In response to a post from management guru Alison Green’s discussion, I shared several strategies for managing emails in “Part I: Did you get my email?” of this series. From my experience, people tend to follow up with me when I take time for the things I need to think about or information I don’t need to take action on. Those types of emails seem to result in the question: “Did you get my email?” I try to be honest and explain that I haven’t read it, or I have read it and need to give the message some thought. There are times when that question speaks to a larger problem, the root of which isn’t the message itself, but a broader workflow or interpersonal issue. Those broader issues are what I’ll discuss in this post.
Workflow or interpersonal issues that could result in that kind of follow-up include:
- Insecurity that what the person sent you isn’t important enough to you, to get an immediate response.
- Defensiveness by the person who previously missed a deadline.
- Defensiveness by the person who doesn’t want to get blamed for an unforeseen outcome.
- Responding to new expectations from their boss that impact the work you do together.
- An excuse to be able to talk to you in person (harder to set aside a human in your office than an email in your inbox) because maybe you’ve canceled a recent meeting with the person.
- Experiencing a difficult time in their personal life.
Taking the time to figure out what’s behind the follow-up is important. Rather than guessing, you can certainly ask the person or explain what your process is for dealing with you inbox (assuming you have one). Regardless, no one likes to feel ignored.
Another piece to consider is that in libraries we tend to focus on the fire that needs to be put out, rather than with longer-term planning. Unfortunately that approach to work quickly becomes a habit and we lose the time we need to do deep thinking and long-term planning. Developing strategies for managing our inbox and considering the reason why a person may feel the need to follow-up in person so quickly after sending an email, helps to navigate our working relationships.