sure you get nothing but nonsense requests.

      6. Galatea*

        “ASAP, hurry, and urgent tell us that the user does not value our time, our professional skills, and thinks of us as people who do nothing but sit around and wait until they have a “very important” problem.”

        Whoa, what? This seems like a heck of a leap to be making — sometimes people have unexpected, genuinely urgent issues crop up! Even if they don’t, even if they legitimately could have planned better, in my experience that’s part and parcel of working with other people — it’s not exactly fun having to do extra work because someone else dropped the ball, but I would be legitimately shocked to meet someone who had never had something crop up, or mistimed how long something would take, or just plain old forgot something important.

        Is this working out? Has this never blown up in your face? I’m not being sarcastic, here, I’m just thinking about my own professional life and the sheer amount of hot water I would be in if I took this tack, and I’m legitimately surprised this is sustainable.

        1. Violet Fox*

          As I said above, I have the blessing of my department heads and team lead to do just what I’m doing. It hasn’t once blown up for anyone on our team, and we’re all seasoned senior sysadmins. It has gotten a few people in our department head’s office for him to remind them that we are indeed people who are supposed to be treated with respect and not shouted at, and that we do a lot of work that they never see, and that everyone in the department is equal in terms of urgency so if we are in the middle of working with someone else we are by no means obligated to drop everything for them.

          The other thing is that if we do our jobs well there just shouldn’t be any problems that urgent to begin with because there are always snapshots, offsite backups, backups from the tape robot at the catostrphy site going back 3 years, there are always spare computers, spare parts, loaner laptops, keyboards, mice, chargers for all the types of laptops and mobile devices that we buy.

          It’s worked so badly that other departments, central IT, local companies, etc keep trying to poach us.

          1. Galatea*

            I don’t understand your last sentence — did you mistype something?

            Looking at your comment below, saying “ASAP is rude, but ‘I need this by $deadline’ is not” seems like such an arbitrary distinction to me. Maybe I’m just lucky in that I’ve always worked in corporate environments with reasonable people! But it’s been rare for me to run into coworkers who send out urgent requests that are not actually urgent, and when it’s not clear to me if something is genuinely a right-now emergency, asking first instead of assuming it’s not has always been in my favor.

            That being said, if it works for you, it works for you — if it’s been clearly communicated that “urgent” means nothing but a deadline is meaningful, then more power to you!

            1. Violet Fox*

              Probably translated badly. It’s pretty late here. All of us in my team get cold job offers rather then getting burned by what we do.

              It isn’t arbitrary at all. If I know you have a disputation trail lecture in two days I can plan my own time and resources to make sure you have what you need for that by that time. If you say “I need it urgent!” I don’t know why or by when, other then you are having some issues and want my attention.
              I seriously have not once gotten a request labeled urgent that actually was. Then again only a very small set of people where I work have ever done the “hurry/urgent” thing. I’m also getting a feeling, considering I’m a bit boggled at the way people are reacting to me that the whole thing is a lot less rude in the US then it is considered here.

              It has been actually clearly communicated to people from times well before I started to be specific, but then again it hasn’t really been that much of a problem. People, for the most part, seem to understand and respect that there are a lot of parts of our job that are actually important that they don’t see other then maybe that one or all of us is away in meetings some days.

              The other thing is that because this is academica and whatnot, we do not have a heck of a lot of turnover other than phd students and post-docs. We stick around, and they do too, which means that (most) people realize that it actually is in their own best interest to have a good working relationship with their local neighborhood sysadmins rather then an antagonistic or hostile (in the colloquial sense, not in the legal sense)relationship. The other side is that when people are actually nice to us, which they usually are, we are willing to pretty much move heaven, earth, and university bureaucracy to get them what they need.

              All of this is very weird to me because I’m being told that I’m being horrible because I deal how I do with something which is almost a non-issue where I work. People are mostly genuinely good communicators, who genuinely try to be polite to us or at least professional.

      7. Violet Fox*

        Replying to myself but I should say that a lot of it is about communication as well as being respectful of someone else’s time and that they have a job to do too.

        Saying urgent or ASAP does not tell me anything about how important your problem is, what your problem is, if you have any deadlines. Politely and simply stating things like what your problem is, how long has been happening, and if you have any deadlines that you are pushing against tends to get me moving very fast. Treating me like a person, not like a servant, a secretary for “the boys”, or similar helps a lot.

  33. Argh!*

    Vague deadlines make me angry because I always seem to think I have more time than does the sender (usually my fuzzy-thinking boss). Does ASAP mean right away? Or after my next 2-hour meeting? Or after I’ve handled everyone else’s urgent requests?

    I have started insisting on a date, and also time if necessary. If they don’t volunteer it, I’ll offer one: “Would Tuesday by COB be soon enough?”

    If you send something out on Tuesday that you need by Monday, you should say so! Nobody is a mind-reader! (It looks like I’m writing to LW but really I’m screaming this in my head at my boss)

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      Good example and good practice for creating a standard where one hasn’t been provided!

  34. StressedButOkay*

    I err towards the softer side of trying to convey ‘ASAP’ and, honestly, it bites me in the butt more than it doesn’t. People will get back to me days – sometimes weeks! – despite trying to couch it in different terms and despite multiple emails. I finally gave up and started using a) ASAP and b) giving actual deadlines. (I suffer from mild anxiety and I have a tough time being firm.)

    I think the advice folks are giving OP are right on the nose. You should start asking when they actually need something by – you might find that the ASAP is for next week or you might find that it’s for today – instead of pushing back on the term in general. It’s a fight that you won’t win as it’s used so often.

    1. Antilles*

      Right, you should absolutely give up on ‘ASAP’ because it’s not particularly useful. Everybody interprets it differently – and a non-zero number of people treat it as “as soon as it’s convenient for you, like when you have free time” (wait, what is that? free…time…? can you define that please?).
      My immediate reaction to anything marked “ASAP” is always to respond with *my* proposed timeline and ask if that works. At least 75% of the time, if not more, the response is “yeah that’s fine” no matter whether I’m proposing ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’.

      1. SierraSkiing*

        This is the number 1 technique I need in my job for communicating with academics. Always, ALWAYS give them a precise deadline, and confirm timelines on their end! …And then they’ll get their stuff done a week after the agreed upon date. Sigh…

    2. Argh!*

      If you give someone a deadline they can put it on their calendar. If you say “soon” or “ASAP” it gets added to a very crowded to-do list.

  35. Julkaco*

    I’ve never liked ASAP. “As soon as possible” does not mean drop everything and do it now, despite what some people seem to think.

    When I worked in the faculty office at my community college, I prepared class materials for the professors. The order slip had spaces for “date needed” and “time needed” so we could prioritize. Anything marked ASAP went to the bottom of the pile because it wasn’t possible to do those orders until after the orders due that day were done. Three years, and we never did get the ASAPers to understand that if you need it by a specific time on a specific date, you need to say so.

  36. Amelia*

    I’m curious about the “it had to do with an invoice she gave me a week before” piece.
    Had you responded to that email?

    I’m in a pretty fast paced sales role. It’s not unusual for customers to send in orders right under the wire for funding deadlines. I’ve received $20K orders at 4:50pm on a Friday that need to be invoiced by 5pm before the funds get cut off. But even without a deadline, a week is unimaginable to me.

    Invoices, bills, cost proposals – these things keep the lights on at our company. If high priority emails, use of ASAP etc get the blood pressure up, that’s fine with me. Some things really are urgent.

    1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Being on the paying invoices side of things, I assumed it was about an invoice that needed approval for payment. If it’s so they can invoice something to a customer, that’s even worse. A week is an eternity when someone is expecting money.

  37. Canarian*

    Yeesh, I have to wonder if OP has been waiting all this time to have a question to submit where they’re clearly in the wrong. In obviously agree with what Alison and all the other commenters have said about reading too much into a very common term.

    I also want to point out OP seems to be fulfilling some of their own worries about use of the term. They didn’t want to be seen as “just sitting on things” but in actuality had an e-mail that was a week old they hadn’t even looked at yet. They also didn’t want to be seen as someone who can’t prioritize, but then said everything they do is ASAP – that’s the very definition of a failure to prioritize. Sounds to me like, even though the common use of ASAP doesn’t actually imply any of these things, ASAP coworker may have been reasonably frustrated by the very things OP bristled at being seen as.

  38. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    See, I take ASAP as the opposite of what people seem to mean.
    ASAP: as soon as possible =/= immediately. And if someone comes back with, do you have that? I reply, I’ll do it as soon as possible and they seem happy with that. They are heard and I am left to prioritize my own work.
    So, this Thing is not about tone or text or even the request. Your coworker inadvertently hit your trigger. You need to think about that. Is it a problem with ASAP, with coworker or how coworker talks to you in general?

  39. Jen #37,980*

    I internally roll my eyes when someone uses ASAP for things that aren’t time sensitive, and your coworker’s response sounds unprofessional and disproportionate.

    But a response that reads as ‘I’ll get to it when I get to it’ is more grating than a dozen ASAPs.

    And I noticed your mention of reporting structure, your coworker being in a different department, etc. It’s a know-your-environment thing, but often reporting hierarchy isn’t the only factor in prioritizing work. My manager would question my judgement if I didn’t assess (for example) working coming in from our HR or legal groups, to determine if I needed to move it to the top of my task list. Not all departments’ work is created equal.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      But how can an invoice NOT be time sensitive? This is what I’m confused by, because I’ve never worked in a place where paying invoices was something casual that could have weeks go by with no action on them.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, this is where I land too. Either LW failed to create an invoice that needs to be sent for payment or failed to approve payment for an invoice and either way, it’s got the potential to have pretty serious ramifications.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Most businesses, it depends on the terms of the contract. I’ve got Net15, Net30, Net 45, and Net60 contracts right now – there’s a ton of variance. But it takes time to process them, and a lot of businesses have the contract payment terms build into their systems, so the week delay could easily put them over the contract terms.

          In general, it’s best to trust the person processing the invoice – they know the requirements. A week would be extremely long in my business – I’m fretting if processing is more than 1 business day.

          1. Antilles*

            Also worth noting that for many businesses the “Net __ Days” is defined as *calendar* days not business days. If you’ve only got a Net15 (or even Net30) payment, an invoice sitting on the manager’s email box unread for a week puts you in a time crunch even if the rest of the approval/payment process is nicely streamlined.

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          But even with a month to pay, ignoring it for a week is likely to cause a log jam, with potential for missing the deadline. And if they have got super-speedy processes that can cope with one just sitting around with no action for a week, it just seems churlish not to pay a vendor as soon as they can, and go right up to the deadline, because reasons.

  40. caryatis*

    Also, there’s no way it could be true to say “Everything I do is ASAP.” In that you don’t work on everything at once, some tasks have to come before others, so some things are going to be higher priorities than others. That’s inevitable.

    1. Cordoba*

      It seems to me that “everything I do is as soon as possible” could be an accurate statement because “as soon as possible” does not actually mean “immediately”.

      It is true that higher priority tasks come before lower priority tasks. Once the higher priority tasks are done, a person will work on the lower priority tasks. This is completing the lower priority tasks “as soon as possible”.

      “I am going to mow my lawn as soon as possible” can be a true statement, even if I don’t mow my lawn right now (because I’m at work) or even today (because I have class after work). But once it becomes possible within the constraints of my schedule, the weather, and whatever other factors I will then mow my lawn. The mowing is only *not* ASAP if I choose to skip an opportunity to mow in favor of some lower-priority task, such as sitting in my hammock and reading a book.

      1. Canarian*

        This, combined with other discussions about “at your earliest convenience”, is making me realize how vastly differently people interpret the same phrase.

        Like you, I tend to use “as soon as possible” to mean “once it becomes possible within the constraints of my schedule and other factors” but to other people it means “drop everything, leave work, cancel class, and mow your lawn immediately”, the only constraints are the amount of time it takes you to physically get home and gas up the mower. This wide difference in interpretation definitely amplifies how vague and useless ASAP is as a “deadline.”

      2. BethRA*

        Here’s the problem with your rationalization in this case: OP knows that “ASAP” is meant to indicate that something is time-sensitive and urgent, because a) she uses it that way herself and b) she is taking offense because she knows (by her own explanation) that’s what the other person means as well, and just doesn’t like it coming from this person.

        1. Cordoba*

          It’s still possible to work on everything ASAP, even with the understanding that it indicates that the task is time-sensitive and urgent.

          Imagine I get three ASAP requests: one is safety-critical, one is from a VP but not safety critical, and one from a peer but not safety critical. Even if the request from the peer is understood to be time-sensitive and urgent it is still going to wait until it is “possible” to work on it – meaning after the safety issue and the executive request are done. I will, however, do it before I fill out my expense report or order more pens.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I guess the difference is, you’d tell the lowest priority one when you’d get to it?

        2. Argh!*

          If something I receive is time-sensitive and urgent, and I’m not told which time or how urgent, how would I know whether to do it before someone else’s urgent task or before it?

  41. Aurion*

    My sympathies, OP. I’m in procurement, and the requests that cross my desk are almost always ASAP. Sure, there are some that are “well, it’s not a huge rush but still as soon as you can please” and lots more that are “oh, well, I kind of need this tomorrow because the install is tomorrow but this tiny part is holding up the entire thing…” ASAP. And then there are the “uh, think you can get this for me in 30 minutes?” kind of ASAP. They don’t always tell me which kind of ASAP until I ask.

    I can charge fees for tighter turnaround times (because if they want me to pull a 30 minute miracle they better be paying for it). If that’s not feasible for you, you can at least force the requester to be precise. Ask them for specifics: “when you say ASAP, what is your deadline?” They may not care about the myriad of other things you need to triage, but those who are just “oh, at your earliest convenience” will usually say so, whereas those who need it rushed because of their deadlines will say “yeah, this needs to be at the courthouse by 2 pm tomorrow, so I need it by noon”.

    The term ASAP has lost all meaning to me because people use it in different ways. Specifics are everything. I don’t think boring your colleague with your baggage around the ASAP term is necessary or all that helpful, but moving forward, nailing down better communication will probably help your workflow.

  42. Marcy Marketer*

    I agree with Alison that ASAP isn’t great because it contains no info and is kinda bossy. I usually say “would it be possible to get this by [X date and time]?” And then I provide a reason, such as “I have a meeting with [X person] and would like to have this data beforehand so we can make some decisions.” If I’m submitting a last minute request, I might apologize and say that I am also just finding out about the need or something.

    That being said, your response was unnecessarily passive aggressive. You could have written back “I have a few deadlines today but am happy to try and move things around. What is the date/time you need the information by?”

    But, that ship has sailed… I don’t love the option of pretending her ranting 3 paragraph email never happened, maybe write back and say “thanks for clarifying the business need. I’ll reprioritize some of the other client requests to get to yours by EOD today” or something.

  43. Submerged Tenths*

    I have a co-worker who would *constantly* write/tell/email me that “this job needs to be done immediately”. Finally one day I had enough – because NONE of these jobs was actually that big a priority, and I always give a couple hour turnaround or better. I told her “Ann, thank you for letting me know this needs to be done immediately. I had planned to sit on it for a while, but your note convinced me to get to it right away.” She has piped down considerably since then.

