How IT Managers Can Deal With The Tragedy Of Unreturned Emails

When you send an email, you expect to get a response
When you send an email, you expect to get a response
Image Credit: Kelly Schott

I think that it would probably be safe to say that despite the arrival of social media tools, email is still the #1 tool that IT managers use to both get and distribute information. Email has so many different things working in its favor: everyone has an email address so everyone can be reached, we can send someone anything that they need including pictures and entire documents, and email provides a fairly fast turnaround – people generally get back to us the same day that we send them an email. Oh wait, that last one doesn’t always work out. What’s an IT manager to do when despite using all of your IT manager skills your emails aren’t answered?

The Despair Of Unanswered Emails

Generally when we send someone an email, they will respond to us at least fairly promptly. However, it’s those times that we send someone an email only to get no response from them that we start to feel abandoned. What’s going on when this happens? One of our first thoughts is that something tragic must have happened to the person – why else would they not have responded to our email?

What’s interesting about emails is that we have all spent a lot of time thinking about what to do when we screw up. When we send an email that we almost instantly regret sending. The world of email can make us feel so anonymous that we do silly things that we later regret. However, none of us have really spent all that much time thinking or getting IT manager training about the situation where the anonymous quality of the internet causes us to feel lost and adrift when someone chooses to not reply to one of our emails.

What does it mean when someone does not reply to one of our emails? I’m pretty sure that we’d all like to think that there is some sort of technical problem going on that prevented them from getting our email in the first place. However, that’s generally not what is really going on. Instead, what we are probably experiencing is a form of either lack of courtesy or a simple case of passive aggression. Since we can contact so many people using email, what happens is that we stop being as kind as we should be. We start to view the people who are sending us email as being either replaceable or at least disposable. Why bother replying to them?

Why Aren’t They Responding To Us?

So why are people not replying to the emails that you have sent to them? As with all such things in life, there can be many different reasons for this type of behavior. One could have something to do with the age of the person that you are trying to contact. If they are a young person, then they may not yet have learned the rules of business courtesy that requires us to promptly respond when someone sends us an email.

Another reason that someone is not responding to one of your emails may be because you are asking them to perform some sort of work. No matter if it is as simple as looking something up or as complicated as going somewhere and doing something, once they realize what you want them to do, your email will just start to sit there. They don’t want to be interrupted to do what you want them to do and so they may start to pretend like they’ve never seen your email.

Finally, the reason that you are not getting a reply from someone may be because they are simply getting too much mail. We all know what this looks like. You open your email tool at the start of the day and you discover that your inbox has once again filled up with yet another delivery of brand new emails. When this happens, the email that you sent to them has effectively become buried in a pile of fresh emails. There’s a very good chance that it may get deleted when the receiver goes through their email and starts deleting all of the mail that they’ll never take a look at.

What All Of This Means For You

Email sending, reading, and replying to takes up a critical part of just about every day for an IT manager just like IT team building does. Generally when we send an email to someone, they’ll turn around and get back to us in a reasonable amount of time. However, there are those cases where we’ll send someone an email only to be greeted with silence.

If someone does not get back to us via email after we have sent them an email, often times our first thought is that something tragic must have occurred to them. Why else would they not be replying promptly to our email? The anonymous characteristics of email makes it easy for someone to not reply to an email that we’ve sent to them. What may be going on is the person that we’re trying to talk to is showing us some lack of courtesy or a simple case of passive aggression. There can be many different reasons why someone does not reply to our email. Young people often don’t realize that they have a social responsibly to reply to emails quickly. When we ask people to do work for us, this can cause them to decide to put our email off until later on. Finally, if the person that you are trying to communicate with is getting too many emails, then your email may be lost in the email noise that they are receiving.

The good news is that most of the emails that we send get replied to quickly. It’s just the ones that get no reply that cause us so much pain. What we probably need to keep in mind is that email is not our only way of getting in touch with people. The next time that someone does not reply to one of your emails, perhaps what you need to do is to pick up the phone and give them a call!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If someone does not reply to your email, how many times do you think that you should resend the same email?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As IT managers, it is our responsibility to use our IT manager skills to build the best team that we possibly can. We’re going to be asking a lot from our team in terms of being able to deliver complex projects quickly and efficiently. This means that the people we invite to become members of our team will need to be the best of the best. The challenge that we often face is that in the traditional interview process it can be very difficult to use our IT manager training to determine if someone would be a good match for our team. What’s an IT manager to do?