  44. Isben Takes Tea*

    OP, I think this was a situation of you both misconstruing emails. It seems that you took her “ASAP” as an insult or negative evaluation of your prioritization skills instead of “extra context: this item has an abnormal time sensitivity to it,” and maybe she took your “everything I do is ASAP!” to mean “everyone always demands I do their work first–stop it” or “I will do this in my own sweet time” instead of “I do my best to treat everything with time sensitivity, so no worries, I’m on it” (what I think you meant).

    You both overreacted, but this is a great opportunity to practice slowing down emotional interpretations of quick text communications. I think it might do a lot to diffuse the situation if you apologized for “misunderstanding her tone”–you don’t have to go into a detailed history of your experience with the term, but it’s a simple and honest admission that leaves the door open for her to do the same.

    1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      Agreed. I think the coworker had the most disproportionate reaction but LW was the first one to be passive aggressive and unhelpful, so I think she needs to apologize first. Even if she does still feel her coworker was overly familiar and demanding for using ASAP (which is her right), she can still use Alison’s advice for what to do now because really, her feelings about a coworker’s tone (when the offense here is very subjective and small stakes) shouldn’t impact the workflow and communication like this.

  45. BethRA*

    Honestly, what baffles me is why OP is offended about Other Department Woman using ASAP in an email, when OP herself acknowledges using it, and doesn’t get offended when someone she works with more regularly uses it (“He will occasionally write ASAP, as will I, to communicate that this particular item really is important and time-sensitive.”)

    If you use the term yourself and know it just means “hey this is time sensitive” why would you read all this other ill intent into someone else’s usage of that same term?

    1. Myrin*

      This is a very succinct way of putting it. I’d thought for sure that OP must have some personal problem with ODW stemming from past interactions but then she says “On a side note, we’ve actually always gotten along pretty well”, so I’m a bit at a loss here.
      (Maybe it boils down to “I generally react negatively to ‘ASAP’ unless there are exceptions wherein I know how the other person uses it; I know what Regular Coworker means when he uses ASAP but I don’t know what it means when other people use it [because we haven’t explicitly talked about it as I’ve done with Regular Coworker] so I’ll read it negatively until proven otherwise”?)

      1. Tardigrade*

        I suspect your parenthetical is likely. I’d urge OP to assume best intent until proven otherwise in the future.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        The OP’s perspective about getting along might not be entirely accurate. I could see a situation where they got along pretty well, but the OP might’ve made passive aggressive comments towards the ODW or the ODW didn’t feel like the OP respected her. The ASAP thing might’ve been the result of what was a last straw for her, hence the three paragraph rant. The OP’s issue with someone who isn’t their boss or someone they’re friends with using ASAP might’ve set them off.

        I’m seeing something like this playing out in my job. Not over ASAP, but what seemed like a small issue escalating fast because one person was a problem but no one called him on it until it blew up.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think there is an entire five-act opera with long-brewing resentments between these two, tangentially involving people and departments at all levels of the company, and the ASAP Incident is but the smallest current molehill upon which OP and coworker have chosen to battle. Like a brief hotspot in a cold war.

      1. Tardigrade*

        The idea of this is ridiculously amusing to me. I’m imaging a man in a deep voice singing “A S A P” in a low, drawn out tone. And a woman responding “ASAP ASAP ASAP ASAP” in sharp rapid-fire.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      This is puzzling me as well. I suspect that part of OP’s issue is that she doesn’t feel this coworker should have the authority to delegate work to her, much less ask that it be prioritized.

      I’m just looking at some of the language in the letter–“bossy” and “presumptuous” make me think there’s a little bit of offended “who does this person think she is??” in the mix, especially since OP conflates the use of “ASAP” with orders from superior officers in the military.

  46. Cordoba*

    I choose to interpret “ASAP” literally and act accordingly, meaning that if I have other stuff to do then “as soon as possible” is when that other stuff is done and I have some free time. I’m not going to drop everything or rearrange my schedule to fit it in, but once some time opens up I’ll move on to the ASAP request.

    The only lower priorities than “ASAP” are “do this whenever” and “I don’t care if you actually do this at all”.

    If you mean “immediately” then say that. If there is a deadline, then say that. But, as demonstrated by all these comments, “ASAP” is vague to the point of being misleading, has essentially no data encoded into it, and is un-actionable in any meaningful way.

    1. Kelly O*

      And ASAP does not mean I’m dropping what I do immediately to handle the request. I am likely to read the email, make sure it isn’t something that DOES require me to drop everything and do this (which does happen), and then triage it appropriately on my list.

      But at least acknowledge it – “Pam, thanks for the reminder. I’ll get this to you (insert when you can really get this to Pam) – does that work for you?” That gives Pam the out to say “Michael needs this urgently, could you do it before then?” It helps you see the bigger picture.

      Even if you don’t choose to do that, you don’t have to stop your current task. Just finish it, get to Pam, and then move on. You can grumble to yourself, or to Dwight after work or at the coffee maker, or whatever.

      Dr. Wayne Dyer has this quote that has stuck with me a long time. “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” I don’t necessarily buy into the idea of karma, but it’s a solid theory for treating people.

  47. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    Looking at this from the perspective of the person that processes invoices and has to be the one to hunt them down when not approved on time, neither of you handled this all that well. I’ve definitely used ASAP. Generally, it would be “please approve ASAP. I need to pay on (date) or they won’t ship us any more widgets until our account is current.” As an accounts payable person, I don’t need the widgets. So if you sit on your invoice, then you are the one without your stuff. However, it’s my job to be sure that everything is paid on time. So, if I get a response that essentially said “I’ll get to it when I get to it” then it is escalate to my manager time. Usually if you are in a large company, the person that pays the bills is entry-level finance. They can’t do much of anything without authorization and everything is getting escalated because they have no authority to tell you that you have to approve the invoice and they will get in trouble if they don’t let someone know that the bills aren’t being paid because you aren’t approving them.

    1. Bea*

      And as AP, you get the grouchy collections calls asking why things are held up. I know because I’m the jerkass calling because I don’t care about your internal controls. If I had a dollar for everyone who’s told me it’s hung up in someone’s box for approval I would be so rich.

      1. London Calling*

        AP gets it in the neck from everyone and we don’t get any thanks for it either :(

  48. Nesprin*

    The best 5$ I’ve ever spent was bringing my purchaser her favorite coffee. Because then I wasn’t Nesprin who has irrational deadlines, but my buddy Nesprin who I’m happy to do a favor for. Her job was to fill my purchases, but having her on my side made life so much easier. It turned into a virtuous cycle, of she’d help me when I needed something ordered ASAP, and I was appreciative of how she went above and beyond and asked about her dogs/ brought her coffee when I needed a favor etc.
    I bring this up because you’ve fallen into the opposite cycle: she asked you for something in your job duties in a manner you interpreted as brusque, you gave her snark instead of doing the thing she asked for, and she escalated.
    You need to break this cycle: swallow your pride and go apologize for responding in the way you did. Your response clearly had her seeing red, and even if this was not your intention, that was the result. Let her know your standard deadlines for invoices (say if X needs to happen on Monday, she needs to give you info by Wednesday) and that if she needs something more urgently, its easier if she calls/comes in person/gives justification/gives a deadline/has her boss contact you/etc.

    1. Cordoba*

      One of the most important things I’ve learned in 15 years of working with field service techs is that showing up with coffee for everybody on Day 1 of a job is money well spent.

  49. Amy S*

    “Since I have a bunch of high priorities right now, can you tell me more about when you need this by so I can fit it in with everything else?”

    This script is way too long. It just seems so passive aggressive when busy people remind you of how busy they are in this way. Would be much simpler to say “When do you need this by?” and go from there. Plus she gave LW a week to get it done when she sent it to her the first time. Seems like plenty of time and this was just a friendly reminder.

    LW is reading way to much into ASAP.

  50. Bea*

    Well she had to ask you twice and you popped off at her choice of words instead of focusing on the request. I would have responded as angrily if I were her.

    I’m also sensitive to the mention this is about an invoice. Which means an account may or may not be on hold, so if you don’t process it ASAP, the next shipments of kittens will be stranded at the loading dock. As an accounting department of one, I see accounting vs purchasing departments go at each other more frequently than I’m comfortable with. It doesn’t matter that she’s not in your chain of command, she’s asking you to process the paperwork and you’re zeroing in on a word in her email.

    1. Ch-Ch-Cha-Changes*

      I work in the purchasing the department, and I agree with Bea. I have learned not to internalize any abrupt comments by AP. I think maybe, OP, that this is just the nature and language of the department your colleague is working with. My suggestion would be to apologize and let go of any preconceived notions of how the term ASAP informs your class/social/department status. Apologizing would be the best course of action to smooth out this situation because it was an overreaction on your part, and establish clear deadlines as well as employ the use of your google calendar. Or if there is a way for your company to incorporate slack or jira, to keep track of requests as tickets that would be best. Just as she does not know your priorities and tasks set by your manager, you do not know what’s on her plate either. Don’t let a simple oversight and acronym sully a cross-departmental relationship.

  51. Goya de la Mancha*

    Mehhhhh, response was not helpful/great, but I would be equally annoyed with a co-worker who EVERY time we corresponded, it was an “urgent” situation.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      In most cases I agree with you, but there are a couple of areas where almost everything truly is urgent. In my office, it’s sending out reports and accounting. Those things really do have to be done urgently, and only a couple of people do them. It’s all about context. It’s also about learning how to say, “I haven’t had a chance to look at this yet. Is tomorrow morning ok?”

    2. LizB*

      I would find that annoying as well, but is that what’s happening here, though? The OP works with this coworker monthly, and I think they would have mentioned if their objection was “she ALWAYS says it’s ASAP” vs. “she said it was ASAP in this specific instance and I hate that term”.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        OP also mentions that she sent the invoice a week before the first ‘ASAP’ email. Her ‘ASAP’ email is not ‘every time’, even in this incident.

  52. Falling Diphthong*

    This all comes down to context–and I think your inherently rude ruling (except from a specific coworker with whom you have larger context to contextualize it) is not typical.

    In an email to me, ASAP could mean could I please quickly take five minutes to check this, and then type back “The phrase ‘beneath the condiments’ seems to have been lost from the end of the second line; s.b. “The llama lurks beneath the condiments”” and then they can send that on to the irate team who is supposed to be dealing with layout. Or it could mean “I know you have a lot of moving pieces right now, but this moderately lengthy task should be high priority” in which case I might shoot back a “finish llamas, then alpacas, then vicunas?” clarification. But it doesn’t mean “Pick it up, Falling, why are you slacking?”

    It’s also form time for my child’s sport, which means a lot of “Yes, everyone is busy. Nevertheless, take 10 minutes to fill out this form with your child’s doctor and whether they have any health conditions we should know about if they are lying unconscious on the field.”

    1. Sofie*

      But it doesn’t mean “Pick it up, Falling, why are you slacking?”

      Yes, the OP seems to hear “ASAP” as “And make it snappy, not like your usual slacking,” which may be how it’s used in the military (I wouldn’t know), but it’s not what the vast majority of non-military people use it. I mean, I understand having certain words/phrases that set your teeth on edge, but you have to be able to pull back and realise people aren’t deliberately using them to be annoying.

  53. LiveAndLetDie*

    Seems to me that everyone involved is operating at a level of sensitivity that is excessive for what is actually happening here. ASAP is a common term so OP reacting so poorly to it is strange, but to respond with a 3-paragraph rant about it is also strange, so… yikes. The person expecting the work ASAP may have overreacted, but if they actually need it super urgently, they will absolutely have seen OP’s response as flippant, and honestly I believe that would be the right read of the situation — do the work, OP, and apologize. They may have overreacted, but you certainly were not in the right here.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’d be worried about what other words would be wrong words also, if I received an answer like this. I do think that passing an email rant like this is rather brave, because more than likely what the recipient can do is say to her boss, “I asked what time the meeting was (or whatever) and here is my three paragraph reply that I got.” Someone might get a few days off to unwind and relax.

      1. London Calling*

        Well, it depends on how many times the co-worker has had to chase work up before, doesn’t it? if this is a first time, then I agree her response was over the top. If she’s forever asking the LW to process her work on a timely basis, perhaps not so much.

  54. Lehigh*

    Hey, at least she didn’t say, “STAT!” ;-)

    OP, I think you were so annoyed with the acronym that you ignored the content of both her request and your response. It would have been okay to say, “I have a lot on my plate right now–can you give me a better idea what ASAP means here? Is Thursday fine?” IMO your email says essentially, “I resent your request and I’m not even going to look at what you sent me until I get good and ready.”

    1. Agent Diane*

      My eyes are tired and I’m skimming so I read the last sentence as “good day to you, sir. I said good day!” as in the otter with its toy meme.

      +1 to this now I’ve read it properly.

  55. PlanterFacetous*

    Having worked with contracting, procurement and payments, I feel your coworker’s pain. ASAP just means that the invoice payment needs to be handled quickly. It does not mean you are usually slow and you need to speed up.
    Sometimes requests need to be fast-tracked, for reasons you may not be aware of (contracting reasons, regulatory reasons, booking sales/end of quarter reasons) which does not require the people to work faster to get to the request, it requires them to do the request first (top of pile). It’s about triage. You have internal customers – it is your job to assist them. Being techy about acronyms is not communicating or helpful.

    1. CityMouse*

      Yeah, my spouse once had to deal with a reimbursement employee who was very slow. He did a lot of travel back then, and her being slow on her invoices meant we couldn’t cover the bills one month because he hadn’t been reimbursed for flights and hotel for a conference and got slammed with credit card penalties. These have real consequences for the employees.

  56. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    It never once occurred to me that ASAP could be such a loaded term. Would love an update on this.

  57. Js*

    i mean… you comment on her 3pgh response, OP, but you did come up with 7 individual bullets about why you are offended by the use of the term, so…

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      And one of those bulletpoints was thinking ASAP was too brusque and a longer sentence would be better. So…

  58. Indoor Cat*

    How normal is it to not process an invoice for a week? This has me wondering what field OP and the other person are in, if only because in my line of work, that definitely wouldn’t fly. “Process this invoice ASAP” would be, like, the nice version of the email to get. I’d be more likely to hear, “When you delay processing invoices, people don’t get paid on time, which is hugely unprofessional and damages our reputation. If invoices are late again, you will face consequences.”

    I know that in other circumstances, the fallout from not processing an invoice the day its received might be less dire, but it still seems like the person late with the invoice is the one who made the mistake. Then they doubled-down on it. A 3-paragraph rant is also inappropriate, but seriously, not as big a deal as being late with the invoice in the first place.

    1. Bea*

      It depends on the company.

      I’ve had people explode at me for being crazy enough to ask them about a past due invoice. “I’m in purchasing, not accounting!!!” “I understand. Who is your accounting contact?” “how would I know?!” Uuuuuuh yeah people with purchasing power who do not know how I then go about getting paid is a thing.

      I wish everyone cared as much as you do about reputation and paying on time. I would be a much more compassionate person in the end.

      I’m stuck in a loop of “can’t afford to paaay you but can I get more stuff on credit?!” Then my CSR is like “well can we process this order?” “The account is frozen. No. No we cannot.”

    2. KR*

      Ah see it can take up to a week for an invoice to be processed at my organization. Our PO terms is that everything we do is net 45. Now I pay it a lot sooner than that but I am not paying an invoice until all the accounting details on our end are straight and I am positive it’s ready to be paid.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        But this isn’t even processing – If I’m reading it correctly, there was a week where nothing happened at all between colleague sending OP the invoice, and sending the ASAP reminder.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      It occurs to me that the ASAP email was an attempt at tactfully saying “Dude, I sent this invoice to you a week ago. It needs to be paid.” So yes, the coworker would be annoyed at getting an “Everything I do is ASAP!” response.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      I invoice a professional organization and a large university for my work. The organization takes about a month to send a check to me, the large university takes 2 months.

      However, I knew the rules upfront. It would be nice if the university would at least confirm that they received the invoice. They are disorganized so it always feels like a gamble whether I’ll actually get my check in the 2 month period.

    5. dillydally*

      Eh some companies have 60-day or 45-day pay terms. Doesn’t matter if the invoice is approved on day 1 or approved on day 44 – either way it gets paid on day 45.

    6. London Calling*

      My company does not process invoices without purchase orders – I cannot input an invoice onto the system for paying unless there is an approved PO. There can be a myriad of reasons why an invoice doesn’t get processed – for which read paid – but it doesn’t mean I haven’t looked at it, chased the person who raised the PO or connected with the supplier to tell them what is or isn’t happening about their payment. It depends how you define ‘processing, really.

    7. Susan Sto Helit*

      At my company, all invoices get paid on the same day of the week regardless of when they’ve been processed. So if I send an invoice in on a Thursday, I know that it won’t get paid until the following Wednesday and processing it is not urgent. If I send it in on a Tuesday, however, it needs to get processed asap – and I’d better ask you nicely to make sure that happens.

      If I sent an invoice in on a Thursday and by Tuesday still hadn’t had confirmation that you’ve done anything about it though…well now we’re in danger of hitting the cutoff and unlike in the previous instance this isn’t my fault – it’s yours. And if I got a snippy reply to a chasing email at that point, you can bet I wouldn’t be happy about it.

  59. e271828*

    OP, you stirred up a heck of a lot of drama after not processing that invoice for a week. I have to wonder what you’re like to work with, whether all requests to you have to be phrased just-right to get tasks done and whether you take self-righteous exception to common phrases in everyone’s email, or just to women who don’t speak English as a first language. Cross-department alliances and courtesies go a long way toward making a business run smoothly. It doesn’t matter that she’s not your manager or above you hierarchically. A coworker asked you for something that’s presumably part of your job, and first you blew her off and then you blew her off again, explicitly. Wow.

    I promise you ASAP is widely, commonly used, and despite the discussion here about nuances it connotes a matter of some urgency, and no one cares about its etymology or command-chain abuse as you interpret it in an email. They just need you to process the invoice, possibly more quickly than your usual let-it-lie-a-week method would indicate. Knock off the language-policing. Apologize.

  60. animaniactoo*

    OP, this completely blew by me – but you had that invoice for a week and hadn’t handled it yet? Hadn’t even *looked* at it?

    Yeah, I’m starting to think your co-worker’s 3 paragraph e-mail with the manager looped in was justified.

    A week is a very normal timeframe for followup, particularly if the matter is now becoming urgent. The fact that you hadn’t reviewed it yet says to me that you DON’T actually know how to prioritize your work, because you aren’t even looking at the new work to evaluate it for due date and stuff like that. And yet… you sent back a reply that says you do everything as soon as possible? Either you are woefully overburdened, or woefully inefficient. The fact that you don’t see an invoice that hasn’t been reviewed a week after it was sent as something to apologize for rather than nitpicking the word used to indicate urgency – and then STILL didn’t review it before sending said response – leans me towards the latter.

    Had I received an e-mail from someone who was giving every appearance of being quite lackadaisical about the urgency of an item after that time frame, I would have been pretty pointed and escalating at that point as well.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Honestly – given that you say you normally get along pretty well, I have $5.00 down on normally she jollies along and rolls her eyes and works with you but gets increasingly aggravated about how long it takes you to process an invoice and/or get back to her about it. That this was her last straw moment and she might have somewhat spectacularly overreacted – but it was overreacting in a “ran completely out of patience” manner.

    2. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      I agree, especially since in my industry (and I imagine in many), invoices are usually sent on a monthly basis, and they have to pass through many hands before they are fully processed. Sitting on an invoice for a whole week is a huge bottleneck and could cause issues for so many people. It’s one thing to say you didn’t get to it right away and own up to that, but to shoot back SUCH a snarky response as “everything I do is ASAP” is definitely overkill and worth escalation on her part. I’m not saying that the three-paragraph response was justified, but there’s no way your answer could have done more good than harm.

    3. KR*

      See, I looked at it like she just sent her the invoice and should have sent it the previous week or something. I get invoices a lot from people who did not send them through the proper channels or are invoicing us late and need it taken care of ASAP. I wouldn’t have the same response OP would have but I will roll my eyes a little if someone sits on an invoice for a week and then needs me to process it ASAP because they didn’t get it to me in the first place.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I read it that way the first time through as well, that’s why I missed it, but the OP’s words are:

        It has to do with an invoice she gave me the week before.

      2. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

        Ugh, yes KR, that is a huge pet peeve of mine and happens to me all the time. But yeah, I don’t think that’s what happened here.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’m wasn’t convinced that the OP sat on the invoice for a week, but then I re-read carefully.

        ” A person in a different department wrote me an email last week […] It has to do with an invoice she gave me the week before.”

        So, yeah. Sat on it for a week at least.

      4. Argh!*

        If it’s a one-time thing there could be a good reason, like filling in for a coworker on vacation, or a looming deadline for BiggerProjectThanYours. Our purchasing department consistently places my purchase orders behind all kinds of things. And so do the people who receive it. Nobody dies if my stuff doesn’t get to me, but it’s not at all unusual to wait for six months. It drives me nuts. The few times that something truly is ASAP I will say so and give some information about who else is waiting on it, and they will turn things around on a dime.

        My own boss loses her [bowels] when I delay by just one day because I want to consult with someone who has the day off before replying to her.




        (I hate my life)

    4. SierraSkiing*

      That’s what I was thinking: and it also implies that the two departments, OP’s and the coworker’s, might need a broader talk about processing times. The three-paragraph rant sounds like the e-mail of someone who has not been getting what she needs on time for a long time, and has finally cracked. Maybe her department really needs these requests to be consistently turned around in a week or less, while OP’s department considers two weeks a normal turnaround. If so, this sort of conflict will continue until the managers in the different departments talk and sort out expectations.

  61. Fake Eleanor*

    This is one of those circumstances where it would really help both parties to assume the other person’s good intent.
    We all have peeves, and words we don’t like. Some are pretty common, and some are … more idiosyncratic. “ASAP” is definitely on the idiosyncratic end of the spectrum.
    It’s not fair to expect someone talking to you to know that a particular term annoys you, particularly when, as you point out, it’s fairly standard business jargon. (Yeah, yeah, jargon sucks, but it’s slang and it’s not going away.)
    Had you taken a deep breath, looked past word choice, and just responded politely, as Alison mentioned, this would be fine. And you could’ve asked about the generally perceived offensiveness of “ASAP” and probably realized that this is a you problem, not an other people problem.
    (I do get it. I hate the words “verbiage” and “kindly,” and both are pretty standard things to see in business emails, and while I’m taking my teeth off their edge, I remind myself that people using them don’t mean anything by them.)

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      While I don’t agree with how the invoice-sender responded to the OP’s response, I don’t see how she could assume good intent. If the OP literally wrote “Everything I do is ASAP! ” as a response to the invoice-sender, it seems pretty hostile.

  62. Starbucks Girl*

    OP, I’m going to go against the grain here and say kudos. I know what you did was a tad unprofessional. However, if I could send that response out to just one of the MANY people who expect me to drop everything because they need things ASAP (without even explaining why!), it would make my year. So I am vicariously living through you for that moment!

      1. Pollygrammer*

        “Can you let me know when you need this by?”
        10 words. Perfectly polite. Not hard.

      2. Starbucks Girl*

        It’s not that I sit on things, its just that my plate is always full and I prefer reasons and deadlines to “ASAP”.

    1. Dankar*

      I don’t know. I have a hard time imagining leaving something in my inbox for a week, then acknowledging that I hadn’t even looked at it, am not willing to look at it now, and how dare you tell me how to do my job!

      I think I’m living vicariously through angry, ranting coworker…

  63. The Person from the Resume*

    IMO her first message with ASAP was perfectly fine. You’re response was snippy, not helpful and I would be annoyed to get it for the same reason’s Alison said. (She was conveying that something was urgent and you blew her off without even saying when you would get to it.) Her response to your response was equally not good.

    I was in the military (Air Force), and don’t have the same response you do to ASAP but also the Navy really embraced the hierarchy and social structure where the people of higher rank get things a lot better than those at the bottom.

    ASAP is used in my current non-military communications and I haven’t encountered anyone who has every said they feel the way about ASAP that you do so I think you need to change your perspective.

  64. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

    LW, I can sympathize in a way. I don’t have an issue with acronyms but I think it’s fairly universal to have baggage and opinions about things that are honestly, small beans. It’s sort of like, if you hate a movie because you associate it with bad memories or something about it upset you, that’s fine, but you can’t go around assuming the worst of people who like that movie.

    I hope you do take away that for most people, this is very subjective and not a huge deal for most. It doesn’t mean your feelings are invalid or wrong per se, but that you need to check yourself and lean towards good faith, even if it initially rubs you the wrong way. What matters is how you treat others, not the deep psychology of your visceral reactions. This doesn’t mean everyone you encounter will use ASAP in a way that’s respectful or useful, but that’s usually gonna go hand-in-hand with other behaviors. It doesn’t sound like you worked with this coworker often (maybe this was your first one-on-one interaction?) but I would ask, is she brusque in other ways? Do you feel like she’s not respectful of your time in other situations? Do you generally feel like other department coworkers act entitled or poorly?

    Since you already have a baseline for respectful usage of ASAP, I’d try to switch to assuming that from others, unless you do have personal experiences that say otherwise. It can feel weird to ignore your instincts, but sometimes they just aren’t appropriate to act on without some thought and self-soothing.

  65. Blue Eagle*

    At my company, the LW would be WAY over-reacting. We use the written out “as soon as possible” to mean “do this as soon as you can within the other priorities of your work” and use “ASAP” to mean “put this at the top of your priority list”. So, for us, the written out expression and the initials mean two different things.

    My main takeaways of reading all of the above comments are:
    – different organizations do not attribute the same meaning to ASAP and “as soon as possible” and you should determine what they mean within the context of your organization.
    – don’t be so quick to take offense to something. If you have a problem, use your words in a way to attempt to solve the problem and not respond to someone else in a snotty way that escalates the situation.

    1. Canarian*

      Is this difference explicitly explained to new employees or written down somewhere? I would be totally baffled to enter a new workplace where an acronym/initialism and the spelled out version mean different things and are to be handled differently. And also I would be annoyed when sending e-mails from my phone that I have to type “as soon as possible” out completely to avoid someone prioritizing a task wrong!

  66. LDN Layabout*

    I wonder if ASAP vs. ‘as soon as possible’ feels more authoritative because it’s in caps and feels like shouting in written communication?

    I use it and don’t mind people using it, but I do somethings feel weird in using it because…I’m not shouting at people? But it can feel like I am…

  67. Nicole*

    OP, you are being way too sensitive. “ASAP” is an extremely common phrase both in and out of the office and, with the exception of it being included in a larger message, I have never heard of the phrase used for nefarious reasons (I’ve never been in the Navy but I’ve also never heard of it meaning anything other than “as soon as possible”). If I was your co-worker and got a response like that from you, I would think you were being an unhelpful jerk. Just as you perceived it one way and want others to take that into consideration, you need to look at how your co-worker perceived/intended it. It would have been much more professional and mature to calmly inform her as to why you don’t like it and ask her to stop.

  68. saffytaffy*

    Some of the doctors I work with label every request they send me “rush.” I could see this as a power play by arrogant doctors and get offended. Instead, when I see a “rush” request from someone I haven’t worked with before, I reply, “I’m on this. Do you have a specific date or time why which you absolutely must have this? These requests often take X time.”

    For some doctors, “rush” means “the patient is prepping for sugery” but for others it means “I’m boning up for a lecture next week” or even “my grant proposal is due in a few months.” They don’t know that, for me, non-rush is 10 minutes. Once we communicate and iron it out, it’s fine.

    OP, I think you can come back from this by being thoughtful in your communication with this person going forward, but I agree with others that you blew this out of proportion.

  69. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Specificity is everyone’s friend in the workplace. For example…

    Request: “I need this ASAP”
    Reply: “What’s the hard deadline so I can prioritize this appropriately?
    Request: “Tuesday at noon”
    Reply: “Can do.”

    1. Fiennes*

      Bingo. Yes, ASAP can be construed to mean different things to different people—but that’s true for pretty much every rush request that do any include a specific deadline. So get the specifics! I particularly like your wording. Nobody reasonable can be offended by that, and I think the majority of recipients would see it as proof that you’re taking their request seriously.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If you don’t know what a term means or are not sure of the usage, then you ask for clarification.

      I remember telling my father that I wanted to go “hang out” with my friends. He said no way in hell. And it rained hell for three days as we argued. It boiled down to my father thought the phrase “hang out” meant standing around in a public place with arms crossed, shoulders slouched and an angry look on the face while staring at strangers. (Who wrote his stuff? no clue.)
      So it was three days of relationship erosion as we argued back and forth. All I could figure is that I was not allowed to have friends. All he could figure was his daughter was a slacker and a drag on society. On the fourth day he gives me the definition of “hanging out” by physically demonstrating what it looks like. Through clinched teeth I said, “Dad, if you do not know a meaning of a phrase then ASK, but do NOT make up random definitions and fight for three days over NOTHING.”

      See, OP, my father accidentally revealed a lot of his private thinking in this one instance. I learned a lot about what he thought of me. And likewise, so did that cohort in your story here. She learned that you think she does not like you. That is why the conversation went down hill so fast because you could not find it in you to give her the benefit of the doubt because you think she is working against you in some manner. The next step in logic for cohort is that since you cannot give her the benefit of the doubt, then it must be that you do not like her. This is the stuff that wears down and eventually kills relationships.

      My father had bad examples as parents. He had to start from scratch when my folks had me. He had to learn about a lot of new-to-him things. You had bad examples in the service. You have to start from scratch with your civilian jobs. You have to learn a lot about new-to-you things. Sadly, most people have their own version of this going on, myself included.

  70. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    So. Aside from piling on the LW, I’m just curious…it sounds like there’s a LOT of baggage that’s attached to that term. (Some of it is understandable!)

    That said, using ASAP, in my opinion, is a power move – at least if it’s a command (as in, “I need this ASAP” instead of, “Can you do this ASAP?”) And honestly, while LW was a bit snarky, the coworker went totally off the rails. So I feel somewhat sympathetic to the letter writer in this case. But also – when I get ASAPed (usually by one of the higher ups), I’ll…check in. I think LW is right that it’s dramatic to say you need something ASAP most of the time, but that’s not my problem. If I’m free enough to do it, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll clarify and try to have things done in a reasonable time.

    Or to be blunt about it: LW, I’m sorry your coworker is a screeching monkey with no time management skills. But the correct response is to offer said screeching monkey a banana, not to screech back.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      The LW sat on something for a week. Asking for something to be looked at more urgently after a WEEK, especially when it comes to invoicing, does not mean you have no time management skills.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        Okay, I missed THAT part! (I glanced over it.)

        I retract my accusation that the coworker has no time management skills. I still…have some sympathy for the LW, since he’s right in that it was a little aggressive, but oof.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I wonder if OP does this often, if so she might be known as a bottleneck in her workplace. People who punish others for random reasons by withholding work, tend to lose their jobs in the end. Holding back the work flow is a really bad plan for “revenge”. It’s better to give people what they want then ask for what it is we want. “Here’s your info that you asked for. In the future could you not use the term ASAP, and just tell me a date/time deadline instead? I tend to think of a person screaming at me when I see it. I don’t think you meant it as screaming, though.”

        As an aside, I have found it very helpful to think about how I would tell a person not to do X but do Y instead. It was in lining up my script that I could get clarity and insight about the irritation I was experiencing.

  71. CatCat*

    Alison is spot on. I don’t find ASAP rude, but just irritating because it is so vague. I worked with someone who used it a lot and I asked that person a couple of times to include a specific turn around time needed.

    When that person persisted with the ASAPs, I just put the ASAP stuff behind the other work I had that had definite deadlines. Because that would be as soon as possible for me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  72. RB*

    I am truly curious to see the three-paragraph response in which the colleague managed to work “ASAP” into every other sentence.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m wondering what 3 paragraphs even means here.

      For example, I’m up to 2 paragraphs right now. But I could have written 15 more sentences in para 1, and that would look different, you know?

  73. Chatterby*

    Welp, a 3 paragraph rant is a sure fire way to ensure your requests are buried at the bottom of the heap forever after.
    I don’t think the LW needs to apologize. His email was annoying and inconvenient to the receiver, but accurate. There are some jobs where it’s true that “everything is ASAP”, so no matter how important you think it is, it’s going in the queue and will have to wait its turn. If it was truly important, some higher up would have been invoked in the original request, or the higher up would have walked it to the front of the line.
    If the cc’d manager pulls the LW aside for a meeting to discuss priorities, I am in favor of a cold “if she ever does this again, there will be issues” before explaining that she needs to 1) give an actual deadline with accurate assessment of the priority level, 2) act professionally and not scream at people, even in emails, and 3) realize there are other things which are also high priority and she might have to wait anyways.

    All of the above is completely moot if the LW purposefully sat on it for two weeks because he found the manner of the request annoying. That’s a whole other can of worms I ‘m not going to touch.

    1. Bea*

      This is so over the top and acting like the OP is okay snapping back over an “ASAP” tacked on to the email request but the other department woman has no business responding to the snap back.

      If someone in another department said that there would be issues if I continued to do my job and send out requests wording them in a reasonable professional way, it would be your ass that faced insubordination consequences. Don’t ever try pulling rank unless you’re the CEO or have the CEO in your pocket. My immediate boss is the CEO so I would love for some halfcocked co-worker to tell him they wouldn’t put any urgency to my requests because I’m not “high enough” in their minds.

      They both behaved poorly and therefore nobody has a leg to stand on. Everyone needs to move forward and accept you don’t have to like someone to work with them.

      1. AnotherJill*

        Seriously. The LW thinks its just fine for he and another coworker to use ASAP but this woman using it once is a problem? Using ASAP is perfectly within professional norms and the LW just needs to accept that or risk sounding even more jerky.

    2. SierraSkiing*

      If you send an “inconvenient” email to a coworker that is also “annoying to the receiver”, I do think you have something to apologize for! And whether higher ups will be involved in priority requests is culture specific. My organization has a light managerial touch generally, and when I need someone else to do something more quickly than normal, I normally just tell them that, and they trust me to know my department’s deadlines and the urgency of my projects. (“Can you get this to me by Friday? I need it for X.”) We would only loop our managers in if Susie told me that would conflict with other priorities for her, and then our managers would sort out what her priority should be. I would be flabbergasted if I followed up, asked her to get something to me as soon as possible, and she blew me off without even looking at the task or giving me a time frame for when she would.

    3. Eye of Sauron*

      OP is probably lucky it was just a 3 paragraph rant. Had I been the recipient of a flippant response, such as the OP’s I wouldn’t have responded at all instead I would would have sent it on to the OP’s boss with a question of why my request was delayed in the first place and why the OP fails to understand priorities of the organization.

      The ASAP’s person’s boss isn’t going to be the one to pull the OP aside, they will go to the OP’s boss wondering what the hell is going on.

    4. Kella*

      It would be a huge waste of time if every time something was of high priority, the person lower down the chain who was in charge of communicating that had to loop in a manager to deliver the news so that they were taken seriously. Why start from a place where you assume your coworker doesn’t actually need the work to be seen as a higher priority? Why assume that you know better than she does what should and shouldn’t be a priority? I don’t understand why attempting to communicate the timeline something is needed (though doing so in an unclear way) supposedly comes across as entitled and self-centered. It’s not like OP’s coworker is asking OP to do work for her personally. It’s part of their job, and coworkers priorities may be just as important or maybe even more so than OP’s.

  74. MrsMurphy*

    First time commenter, I hope it’s okay.

    I too think both were in the wrong. LW, I suggest to consider how ASAP is used in your company and try to adjust accordingly. Your personal history has no place in that context.

    Let me just add my perspective: I‘m an assistant. I spend half my day chasing people for information/data/teapot cozies my boss needs – most of the time chasing people way higher on the food chain than I am. Nothing makes my eye twitch as much as people not taking my requests and deadlines seriously on the simple basis of „she‘s an assistant, it can‘t be important.“ – Never considering the fact I‘m not asking these things on a whim, but because Big Boss needs them.

    In my company ASAP is used sparingly – when it does appear, it tends to be in the category of „drop everything and get it done NOW“. I usually only invoke it a) in combination with a short explanation and clear deadline and b) in conjunction with the boss-in-cc mild escalation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. I tend to view other people’s requests as “this is the big boss talking” because if I refuse the request I WILL be talking to the big boss.
      OTH, this is also my guideline for my requests, I keep them down to the most necessary requests and try not to let anything go to emergency level.

  75. Sarah*

    I just want to chime in and say that I think using “ASAP” is obnoxious and your coworker sounds obnoxious if not condescending. I wouldn’t apologize at all for saying that everything you do is ASAP. I would just write back to her: “Sorry, forgot to add: I will process this invoice now and you’ll have it by 2pm” – or whatever. Because the one thing you neglected to do was respond to her actual request. When I take offense at being condescended to (I often am at work), I generally ignore the tone and implication of the pompous sender and respond only to the facts of the interaction. Helps me stay calm. My maxim is: Keep it professional. And keep your feelings out of it.

  76. Kayla Cole*

    When sending a request to someone outside of your department and above your hierarchy for something you need, using ASAP is rude. As the writer explains, there are many other ways to convey you need something quickly or immediately. The ASAP requester has no idea what the other person’s schedule is and maybe she was sitting on this invoice and she was late to pass it on, causing the urgency? Or maybe the building was going to burn down if it wasn’t taken care of? We don’t know, she did not bother to use her words and explain. It is much easier to get someone to help you or do something you are asking of them with common courtesy, professionalism, and basic details. Just as you wouldn’t write a request in all bold or all caps, ASAP should be avoided as well.

    1. Canarian*

      Hm, I actually do make a habit of putting requests in bold. If I’m sending a wordy or lengthy e-mail with a deadline or action item buried in it, I’ll put the request or critical information in a bold font or highlight it.

      I do this both so the reader will notice that it’s not just an informational e-mail – people tend to glaze over and skim e-mails – and also to make it easier for them to find the critical information at a glance if they have to pull it up later to reference the deadline or whatever. I never considered people might be taking offense or seeing this practice as rude.

      1. Kayla Cole*

        My apologies, I meant someone would not want to write an entire request in bold or all caps. I think bits and pieces of important information to highlight is completely acceptable and sometimes necessary. I use that tactic as well! A whole entire email with a request in caps, however, not okay. It seems as if they are yelling in text.

  77. Student*

    I always take “ASAP” as a business-acceptable way to say, “Could you hurry up with this? I need it to move forward on something else, and I am worried that you’ve forgotten it or put it at the bottom of your lengthy to-do pile.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      The OP interpreted it this way as well–and that is a huge part of the offense taken at it.

      And yet, all those things are reasonable to say in this situations.

  78. Quickbeam*

    I’m a consultant to 2 teams. If one of the teams would send me an “ASAP” request, I’d be on the phone immediately (we work in different buildings) to get more specifics as to deadline. Because alone it really doesn’t say what the need is.

  79. YB*

    I’ve never read the kind of hostile connotations into “ASAP” that the LW seems to – while I’ve never asked someone for something ASAP, I use it all the time going the other way. (Client: “Can you send me this thing?” Me: “I’m out of the office right now, but will send it ASAP.”) I’m interested to see that other people here also don’t like it.

    Nonetheless, to some extent, I do think you’re reading more into it than is there. Alison’s response and some of the comments have convinced me that it’s an ineffective term because it’s vague, but I really don’t think that it’s usually meant with the level of contempt you’re reading into it. Sometimes we need to set aside our own peccadilloes around others’ choices of idioms and accept that just because when someone says X, you hear Y, that doesn’t mean they were saying Y.

    1. Adele*

      I HATE when I get that response. What does it mean? A common voicemail away message at my institution is “Hi. This is Phyllis. I’m out of the office or away from my desk but I will get back to you as soon as possible.” There is no indication if the person is gone for 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 weeks (this actually happened). Should I wait for a response or find another avenue to get what I need?

      ASAP, in short or long form, is terrible because it is so vague. I rarely receive requests with ASAP on them, though, so when I do I know to give them higher priority.

      1. LBK*

        FWIW, I usually assume that if someone doesn’t have a specified time range in their voicemail message then it’s just their generic “in the office but didn’t answer the phone” message. I know people do forget to put up out of office messages but it would be pretty weird for someone to intentionally have a message that just says “as soon as possible” when they’re on vacation.

  80. Brenda Maday*

    ASAP is very common and I don’t find it offensive at all. I would, however, find the response offensive. There are much more conducive ways that this could have been handled, like a simple response asking for a clearer deadline.

  81. designbot*

    I also hate ASAP, and have struggled to explain to people that ‘ASAP’ puts you behind all the requests that have specified a deadline of today, and then if I don’t get to it, behind all the ones that have specified a deadline of tomorrow, and this continues the next day and the next… sometimes for months. The first time that I have time available that’s not dedicated to projects or tasks that have a clear deadline may in fact be months away. If that’s cool with you, we’re cool, but if not you should give me a real deadline. My issue with it isn’t that it’s particularly rude, it’s that it’s incredibly vague and therefor unproductive.
    Unfortunately, as you discovered, nobody wants to hear that, whatever your reasons. The best way to respond is, “Barring a more specific deadline, I would anticipate getting to this by (the end of the week/month/whenever is real for you). Please let me know if that works on your end.”

  82. Beancounter Eric*


    A couple of thoughts:
    1. “ASAP” is commonly used in the business world. I would strongly suggest you get comfortable having it used in emails to you in the future, as you WILL receive them.
    2(a). Snotty email responses are not a good way to engender goodwill with your coworkers, whether in your department or outside.
    2(b). “Burning bridges” isn’t career enhancing.
    2(c). Neither is being quick on the trigger with email responses.
    3. What was the holdup on the invoice? – didn’t see what action was required of you, but having it for a week and not executing doesn’t strike me as being on top of the situation.

  83. EB*

    Having read a bunch of comments in this thread it’s pretty obvious to me that no one should ever use the term unless a company has a policy around it because it clearly does not carry universal meaning.

    LW, I don’t think you handled the situation well and that’s been covered but I know how you feel. I have a boss that uses the term fairly regularly and I’ve learned over time it’s when she doesn’t have clarity over a situation and is just trying to pass the buck as soon as possible so something being late will be my fault even though there was no deadline in the first place. I have tried every which way to communicate that we need set deadlines and alas, all I get is the ASAP.

    Going along with that, I’d recommend not telling people that you have a negative emotional reaction to the term. It’s hard because I literally feel it in my chest when I read it, but I tried to gently bring it up with my boss once just to underscore how unproductive her use of the term was and boy, did that fall flat on its face. Just keep coming back to people with the same “Can you clarify that?”/”Would X date Y time work?” until you come to an agreement.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      Erring on the side of specificity tends to be better. A recent work trip was supposed to last until “mid-morning.” The organizer refused to tell us what time that meant until we book our flights. We assumed that meant at least until 10-11 AM, but ending before noon. He decided to start the morning very early and end at 8 AM. Several of us were angry because we had to travel quite far and could’ve taken earlier flights had we known.

  84. LBK*

    I’m curious about all the people who find “ASAP” to be vague. I wonder if those people are interpreting it literally, ie “as soon as it’s possible for you to get to this (without having to adjust any of your other priorities)”? I’ve always interpreted it as “takes priority over anything that doesn’t also have a deadline of right now.”

    1. H.C.*

      It depends on the industry & workplace; I’ve worked in PR agencies that’s constantly on the brink of missing deadlines (so ASAP literally means drop everything else and work on this NOW) and I’ve worked in large academic institutions where the workflow is slower and ASAP is more of an “at your earliest convenience”.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Within the context of my job, it’s not vague–it either means “as soon as you get this email and have 10 minutes, please figure out this question” or “this many-hours assignment should be completed before your other tasks.” Sometimes I’m sitting right at the computer when it comes in, and sometimes I am gone and see it hours later. And the deadline isn’t “Tuesday before 3 or just don’t bother.” It really is “This is holding up other things that can’t move forward without it, and people are getting irate, and please just get it back as fast as you can.”

      ASAP also usually indicates a quickly tossed off email laying out the problem, that wasn’t reread a few times and is just meant to get the job of tossing the question or assignment at me crossed off. ASAP.

    3. designbot*

      I typically interpret it the first way. This is primarily because I receive requests from 100 people at all levels of my organization, and they all think that their request is the most important. Most of them are wrong. Every single request is ASAP, which makes the word meaningless.

      1. LBK*

        Makes sense – it’s used relatively sparingly in my current role so it does still carry weight.

    4. Eliza*

      I’d interpret “urgently” or “immediately” the way you interpret “ASAP”, but “ASAP” feels like a step below that to me. I’d drop everything and push back a pre-existing deadline on another project if necessary to work on something “urgent” that came up, but for something “ASAP” the deadline would take priority. It probably does depend a lot on the work environment, though, and particularly on how much of a big deal it is to reprioritize stuff; mine tends to have a mix of very busy times with often inflexible deadlines and slow times where people get around to the things that need to be done at some point but with no particular time limit attached.

      1. LBK*

        I agree that it’s a step below – “urgent”/”immediately” to me means “you literally need to do this now, drop every single other thing.” For instance, if my manager is heading in to a meeting with the president of our division and needs me to pull some numbers for her to use, that needs to be done literally now, nothing takes priority. “ASAP” still allows for some relativity, eg “if you’re in the middle of something that will only take another half hour to finish, you don’t need to stop that now.”

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Over most of my working years, the ASAP requests could be done in less time than it takes to type a 3 paragraph rant. I tend to just do them right away because then at least one person in my worklife is happy.
      At one place I had coworkers who would complain and complain. If a project took 15 minutes they would complain for 45 minutes. I would shrug and say, “If you weren’t complaining you could have been done a half hour ago.” They wondered why I seemed to move through stuff. Complaining does not get things completed.

      1. London Calling*

        Yea, I was just thinking that; in the time the OP took to type *their* rant, the invoice could have been processed and off the desk.

    6. Elsajeni*

      It may also depend on how other stuff is prioritized in your job. I get a lot of tasks with far-off deadlines and rare urgent stuff, so it’s easy for me to put something that comes in as “ASAP” at the head of the queue. If you’re in a job where you have a ton of things going on that all have a deadline of “right now,” I can see where you would find “ASAP” unhelpful and annoying even if you interpret it exactly the same way.

  85. AvonLady Barksdale*

    About an hour after I read this post, I got an email from my boss with an “ASAP” request. Granted, it was something I was expecting and knew needed to get out the door right away– plus he’s my boss– but I also know it wasn’t “rude” or “bossy” (how I hate that word; it reminds me of elementary schoolchildren). If I had waited 20 minutes to do what he asked, it would have been fine. If I had waited two hours, it would not have been fine or I would have had to have a damn good explanation. Waiting two weeks to review an invoice… I can’t imagine that flying anywhere.

    I wonder, after going through all of these responses, if the rant and the copying of her manager are the co-worker’s way of covering her own behind. As in, she’s getting pushback from her boss (or, worse, a client) and now she’s getting pushback from the OP, so she copied her manager as a way to make sure he understands what the hold-up is. The, “this is what I’m dealing with” email copy/forward is not a great thing of which one should be the subject.

    1. AKchic*

      ASAP is up for interpretation here. I have seen it used for everything from “someone tripped a circuit breaker and can’t watch tv in their dorm” to “oh no the hurricane force winds just shattered a window in the daycare room full of little kids and we need to fix it right now” and everything in between. My favorites are “hey, the soldiers celebrated Taco Tuesday and ran out of toilet paper, so now there’s a sock clogging the toilet and three floors are flooded. Whoops.” (I swear, you do not want to know how often this has happened)

  86. Marty*

    My reaction to this letter is: Whoa. OP is reading a lot into 4 simple letters. And seven bullet points to justify a distaste for “ASAP”? To me that signifies severely over-thinking things, or a lack of more pressing issue to worry about.

  87. H.C.*

    I’m guilty of the “At your earliest convenience, please [task]” – milder in tone, but no less vague than ASAP.

    1. H.C.*

      ah, saw the whole ASAP vs. at your earliest convenience upthread; yeah, if I have a set deadline I would actually named the specific date & time.

  88. Adereterial*

    Annnnnd this is why I put deadlines on everything I send out requesting info or action from coworkers.

    And if it’s urgent, that’ll be the first word in the heading, with the high priority thingy on, and flagged for follow up well in advance of the deadline.

    If it’s something I can’t wait for, I’ll be calling before I send it – the nature of my work means I need a paper trail so I can’t just take a verbal answer but I’ve found that’s a good way to get busy Deputy Directors to respond promptly.

  89. AKchic*

    Your negative reactions to certain words/phrases did not merit the response you sent. It was a snarky dismissal. It essentially told this person that her timeline and deadline requirements weren’t important. You’d had the information for a week (by your own admission) and hadn’t even touched it yet (by your own admission). Therefore it really wasn’t ASAP (to her, or really to you). ASAP is “I will at least give this a look at assign it a priority” not ignore it until you can get to it.

    Her reaction? Without reading the email, I can’t tell you whether it was over the top or not. Cc’ing her manager? Oh sure, had I gotten that kind of response from someone about an urgent requirement, yes, I would have cc’d my manager and I would have cc’d *your* manager in reply to ask when I could expect you to actually touch my invoice as I need to have it no later by X date and then drop that hot potato in your lap, giving you a firm date; and it would be a short turn-around time (by the end of the week at the latest).
    I think she was trying to be polite with the ASAP request and remind you that there was an invoice still out there.

    If it is taking more than a week to even touch on an invoice, perhaps its time to discuss workflow and productivity with a supervisor. Maybe you have too much on your plate, or the system can be tweaked for better flow?

  90. This Daydreamer*

    As the daughter of an army vet, I have to admit it seems weird to me that ASAP would be the acronym that you reacted to so strongly.

    1. SophieK*


      As a security dispatcher I worked with tons of vets, some excellent, some…not. Many had never risen in rank because of obvious behavioral and lack of leadership issues and were bitter and obstinate.

      I suspect he doesn’t like ASAP because he didn’t do things ASAP in the military either, hence having it screamed at him all the time. I mean, really. Nothing was stopping dude from emailing the coworker back to clarify the time line. He just refused, because he was no longer in the military and he thought he could. After being caught dropping the ball by someone he perceives as a subordinate he still couldn’t accept he was at fault and wrote to an Internet advice columnist for sympathy and coddling.

  91. TheBeetsMotel*

    In my line of work, I deal with customer request tickets. Some people will give an actual deadline time for their job, some will give a vaguer timeframe like “this afternoon” or “tomorrow anytime”, and others will give “ASAP”.

    Most “ASAP” customers are reasonable, but occasionally you’ll get a customer who will assume “ASAP” bumps them to the head of the line. Uh, nope. ASAP means As Soon As Possible. If it’s not POSSIBLE to do it until tickets for customers who gave us an actual rush deadline have been fulfilled, so be it. We’re not going to drag our feet, but calling us in a panic because we didn’t interpret “ASAP” as “omg I need this in a half hour!!!!” is a failure of communication on your part. We ask you for your deadline. If you have one, be specific!

    Obviously YMMV and this is industry-specific, but thought I’d add.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I was the person w/ the most help-desk tickets (by far) at one of my jobs (i set up tons of freelancers, and also triaged and handled all their requests).

      I was very careful to tell them what my priorities were (“later this week will be fine” “not urgent at all, but it would be helpful to explore someday” or “I can’t function at all and I need help immediately”).

      When I said “I can’t do anything, I need help right away,” I got it!

  92. anonnynon*

    OP, looking at your letter, I have to wonder if the gender of your coworker is playing into your initial bristling here. Wanting “softer-sounding alternative” language from a female coworker when you say you are perfectly fine with using ASAP with your other, male, coworker (whether or not you’re friendlier or work more closely with him) makes me think you should sit and think about some things.

    Would you have sent the same response to the male coworker that you reference being friendly and using ASAP with? Your letter implies not because it wouldn’t have bothered you coming from him. Would you send it to any of your other male coworkers the way you wrote it or would have given them a expected date of completion or otherwise been more polite and less dismissive in your response? Would you expect softer-sounding alternative language from any of your male coworkers in the same situation?

    I’m not saying her ultimate response was right, but have you really been treating this woman’s requests around invoices with the priority they deserve? You had the invoice for a week and you didn’t even look at it to check the due date? That’s frankly unprofessional and deserves both the reminder email that she initially sent you and some pushback on your non-answer. Maybe not the pushback you received, but maybe this isn’t the first you’ve been dismissive of her follow ups, either.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      THIS. Can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner in the comments. I agree. He’s not mad about “ASAP” — he’s mad about ASAP from **HER**

  93. Data Analyst*

    Okay, probably not going to break any new ground here, but I have a lot of thoughts. First let me say I totally understand. I have my own things that cause me to bristle irrationally, and I know I take a lot of things more personally than I should. It sounds like you have some baggage around how you were treated in the military, and maybe with people trying to exert authority over you in general.
    Anyway, one thing that jumped out at me: you have been eagerly awaiting when you could write in, and now you have an etiquette question. To me that reads as “I’ve got my eyes peeled for people screwing up, and my definition of ‘etiquette’ is ‘justification for being rude to people who have violated some rule of conduct, as determined by me.'” That may sound harsh. But some people do think of etiquette that way rather than as a way to make social situations go smoothly. I listen to a podcast called Awesome Etiquette and they really hammer on the idea that good etiquette comes from “consideration, respect, and honesty” and that “two rudes don’t make a right.” Sending a snarky reply to something that one perceives as rude has probably never made a situation better. So even if ASAP was inherently rude (which, as all the other comments have explained, it’s not) this would still not be an appropriate response.

  94. I'm in the Wrong Story*

    My boss and I have a communication issue regarding ASAP that’s taken us almost a year to figure out. I’m a “virtual” assistant, so I’m 100% remote and do 98% over email or shared documents.

    When I get an email saying “I need a meeting with Person X ASAP,” my instinct is to immediately contact Person X’s assistant so we can juggle schedules to get a meeting in either that day or the next. Turns out my boss means that the meeting is important, but can be a week or so away. What needs to happen literally ASAP is getting the meeting on her calendar, so she can plan for it and stop worrying.

    I’ve gotten better at asking for clarification. She’s gotten better at using more words in the first place.

    1. AnaEatsEverything*

      I want to know more about your job working (I assume) as a full-time remote assistant!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have a good boss. She will say, “When you get a chance….” She knows I am backed up most of the time. So I learned the types of things that worry her. Certain documents have 24 hour deadlines. Other documents are unique, they have special settings that have more work once I get done with them. I watch for these types of items and drop everything to do them. I know it means something to her that I get right on it. This causes a circle where she is even more aware that I will bust my butt to get something pushed through, so she is even more careful about asking.
      There have been a few times, where I have reminded her, “This is what I am here for!”

      People find their rhythm/pacing in working together, over time things can run pretty smooth if each person is putting in a sincere effort.

  95. Beth Jacobs*

    You mention being able to prioritise your own work, but I’d like to point out that words like asap are helpful precisely because they help you do that. At my previous position, I did junior tasks for a team of ten. Some tasks were asap, most were same day, some had deadlines further out. I was glad when people let me know of their deadline and sometimes I had to shoot off an extra email asking for when they need it because they didn’t say in the request (and I wasn’t able to get to it right away).

    Sure, sometimes you have multiple asap tasks and can’t get them done all at once, so you let people know when you can get to it – which is again useful information for them.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I always thought the needs of others and needs of the boss set the priorities, not me. I can’t imagine going into work and saying, “Today, I have decided that all Xs are important so I will do Xs today.”

  96. soon 2 be former fed*

    Many moons ago when I was new to the professional workforce, a very wise trainer advised me to never say that I need something ASAP. We were in a time-sensitive environment and for us, ASAP was a throwaway phrase. When we got something like that, we had to go back to the submitter and ask for a date. My “as soon as possible” determination may not meet your needs! Fast forward many decades, and I still always give a date by which I need something, and if it is unavoidably a short turn around (later today? first thing tomorrow?), I apologize profusely. At the very least, say you need something sooner rather than later. It’s a little softer sounding than ASAP, but conveys a bit of urgency.

    That said, OP overreacted because it is a very common term. No one is commenting on anybody’s work ethic, for some folks, everything is needed ASAP, and all emails are urgent. In the absence of information to the contrary, feel free to deal with their requests normally.

    In my profession, I always advise the newbies to keep their side of the street clean. There are many hands in what we do, and some are not as diligent as they should be, but we have the ultimate authority to obligate government money and I take no risks since I would be the one to lose my warrant and perhaps once if I sign an improper action. Document, document, document.

  97. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP,
    OK, take a deep breath. I realize that you are probably starting to feel a bit beat up on, but hear me out.

    One of the most valuable skills you will ever learn for either personal or professional life is this: don’t take anything personally.

    While your co-worker’s response was not great, you aren’t responsible for that. You are responsible the email you sent her, which was unprofessional and escalated the problem rather than solving it.

    You can’t let your personal insecurities (and you do come across as insecure) create problems for you at work. So take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and call your coworker. Maybe something like this: “I’m sorry I upset you, but we seem to be talking past each other. Can you give me some more information about what you need from me and why?”

    You do NOT want to acquire a reputation as someone who’s hypersensitive to slights. People like that give managers indigestion.

  98. Kella*

    I agree with Alison that the problem with ASAP is that it means something different to everyone, and doesn’t actually communicate useful information.

    But, regardless of what OP’s coworker meant it to mean, I wanted to respond to something OP said which was that ASAP implies that OP isn’t good at prioritizing tasks, or is lagging on her work, or that they don’t have other things going on.

    OP, no matter how good you are at task management and workflow, it is always possible for something to change so that you need to change your priorities, or for someone else to have a different opinion on what needs to be done first, or for someone to communicate new information to you that in fact this task is more urgent than you thought it was. That has nothing to do with your baseline competence level, it’s about communicating relevant information, and about working with more people than just yourself. It sort of sounds like you resented having this coworker tell you what to do when *even though it may have been important to her job to do exactly that*. It’s not clear whether taking longer on that task would’ve affected her in a severely negative way but it sounds like she certainly thought so, and it’s weird that you dismissed that and assumed she was being overdramatic in asking for the work sooner, or whatever she meant by ASAP.

    1. Eeertmeert*

      + 1,001 Kella!

      OP, I am not a mind reader, and neither are you. You do not actually know what she meant by ASAP, and it was your job to find out what she needed to communicate.

      These instructions are not personal. “ASAP” or “as soon as possible” or”when you can get to it” or “urgent” or whatever are additional details you need to know to re-balance your work load.

      To Do lists, workloads, etc are not static, they are ever evolving and subject to change. This is a fact of life, and essential to successful performance.

      Take the personal feelings out if it. This isn’t personal, it is business.

      Everyone is continually facing opportunities for growth. This is one for you. You can put your personal feelings/pet peeve aside during the workday, respond professionally in the moment, and vent to loved ones later on about the annoyance if you need to.

      Don’t borrow trouble, and don’t poop where you eat.

      Good luck!

  99. ASAPinator*

    Dealing with this ambiguity right this second. Someone messaged me that they need something done ASAP. I don’t know if that means within 10 minutes, by end of day, end of week, what. I reply asking clarifying details. No response so far. Guess it didn’t mean 10 minutes, then…

    In theory, ASAP means “as soon as possible” which implies dropping everything else. But in practice, it means “as soon as you can possibly fit it in,” but then you have to figure out what is supposed to be more and what is supposed to be less important than the ASAP task.

  100. TootsNYC*

    • It kind of implies that I’m just sitting on things, and need to be prompted to take action.

    You had that invoice for a week. Maybe you do need prompting.

    I’m curious what a normal turnaround would be for invoices submitted to your care. And I’m wondering if your reaction to that “ASAP” is prompted mostly by some defensiveness.

    Because yes, ASAP is normally used to create a sense of urgency; it does NOT mean (as you imply) “at your earliest convenience.” It means “as soon as possible,” with the implication that pretty much only emergencies should delay it (and if there are more than a couple of things in front of it, a conversation needs to be had).

    I find that when I have a strong negative reaction, there’s some guilt or shame in there. Somehow I know I’m wrong.

    I’ve gotten pretty good at checking myself when I have that flare of “how dare she!” And it turns out that yes, that anger always comes from the fact that I know I’m in the wrong somehow.

    And giving in to that urge to blame someone else is something I reject, because that’s the only way I will ever grow and learn.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very wise comment and how true.

      OP, you admit to sitting on the request. This opens the door for anything.

      Just recently, I was supposed to do project x for a volunteer group. It was not going well. I said, “It’s not going well.” A while later, I got an email, “Want help? Shall I do steps 1,2 and 3?” A very nice way of saying, “Hey do the project or give it to someone who will do it.”
      I got the project done. I think it will take less time the next time.

  101. KX*

    I am on Team Co-Worker. The letter writer is touchy and out of line.

    A woman made a request. And was ignored.

    A week later, this non-native English speaking woman asked for the information urgently (ASAP), and got a snippy reply instead of the information. Then, this bossy, dramatic, presumptive woman had to ask a THIRD time and copy her manager to escalate it in order to be taken seriously–which the letter writer reframes as a “rant.”

    But when a man asks for things urgently, the man gets answers promptly and with good will. For not being bossy, dramatic and presumptive, I guess.

    Add me to the list of people who would love to see what counts as a rant.

  102. LizM*

    I don’t see ASAP as a problem if you know what it means, like so many things, it probably depends on your office culture. When my boss or grandboss says “ASAP,” it means drop everything and work on the task until it’s done. But they’re both pretty receptive to a reply that says, “You already have me on 3 other ‘ASAP’ projects. If I work on this today, they’ll slip until Friday (or next week, or whenever). If I finish them first, I can have this to you by Monday.”

    If it’s someone not in my chain of command, I read it as “get to this as soon as you can.” I know some people mean it as “drop everything,” but the truth is, I have a lot of different priorities, and often the “drop everything” folks are in a panic because they’re already behind schedule, and are hoping they can make it up by shaving time off my piece. Which I can sometimes do, but often not, especially when everyone does it. So I tend to push back a little on that, and say something like, “I have a lot on my plate, but I think that I can get to this by Friday. Will that work? If not, let me know, and we can loop in (appropriate people in leadership) to figure out priorities.” or “It usually takes me about a week to a briefing paper. Will that work, or is there a reason you need this one sooner?”

  103. Kay*

    The LW’s email was rude and comes across as bizarre. ASAP is very commonly used in my experience, and if it’s to do with invoicing she probably did need it ASAP. How is she meant to know the LW does everything ASAP? People who work in different areas have different priorities, and especially with invoicing it’s something people often forget about, and they need it. What an odd response to an ASAP usage

  104. Undine*

    It sounds as though you’ve worked with this woman over a period of time and processed a number of invoices for her, and this is the first time she’s used “ASAP” with you. So I think it’s fair to say that it was likely this really was urgent for her, and that to focus on the wording rather than on the task was not a masterpiece of prioritization.

    It’s also possible something like this happened:
    Ms. ASAP’s boss: “Where’s the llama spit collection invoice?”
    Ms. ASAP “I sent it to OP a week ago.”
    Boss: “Tell him we need it ASAP.”
    That would be when I would cc my boss on the email thread you described.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh and how many times does this happen? Thousands of times. Little do we know someone is just carrying out their boss’ instructions. We did not snap at the person, in reality we just snapped at their boss. yikes.

  105. Crystal*

    I’ve alway shad a “thing” about using ASAP in emails because I think it sounds demeaning so I’ve always spelled it out.

  106. nep*

    For me the key part of the response and the entire issue here is the wide range of meanings ‘ASAP’ can have. (And, once again, I love how Alison worded that.)
    Were I to respond back to a colleague on something like this, it would be to ask (because I’d genuinely be unclear on this) exactly when s/he needs the task done. ‘ASAP’ is imprecise, period.

  107. Clever Girl*

    Everything else aside, the “Everything I do is ASAP!” opening of the reply email comes across as SO passive aggressive. I’m sorry, but no matter what your job is I highly, HIGHLY doubt that *everything* you do is ASAP. Do you you ever use the internet at work? Take breaks? Veg out for a second? Read AAM? Gossip with a coworker? Go grab a coffee in the break room? Get lunch with someone? Leave work at 5pm? If so, you aren’t doing “everything you do” ASAP because if you were, you would be working so urgently you wouldn’t have time for any of that nonsense. Nobody (or maybe very few, very burned-out people) is constantly doing everything ASAP because that would be incredibly stressful and busy and it would also require an amazing amount of prioritizing and impressive scheduling. Unless you are just defining “as soon as possible” to mean “this is as soon as I can possibly get it done based on all the other things I’m working on, plus some break time, and some internet time, and going to lunch…” ASAP conveys a sense of urgency and I question if everything you do is incredibly urgent.

    Believe me, if I asked someone for something ASAP and they said “Everything I do is ASAP!” in what comes across as a sickly sweet “up yours!” said with a huge fake smile, I would be tempted to send a scathing 3-paragraph email in reply, too. If you really didn’t have time to get to it, a more appropriate response would have been “I have a lot of urgent requests I’m working on right now. When do you need this by?” But it sounds like you were instead trying to “train” this coworker out of using the word in a passive aggressive way, which was very unprofessional.

  108. Glitterycake*

    My God, who hurt that woman to make her think a three-paragraph, unprofessional rant was acceptable? Jesus Christ, she must have RSI from typing that missive with such ferocity.

    1. Susie Q*

      You do not know the contents of the 3 paragraphs. Assuming someone is damaged because she responded with 3 paragraphs to a very rude email is incredibly presumptuous. I also highly doubt someone would CC their manager on an overly unprofessional email.

      1. Mark132*

        >”I also highly doubt someone would CC their manager on an overly unprofessional email”

        I wouldn’t go this far.

  109. WillyNilly*

    So many comments that ASAP is vague… but LW sat on the original for a week and still hadn’t looked at it when sending off a snarky response. Seems to me its perfectly reasonable to at least wonder, if not outright expect, the initial email request/invoice had a due date on it, indicating its urgency. I have never gotten an invoice without a due date on it. If the initial request had a due date, and was then ignored for a week, a follow up “ASAP” isn’t at all vague, the due date hasn’t changed in a week.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Or, if not a specific due date–there’s probably a general trend or unofficial standard for “how long it should take to process an invoice.”

  110. Lunita*

    Yeah…I don’t know what kind of work the LW is in, but in mine, ASAP can be common and I’d be really annoyed if someone told me that everything they do is “ASAP” while admitting they haven’t even looked at it within a week’s time! That’s really long in my industry. I’ll admit ASAP is vague, although I think sometimes it’s purposeful when you want to convey urgency yet don’t know how long is realistic for certain things.

  111. Cat owner*

    That’s a lot of reading into what ASAP implies when you know that English is not her first language and you said you wouldn’t even be able to explain it to her if you tried.

    People don’t always get the same inferences to terms – and when you know that she wouldn’t share your inferences it’s a bit harsh to get grumpy at her for implying things she is certainly not implying.

    1. Cat owner*

      Defs agree that a 3 paragraph response, filled with a word you just told her you object to, to a not that offensive email (the everything I do is asap email – I don’t think it’s that bad) is a bit much though.

    2. OP*

      I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, not judge her harshly?!?! I think it’s likely or even probable she has no idea that anyone might take it amiss.

  112. It's-a-me*

    Here’s a question I would like to ask everyone, and especially the Letter Writer:
    Would it make a difference to you if the person wrote ‘as soon as possible’ or ‘as soon as you can’ compared to the actual acronym ASAP?

    I find the acronym kind of rude, but the words less so, for some reason.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        The question really is why it’s okay for one coworker (and you) to use ASAP but not okay for this one to use it. If you find it so derogatory, why would you use it all and be okay with anyone else using it?

    1. London Calling*

      My view is they convey exactly the same message and ASAP is quicker to type.

  113. OP*

    OP here. I want to address a couple of the issues brought up in the comments:

    First of all, I work for the largest school district in my state. I’ve been here about 2 years. I am not a spring chicken. Besides the long-ago time in the Navy I mentioned, I have spent years working overseas as well as in the US, for construction, technology infrastructure, technology integration, and now, in IT. This is my plan for my last job before retirement, to give back, in a sense, to education and the community, instead of making another buck for the owner of whatever company I’m at.

    1. That I am difficult to work with, or non-responsive – Since I’ve been here, I regularly hear that I am a breath of fresh air, and that they are used to getting a minimal response, or no response at all, from my department. It’s subjective, of course, but I can tell that people enjoy working with me, as I do with them. I hear this from people down the food chain, my peers, as well as department heads, within and beyond my department. I work regularly with people my predecessor didn’t even know.

    The other person, actually, is the one with a bad reputation, but I took it with a grain of salt until the recent email exchange.

    2. That I have some history with this particular person – I do, but it’s positive. This person was having a lot of frustration with getting some billing questions resolved with a vendor. I used to work for that vendor, so I offered to reach out to some contacts and help her resolve her issues. It took months, literally about 9 months, not continuously of course, but slowly and steadily, to resolve her issues.This was not my project, nor were these my issues. I just wanted to be helpful. Our good relations continued until I took issue with her term.

    3. Regarding the actual urgency of the invoice – I receive invoices 6 months old. I mean, it take 6 months for invoices to get stamped received in our mail room, to when they magically appear on my desk. The invoice in question was dated first week of January, and I received it middle of April. I guess that makes it urgent, but the delay would seem to be in their processes, not my response time. I didn’t mention it in my email to Alison because I considered it irrelevant; I was curious, not how many hours/days/weeks justified an ASAP, but what people thought about its use in general.

    4. The length of time it took me to respond, and how many times she asked me about it – She handed me the physical invoice, and sent the email in question the following week. By which I mean, not one week’s time, but Thursday to Tuesday.

    5. My listing of reasons – I am actually a philosophical person, and my list was not some sort of grudge list, but an attempt to understand my feelings. I didn’t actually get mad until I saw her response. I enjoy ethical issues like this.

    6. That the Navy/military can’t be demeaning – First I would say, that there is not one Navy, but many navies: amphib, aircraft carrier, supply, oiler/supply, comm sta, surface small boy, surface combatants, construction, medical. And there are also of course many eras or epochs of the Navy. I was in the Navy late 80’s – mid 90’s, on a sea-going destroyer. That is my experience.

    7. That I am anti-woman – ALL of my friends at work are women. I enjoy working with women more because I can’t stand the A-male, ego games, and silly bullshit.

    8. My “response” – I admit my response was smart-ass. I was trying to convey, in a jokey smartassy way, that I literally have 6 tasks in front of me that are “urgent”. As I knock a couple out, several more appear, just like Hydra’s heads. I am, on many days, calling, texting, emailing, and talking as fast as I can, to get my tasks done. What I was trying to convey was that, as someone here put it, if everything is ASAP, nothing is. All of my tasks I get done as soon as (I decide, based on my work load and priorities), possible.

    Anything else you want to know, let me know.

    1. OP*

      oh, and
      9. the guy who uses ASAP is not my friend. It’s happened only 2-3 times since I’ve been here. I only included this in an attempt to be open-minded, to consider that it might be okay in certain circumstances. I don’t think it really is.

    2. Observer*

      If your reputation is as good as you say, you will recover – but only if your recognize that you really were out of line. She used a common term which you should be aware is NOT used the way your list implies in most contexts, regardless of your Navy experience. You reacted to a perfectly normal and not unreasonable request (the fact that the invoice is old doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be dealt with expeditiously) with a snarky, passive aggressive “buzz off”. That doesn’t make you look good.

      The fact that it took you a few days to get to the invoice is not the big issue here. It’s that you took a few days and then when you got asked about it in a perfectly reasonable way you basically blew a stack. A reasonable response would have been something like “I’m dealing with a lot of high priority issues that all need quick turn around. I realize that you need this soon, but when exactly is that?”

      As for this:
      ALL of my friends at work are women. I enjoy working with women more because I can’t stand the A-male, ego games, and silly bullshit.

      Oh dear! That’s no really a healthy attitude, not towards men nor women. It sounds like you have two separate sets of expectations for men and women. That’s not a good thing. And it’s probably playing into this situation as well.

      1. OP*

        My reputation is fine. There is no danger there.

        Different industries have different standards – I have never heard someone I didn’t know well use ASAP to me, outside of the Navy. You can certainly interpret that in the most damaging personal way, to me – but that is only your interpretation. Just because it is outside of your experience, doesn’t mean it is unreasonable.

        I didn’t “take a few days to get to the invoice”. I literally had no time, see #8 above. Now, whether that means I am overwhelmed, or need help, or whatever, is open to interpretation. If I am expected to write a response such as “I’m dealing with a lot of high priority issues that all need quick turn around. I realize that you need this soon, but when exactly is that?” when I am slamming out emails as fast as I can, is it really unreasonable to ask her to soften her brusque “ASAP”?

        There were comments as to my possible gender, and whether that played into this. I responded, first, that the guy is not my “friend”, and second, that my friends are all female. Please spare me the fantasy that you are oblivious to the male/female dichotomy, or have you not noticed the many many comments here at AAM about how men treat women, how their expectations are different/unfair/biased? Are you really so unjust as to believe it only goes one way, and that there are not men biased TOWARDS women?

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Her ASAP was **NOT** brusque. Several people from multiple industries have told you that.

          Email can’t convey emotions. Yet your default is to take offense and call it brusque. Again, why are you defaulting to offense?

          1. OP*

            I’d like to know from which industries these commenters are. I actually asked around my colleagues, prior to writing my email, and the consensus was that ASAP is rude. What is YOUR industry?

            I’m not offended, I just don’t like to be talked to that way. I may or may not even mention it to the person, because I like them and want to maintain our good relations. But I can’t understand why this situation pisses people off. Do YOU have boundaries, which you like to be respected?

            I am now really curious from WHICH industries commenters here are? Non-profits? Government? Startups? I am not judgmental, I ask the same of you – it’s entirely possible that different ones have different standards. My background mainly construction trades.

            Plus, it’s very subjective, there are lots of variables, how long you’ve know them, your relative position in the hierarchy, it’s very complex.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              You don’t like to be talked to that way, but you don’t communicate that to others. However, you DO retaliate by sending a snarky email. That kind of dishonesty is what upsets people. It’s extremely passive agressive.

            2. Clewgarnet*

              My industries have been equine, news reporting, PR, web design, commercial aviation and telecommunications. Most of my coworkers in the last two were ex-military. ASAP has been considered uninformative, but never rude.

            3. SamPassingThrough*

              OP, we’re all trying to help here.

              If you’d scrolled through the comments above you’ll see that there is a general consensus, and it is that 1) ASAP is not rude, but faulty in its lack of clarity and 2) OP’s reaction email was inappropriate in a professional setting.

              But everybody makes mistakes, and it’s important to learn from them. Consider this: if you perceived ASAP as brusque/rude and others don’t, then it’s equally likely that your “jokey smartass” response could be perceived as brusque/rude to others.

              We all have moments that we perceive insult and then immediately snap back, especially in stressful workplaces; most of the time it results in unnecessary escalation and potentially, ruined relationships.

              Since your reputation is clearly intact after this (which is great), please don’t just point the finger at the other person and call it a day. I think you definitely can think of this an experience to learn, to gain personal and professional growth, and consider how to tactfully diffuse strained communication/situations, instead of retaliate and escalate.

              P.S.: Please don’t dismiss others warning you about ASAP and its commonality (because hey, it is common, and if you ever enter a different industry / professional setting it’s more than likely to pop up again).

            4. London Calling*

              *I am now really curious from WHICH industries commenters here are? Non-profits? Government? Startups? I am not judgmental, I ask the same of you – it’s entirely possible that different ones have different standards*

              Finance – and I’ve never heard anyone get so wound up about ASAP and ‘please advise’ as some of the posters on here. In fact I’ve never heard anyone get wound up over them at all. You think *those* are a rude way of addressing someone, try working with FX dealers.

            5. Falling Diphthong*

              Publishing. We have jargon, including acronyms, but no text-speak. “ASAP” would indicate a quickly tossed out email that wasn’t carefully rewritten and crafted–which is fine, some people are clearing vast piles of email as quickly as possible; some people are tossed New Problem, figure out that I am the one who knows The Secret Info, and toss it to me as quickly as they can. It’s not something I see often, but it is not offensive when it appears. (Unless it was someone who constantly set fires and then labeled them all ASAP, but that doesn’t happen–and doesn’t sound like it happens with you and her, either.)

              Someone upthread a few posts had a good sample response, along the lines “I am dealing with at least 8 things all marked ASAP; what is the actual deadline for yours? Thanks” which is shorter than what you wrote, and the “thanks” actually has some meaning since you are asking her for something. In your version the “thanks” definitely read as “thanks for being an idiot who expects me to process the invoice.”

            6. Thlayli*

              I’m in engineering, worked in manufacturing, construction, consulting, energy, pharma, and in lots of retail / hospitality office jobs while studying. I could count the people I’ve met who think ASAP is rude on one hand.

            7. LBK*

              Plus, it’s very subjective, there are lots of variables, how long you’ve know them, your relative position in the hierarchy, it’s very complex.

              It’s really not, though, and I think that’s where you’re getting caught up. It feels like you’re still in a very military mindset where there’s a delicate calculus to how you can communicate with someone, but for the most part in the white collar world everyone is considered on a fairly even playing field unless you’re talking to a C-suite. When it comes to office hierarchy, someone’s place within a workstream is generally more relevant than their title – if you are bottlenecking this woman’s ability to close out an item, she absolutely has the authority to tell you to hurry it up, no matter where you both fall on the org chart.

              1. LBK*

                And yes, I have absolutely emailed people who are far beyond me in terms of title and seniority and said things like, “I need this by Thursday otherwise the changes won’t go in this weekend, so please confirm as soon as possible if we’re good to move forward.” There’s nothing unusual about that. If anything, being higher up on the hierarchy makes you more accountable because you know people can’t move forward on things without your approval.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                +1 – if it’s that complex, you’re bringing too much personal feeling into professional relationships.

            8. Wibbets*

              “I’m not offended, I just don’t like to be talked to that way.”

              You described in seven points how “ASAP” makes you feel demeaned and insulted. By definition, “ASAP” offends you– be honest with yourself. There’s nothing wrong with your feeling offended by anything, but acting on that feeling by being a “smart-ass” to a colleague was really unprofessional. I think you need to apologize to her for that (your behavior, not your feelings), even though you seem to think your response was justified (it wasn’t, as virtually everyone is telling you, but it doesn’t really matter–you intended to insult her, which is what’s important). Your apology doesn’t have to be a big Thing, but you should definitely say something, if only to repair any damage to your reputation.

              Also, you said you’re regarded as a “breath of fresh air” and have a good reputation. That said, you may want to consider how you come across when you go around the office polling your co-workers to find out if a common work acronym is really a stealth insult. Or when you put a “smart-ass” comment in writing (why????) to a co-worker who’s trying to follow up on a request. Or when you actually sit and plan a “smart-ass” email to someone else (I assumed you wrote the email impulsively, but since you polled your colleagues before writing it, you clearly took some time to do it). As 99% of the comments here show, a lot of people think “ASAP” is fine and would judge you negatively for that really rude email. Maybe you’re known as a generally awesome colleague and just had a bad day or you’re office culture is prickly and tolerant of some rudeness, but please consider that you may have hurt your reputation with this one, at least a little bit.

            9. Anonymous Poster*

              Space, both on the public and private side, and now federal aerospace contracting. Lots of interaction with members of the US Civil Service.

              No one has ever objected to the term ASAP, though it had specific meaning in an operations environment versus an office.

              It really isn’t all that complex though. Part of manners and not being rude is overlooking perceived slights and missteps. It doesn’t seem like you’re listening to many folks saying that this term is not rude. Perhaps another way to think of this is you’re being very polite by not getting all up in their grill about using a term you find offensive? Be the better person, if that’s what you need to do to not ostracize your coworkers professionally?

              You’re being incredibly defensive about this. If you didn’t want advice, why did you write in?

            10. Aunt Piddy*

              I’m an attorney that represents school boards, state entities, and deal with construction contracts/loans/zoning. We use ASAP all the time, even with clients, vendors, and employees of the various entities. It would never occur to me that ASAP would cause the knee-jerk reaction you displayed, but the snarky e-mail you sent sure would get my attention. And I would have looped in supervisors as well.

            11. Jules the 3rd*

              The industries I’ve been in, where ASAP was used regularly and never called rude:
              IT Manufacturing

              I don’t use it because I prefer giving deadlines, but I’ve seen it a lot and never seen or heard of anyone finding it rude until this letter.

              If one person uses it ‘occasionally’ and it’s ok, and this person uses it once and it’s not ok, there’s something going on beyond your list.
              – Any chance you felt guilty at not responding earlier?
              – Any chance you were frustrated at something else, like your high workload, and are letting that frustration focus on something that you have a little more control over?

              Because if you can’t clearly identify why *he* can say it but *she* makes you mad by saying it, then you haven’t really identified the issue.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                And while you don’t think it’s ok from him, you didn’t say you got mad at him, where you did say you got mad at her. You are clearly reacting more strongly to her usage than to his.

            12. Insert Clever Handle Here*

              I work for a public utility. Before that, I worked for government contractors on defense contracts, with many ex-military colleagues. ASAP is not something I, or any one that I work with or have worked with, find offensive. Ambiguous in an information vacuum, yes; offensive, no.

          2. OP*

            my “brusque” comment was in response to Observers observation that I should have written somthing like, “I’m dealing with a lot of high priority issues that all need quick turn around. I realize that you need this soon, but when exactly is that?”

            what do you think of my actual point?

            1. Eeertmeert*

              In my office, something short and to the point should be fine, if it is something you cant get to within the day. “Sure, tomorrow ok?” “Can get to you Friday.” “Will Thurs work?” “Thursday is earliest I can get to you” “Sorry, not today but will tomorrow afternoon work?

              Doesn’t have to be fancy. Can take 2 seconds to type and send. If tomorrow isn’t okay they can tell me and we will figure it out from there.

              I probably have this exchange 5-6 times a week, at least. Both email, phone & in person, but thats because we talk over our desks to each other in my department).

              Finance dept, manufacturing company, if it helps.

            2. Kaitlyn*

              “All of my tasks I get done as soon as (I decide, based on my work load and priorities), possible.”

              As someone else pointed out above, the “I decide” part of this is where you’re tripping up. You have a co-worker who is saying, “Hey, I need you to re-prioritize this invoice,” and your response isn’t “Okay, great, when do you need it by?” but to language- and tone-police her. Being okay with one person’s ASAP and not another’s just doubles down on this issue; the problem isn’t the acronym, but the justification that you’ve given twice (first in your letter, now in your comment) that, once someone does something you deem to be unpleasant, you can write that person off and ignore their requests.

              I get that you have a high-pressure, high-intensity job, but pretending that you can do your work without anyone else’s input—including requests to re-prioritize ASAP—is a recipe for disaster.

        2. Observer*

          If I am expected to write a response such as “I’m dealing with a lot of high priority issues that all need quick turn around. I realize that you need this soon, but when exactly is that?” when I am slamming out emails as fast as I can, is it really unreasonable to ask her to soften her brusque “ASAP”?

          Actually, you have it backwards. You got all bent out of shape because someone used a perfectly normal term in a fairly reasonable fashion and explicitly called out the fact that she didn’t take the time to talk around it with softening language. Why do you expect that from her, but then expect to get away with a snarky brush off?

          I didn’t “take a few days to get to the invoice”. I literally had no time, see #8 above.

          In this context it really does not matter WHY you didn’t get to it. I’m not faulting you on that – I absolutely DO get that you genuinely didn’t have time. But the fact still is that you didn’t get to it. She doesn’t see your schedule, as you pointed out, so it’s reasonable of her to ask about it.

          Please spare me the fantasy that you are oblivious to the male/female dichotomy, or have you not noticed the many many comments here at AAM about how men treat women, how their expectations are different/unfair/biased? Are you really so unjust as to believe it only goes one way, and that there are not men biased TOWARDS women?

          That’s utter nonsense. I’m perfectly well aware of misogyny and how it affects women. Nothing I said implies that women somehow are more prejudiced against men than the reverse. What I *am* saying is that you are showing a perfect example of a classic type of prejudice that winds up affecting women proportionality. Basically, stripped down to essentials, what you said came off as “Men are a bunch jerks anyway, so I’m going to ignore their acting like jerks. But WOMEN need to act properly. They won’t get a pass for being ‘abrasive’ or ‘bossy'” A term that is often used for this is putting someone / a group on a pedestal. It looks like a compliment, but it’s actually damaging because it imposes a different expectation of appropriate behavior.

          The fact that the other guy is not your friend is something I didn’t address because it’s really not relevant to the discussion, in my opinion.

    3. Relly*

      No one called you anti-woman. We did ask about a possible gendered response in this situation. That isn’t saying that you hate women, not by a long shot. That’s saying that you might hold men and women to different standards, possibly without even REALIZING that you are doing it. Plenty of people have unconscious biases.

      Asking a woman to soften her language so that she come across as being less aggressive? Women hear that plenty in work environments. Behavior that is praised in men as being “bold” and “decisive” will have a woman perceived as “shrill” and “bossy.” As a result, some women do soften their language … And then are taken less seriously than their male peers. It’s a no-win situation.

      Please think long and hard about whether you would ever think a male coworker needs to soften his harsh language. And if you don’t, then ask yourself if it’s possible that you have some gendered expectations that played into this incident.

      1. LBK*

        I’m the one (or at least one of, I didn’t see others but I haven’t read every comment) who mentioned the gender dynamic. All I said was that it’s “not a good look,” certainly not that the OP is anti-woman. But I agree that the OP saying all his friends are women is the oldest defense in the book (“I can’t be racist, my best friend is black!”) and doesn’t exempt you from potentially having gendered reactions to things.

    4. Susie Q*

      In work, your feelings are literally not important. You’re not at a Parisian salon having a debate with Voltaire and Rousseau. You’re at an office where it is your job to act professionally and not waste company time with philosophical debates. Coworkers can be annoying and difficult but that doesn’t mean that your response needs to be equally as rude and volatile. Unless a coworkers respond with direct racism, sexism, etc that would be considered harassment, it is best practice to have a bit of a rant with friends and family but still respond to your coworker politely. Honestly, you could have responded with a very simple: I will attend to your request as soon as I am able.

    5. Mark132*

      I’ll go against the grain here, I agree with you. This can be rather rude. ASAP to me implies drop everything and get this done now. For instance if typical turn around on an invoice is 2 months, sending an email like that without some special circumstances is rude.

      Your response was a little snarky, but not bad. Certainly nothing to provoke such a diatribe. Probably a better response would have been “we process invoices in the order they were received.” Or some such policy sounding statement.

    6. Amtelope*

      “I decide based on my work load and priorities” is fine as long as you are consulting with other people to find out if priorities have changed. It’s possible that this invoice was important and needed to be moved ahead of other work you were doing. It’s also possible that it was fine for it to wait. “When do you need this, and how critical is it? I have X, Y, and Z in line ahead of this, which are also needed urgently” might have helped clarify the situation.

      And if you really do have a backlog of invoices that’s significantly longer than a few days, tell people! Provide some kind of “here’s the length of the queue, I predict I’ll get to this in X days” message when people submit their invoices. In the long run, it sounds like you need more staffing or different processes to avoid this kind of delay, but in the short run, realistic communication about wait times will save you a lot of grief.

    7. LBK*

      From points #1 and 2, it seems pretty clear that this person has a very frustrating role that revolves around trying to drag responses out of unresponsive people for items she needs in order to get her job done. In that context, can you not understand why a snarky, smartass response is probably not going to be received that well? And I’m sure she thought you of all people who had helped her out before would recognize how much of a pain in the ass it is to get invoices from people and would just get it done rather than adding to her pile of BS.

      As for the rest of your points, you’re still kinda dripping with condescension. Everyone has a lot of things they need to get done. Everyone has to prioritize. Acting as though you’re the only person who has to figure out how to juggle a bunch of tasks is really insulting, and you continue to do it throughout the comments here demeaning other industries and roles. Lots of people are busy! And yet, invoices still need to be processed. I get that you felt that after 6 months, what’s a few more days, but you could have actually approached it that way in your email instead of getting so hyped up about one phrase that you clearly have a personal history with and then going with that demeaning reply that helps nothing. You may as well have not replied at all.

      Overall, I’d say some empathy and self-awareness could help here.

    8. Secretary*

      Hi OP, I left an earlier comment that I regularly follow up with Accounts Payable deparments on invoices that are overdue, and it’s almost always because someone sat on our invoice for a week or two.
      I just read your response, and I’m sorry for automatically assuming that was you. It sounds like the people before you in that process are the ones causing the problems. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ve been that vendor on the other side with “billing issues” a lot.

  114. OP*

    And, by the way, if you are in an industry where you can get to *everything* within 1-2 days, please realize that is not reality for everyone.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Most of us are in industries where we never get it all done. We have to prioritize and reprioritize. Sometimes things never get done. That’s normal.

      1. OP*

        Of course, I was responding to Observer, who said: “It’s that you took a few days…..”

        1. Observer*

          I’m in a role where getting everything done within a day or two is just a fantasy. That doesn’t change the fact that I DO NOT GET SOME THINGS DONE in that timeframe. And it doesn’t change the fact that it’s reasonable for people to followup when that happens. Nor that I need to respond without snark to those requests. The response won’t always be what they want, but it should be clear, to the point, and professional. Your response was none of those things.

    2. Eeertmeert*

      I get that this all feels highly personal, but it could be an opportunity to take a step back and objectively view your M.O. going forward.

      Someone will write ASAP in an email to you in the future. You cannot control others’ use of the phrase – whether they write it out or use the acronym, it will occur again. It won’t be used AT you, in a personal attack. Because very few, if any, people using the phrase would do so at your expense, or in line with your 7 bullet points.

      Do what you can to look past the annoyance or fruatration and complete the job. A quick reply asking “Can get to it by X – will that work?” Takes a couple seconds to type and send.

      I am constantly interrupted and have many tasks going at once. I will never get to everything in a couple days (Few people here are coming from that specific unicorn industry). But. I can communicate with my coworkers and external customers regarding any question or issue they have, in the way that i want to be spoken to. Even when they phrase things in a way that chaps my hide.

      Whatever the annoyance, it doesnt need to control the situation. If you are up to it, apologize and move forward. If not, just move forward and prepare yourself to reapond straightforwardly next time.

        1. Eeertmeert*

          If it gelps, sometimes i play a rewards fame qith myself, so that when i so well in a sticky situation i get a point. The stickier the situation/better i behave, the more points i get. Points get redeemed for treats.

          This got me through some really, really nutso work situations in the past, and helped me distance myself from my quick emotional response to triggers (very similar to yours).

          It got to the point where I found myself thinking “come on, open that crazy@$$ mouth….mama wants to take the high road and get some points!!” Not even joking.

          I started slow, where 5 points = pedicure, then worked up to 20 or 25 points = treat. I’m into makeup and skincare, but it can really be anything that makes you feel good.


          1. Eeertmeert*

            Good golly, the typos!!
            A rewards Game with myself So that…and so on.
            Anyway, hope you get some good ideas to think over.
            I think anyone who writes in and reads the comments section has backbone and pluck. You’re gonna do fine :)

    3. Amtelope*

      Our finance department’s turnaround time for invoices and reimbursement checks is 2-3 weeks. We have an explicit policy stating “Please allow up to 3 weeks for the employee/contractor/vendor to receive a check. If it’s been more than 3 weeks, you can follow up with us to check on the status of your invoice. If you need expedited processing, contact us and explain the situation.”

      It sounds like having some kind of explicit policy about turnaround times on invoices would help in your situation, too. “Please allow X amount of time for invoices to be processed. If you need an invoice processed faster, please provide a specific date by which it’s needed and an explanation of why it’s urgent, and I will expedite your request if possible. The best way to ensure that your request is processed by the time you need it is to submit it X amount of time before that date.” Etc.

    4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      OP, for what it’s worth, I agree with you about ASAP, in that I think it is at least mildly rude when used in most circumstances, such as a co-worker asking you to do something ASAP. I have worked in corporate office environments for over 25 years and in all those workplaces, it has been considered rude and I have seen it only very rarely used for that reason. The abbreviation, in particular, comes off as overly demanding. If I started using ASAP in my email requests to co-workers, it wouldn’t take long before I got negative feedback from my boss about that usage!

      So, that being said, both your response and your co-worker’s response were inappropriate. Others have already provided good advice about the response, but I would add: Always take the high road at work and respond in a professional and problem-solving way. I sympathize, I really do. Almost every request I get from the employee base is urgent, and every requester thinks his/her request is deserving of immediate attention. Of course that’s impossible. I totally understand about needing to prioritize your own workload. Only you can prioritize your work, especially if it comes from a lot of different people, and you can’t give everyone rush service. That means you need to solicit more information when someone asks for expedited service. I sometimes have to explain why I can’t meet the requested time frame due to other, higher priorities for the company.

      1. London Calling*

        Interesting, because I’ve worked for corporates a lot and never had this problem that ASAP is *overly demanding* and I’ve certainly never had negative feedback for it.

  115. Jemima Bond*

    Seems like the OP is getting it in the neck a bit here so I shall only say that I understand how annoying it is if you feel like someone’s talking down to you (I’ve had trainees order me about like they’re my boss when I’ve been doing this 18 years and it really grinds my gears!) but I think this is the situation to try not to view this through the prism of your former career when it was rude to use ASAP, and indeed the structure was more hierarchical. Yes you snapped at this colleague this time but, other commenters, let’s stop beating OP up for that, we’ve all lost our temper. Perhaps a brief apology along the lines of, “I’m sorry I snapped at you the other day, I just got used to that phrase being used in my former career as a command from on high and I should have realised you didn’t mean it that way!”
    I too list lots of reasons for things so I understand you laying out your thinking. For me it’s because my goal is to be thorough enough so there’s no questions required and no misunderstandings.
    Fwiw at my work ASAP is discouraged in requests for info etc not because it’s believed rude but because it is vague. So they want “in two weeks as per normal procedure”, “in three days because I really want to get this guy assassinated before the bank holiday” or “within the hour if you possibly can because I’ve broken my poison dart blowpipe and there is curare everywhere”. So the advice to request, when faced with “ASAP” a clearer proposed timeline and the justification for it, is sound.

    1. OP*

      Also fair enough – thank you, I really am a good person and co-worker!

      …and good insight from you as to requesting more specificity, at your job, than “ASAP”.

      Reading your and the previous comment, I think I WILL reach across and smooth this over…..and not laying blame outside of myself.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Cool :)

        For what it’s worth – people’s perceptions do vary! If someone asked me to do something “at your earliest convenience” that would make me bristle, but asap would be fine… if I used the convenience phrase myself, I would be being deliberately rude to someone ;)

        (generally I wouldn’t use either btw!)

        1. mark132*

          That’s interesting, I use this phrase a fair amount. To me it says what I’m asking you to do is important and requires a timely response, but not immediate, and I recognize you may have priorities. To me if feels as if it conveys urgency but respects the other persons priorities.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Every mode of communication loses some context; face to face, you get all the body language, but on the phone you only get voice tone, and in text, you get… none. No context except what you bring yourself.

            This is what has bitten OP – his context is that ASAP is rude, and he’s reacted as if his context is universal.

            So, Akcipitrokulo’s context includes a lot of sarcasm, and yours doesn’t. This has driven more fights in my friends group than I care to remember. I am sarcasm (and humor) impaired, but a lot of my friends have assumed sarcasm.

            The thing is: professionalism helps deal with this. Professionalism means:
            Assume sincerity, not sarcasm
            Assume good intentions
            Respond with sincerity and good intentions.
            Be specific and focus textual work communications on facts, not feelings.
            Deal with the surface, and the goals

            If you think there’s something else going on, a subtext that needs to be addressed, do that with more context, in person or by phone.

            So, ASAP is not useful because it’s vague, but OP’s error was that he assumed he was in an unprofessional exchange, and he responded in an unprofessional way.

          2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

            If someone started asking me to do things ASAP, I would consider it rude. So there are definitely people out there, me and the OP among them, who find it rude. I would respond to that ASAP request by asking for more information about your time sensitivity and time frame, because ASAP, aside from being rude, conveyed nothing but your desire for immediate attention.

            1. SamPassingThrough*

              Again, it’s not universal.

              Perception is a personal thing and if one chooses to consider particular terms and phrases as “rude” and react accordingly, we’d all have a hard time interacting professionally. Especially when it comes to situations involving international parties or individuals whose first language is not English.

              Best thing anyone can do when seeing a phrase you aren’t keen on is just to take a deep breath, consider that the other party may not have written it with hostile intentions, and then respond with rational, calm professionalism. You can, of course, be the annoying person that points it out, or better yet just keep your feelings to yourself and avoid using phrases as such in your own responses.Work is not meant to be personal, anyway, and people generally don’t come to work trying to insult others on email.

              From personal experience, sass and sarcastic jokes are best kept off emails / written exchanges, especially in professional settings, because it does come off as unprofessional, and it implies that you don’t take this exchange with the other person seriously, and that’s just uncool no matter the relative hierarchy / seniority.

  116. animaniactoo*

    Hey, OP – thanks for coming in and answering some of this.

    To answer one of your questions: I work for a children’s furniture manufacturer with often very tight deadlines – by which I mean it wasn’t a tight deadline until 4 things weren’t done correctly and then it’s on me to make it happen. I absolutely do not get to everything within 1-2 days. However, I do LOOK at everything within a day or 2 to make sure I know what the priority is on it, and immediately get a sense of when I can juggle it into my work schedule. Every day new stuff pops up. I have a plan for today, tomorrow, and Friday. Next week is when I might actually get to the stuff that keeps being pushed back and if that stuff starts to linger too much, it’s time to put in some extra hours and get it done and/or have a conversation with my boss about the fact that it’s lingering.

    The thing that most of us picked up on was that you hadn’t even *looked* at the invoice in question and therefore had no idea how urgent a matter it actually might be. Even if you’re doing better than your predecessor(s), I would still take another look at your work procedures and look for room for improvement in that case. On your own and in conjunction with your boss – you get invoices 6 months later, but does that really mean it’s okay to wait to even give it a quick review when it crosses your desk? Are your priorities for how you handle invoices and requests actually where they should be or just in a better place than the people in the role before you?

    Towards your listing of reasons – I think you did yourself a major disservice here. By looking so hard to figure out why it bothered you, you fell into the “look for a dis, find a dis” category. I mean, you fell down a rabbit hole of some pretty spurious reasoning and reductio ad absurdum presumption of the other person’s thought processes to get to the conclusions you did. To counter that kind of thing in future, I’m not saying don’t try to figure that out – but counter it yourself first before you settle it or bring it to someone else to ask about. Work the other side of the problem: “This is how I view it. Why might they NOT be viewing it that way? What might they mean that’s a more neutral or positive reason they said/did that? How LIKELY is it that this is the way they are looking at it?”

    1. CityMouse*

      Yeah I just got dumped a huge amount of work, a lot of it late, from someone who just left my organization. The first thing I did was go through every file, get an idea of what each needs done. I am triaging the latest stuff, but also moving the stuff that can just be moved quickly. Every time I get something new, I take a quick look to see what it needs. Big messes I tend to set aside for Fridays as those are quieter days and I can get more writing done without interruption.

      I imagine that is how it works at a lot of places.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Enh – still too much work being put into parsing Feelings at work. My approach would be, ‘Hunh, they use a phrase I don’t like. Oh well, different people use different phrases, I shouldn’t read anything into it. Time to focus on the Business Task.’

      This holds until you have reason to know that there is a subtext, but every context OP has given points against coworker having a subtext.

      1. animaniactoo*

        OP says they’re someone who likes to think about such things and the ethical considerations around them. That points towards someone who is really not going to be capable of doing the shrug off kind of thing you’re looking at here and it’s not necessarily a bad habit to have – as long as you’re not doing it *during* work. It’s only a bad habit *if* you consider only the negative connotations and possibilities, without trying to consider the positive ones and running a risk/probability analysis against what’s most likely and why. Cuz, you know, different people handle things differently. ;)

  117. but why...*

    I’m a civilian clerk who works with police officers. One of the first things I was told was never to use ASAP. If I truly need something as soon as possible then I need to write out or say out ” as soon as possible” and follow that with the reason why I need it right away. For example, I need that invoice signed right away because the deadline to submit it is tomorrow at 5 and if its not in before then it won’t get paid.

    1. prettyshinythings*

      It just makes sense to state why you need something ASAP, instead of just throwing out that acronym without any context.

  118. Archaeopteryx*

    “Everything I do is ASAP” just makes me think of Jenna Maroney: “My whole life is thunder!”

  119. Banana stand*

    Wow. Your email was unnecessarily adversarial and I think due to the past experiences you mentioned that you may be placing too much weight on this word. Sometimes ppl truly do need things ASAP and it has nothing to do with micromanaging you or questioning your competence.

    This may be off base but based on this letter you sound like you may not be the easiest person to work with considering you made something this trivial into a thing. Try not to take things so personally!!

  120. AliceW*

    I don’t get what is so offensive or vague about ASAP. Sure there are the colleagues who ask for everything to be done ASAP. I take this with a grain of salt and get to it when I can. Then there are others who very rarely use it, so when they ask for something ASAP, if I can drop everything and get to it now, I do- or I get to it as soon as I can because ASAP conveys more urgency. I spent six years in the Army and I have been told by superior officers, and I have told superior officers I needed something ASAP. I don’t think anyone was ever offended. I don’t see why spelling it out in an email is somehow less “offensive”.

    1. prettyshinythings*

      Amen! In business school, I was on a project with students who were full-time (I was a part-time student and had a professional job during the day) who were non-native English speakers. Our team structure was such that I was the leader, but no one respected this, and in fact completely ignored me to the point that I asked for little bits of information ASAP, such as if they were free at a certain day/time so we could meet with professors about our project. It came out later that they thought I was acting like a 2-year-old merely by using ASAP in my infrequent communications, though I only used it when necessary. So, um…non-native English speakers with limited professional experience should understand that ASAP isn’t an insult and just means “hey, I truly need this right now.” I’d write it on my forehead if that would help.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Deadlines are your friends, *especially* in situations like this. Project management, authority of competency – demonstrate competency in organizing, and they will follow.

        Biz school, I was in a lot of projects with non-native English speakers (and native English speakers). I would look at the assignments, write down the steps needed to complete them, ask each team member which they wanted. Once we all had tasks, then I’d ask each team member how long it would take *or* step back with them from the deadline (ie, we have to present on Tues, we need to rehearse on Mon, I will synthesize the sections on Sun if you get them to me by Sat) and set deadlines. Worked very well, by the second year about 3/4 of the people I’d had projects with had started doing the same thing and became leaders in their projects.

        Hunh, just thought about who those 3/4s were – it was mostly the non-native English speakers, and one other experienced professional English speaker; the rest of the English speakers continued to rely on their language skill as the source of their authority.

  121. MoreNowAgain*

    Reminds me of a “situation” at my last place of employment that I lovingly refer to as ASAP-gate. There was an employee on my team that had a hirline trigger when it came to use of the term ASAP. It was a fast paced industry and position, so it’s true that it was somewhat annoying as every single email would include a note saying action was required ASAP. That being said, I always thought it was silly that she would get so worked up about it.

    Flash forward to a few months later, we had a new manager who was making great attempts to make sure all of her reports felt ‘heard’. She agreed with my coworker (!) that the excessive use of ASAP was “outrageous” and put in place a three strikes policy with our sales team. After three reminders not to write ASAP in emails, it would be escalated to HR. I’m sure you can all guess how that played out. (Sales was resentful and viewed us as special snowflakes, HR didn’t have the time or desire to pursue such a thing, and the manager was never able to recover her reputation at the company. She was let go for not being a team player a few months before I left. All for pursuing my ex-coworkers ridiculous anti-ASAP platform).


    1. Observer*

      Your manager actually tried to discipline the sales team for their use of the word ASAP?! Even if they reported to her, it would be an utterly ridiculous idea. If they did not report to her – which is what it sounds like, she’s lucky they left it at “not a team player”.

      I mean, if they were using a slur or crude language or something like that, I could see it. But “a word I consider rude”? Also, you don’t mess with the sales staff unnecessarily. They are the ones bringing in the revenue.

      And before anyone jumps on me, I DID say “unnecessarily”. Sometime you really do need to come down on your sales team. But, choose your battles.

  122. Big Biscuit*

    I work in field operations for a company with a decent size corporate office, every department thinks their requests are the most important. I’m not particularly offended when an ASAP comes my way. I sort of blow it off and get the request done when I can. I did have to chuckle because a couple of the biggest “ASAPers” at corporate are also not native English speakers, but Alison is right, when I explain that I can get it done by a certain time, they respond back with a thank you.

  123. Michele*

    ASAP literally is:
    As Soon As Possible.
    That is NOT a request to drop everything and get it done.
    It is within your discretion to determine just when the possible part occurs.
    I don’t even know a more polite way to put it, aside from spelling it out, which really doesn’t change the meaning at all.

  124. MMMMMK*

    ASAP is annoying from anyone but your boss. Anybody else should be asking me if i can place a priority on something and possibly get it to them by x (so that they can do abc with it, if they feel like explaining).

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