How To Deal with Someone Who Doesn’t Return Emails Without Sounding Bossy or Annoying

One of my pet peeves is people who don’t reply to emails. To not return an email is like ignoring someone when they greet you.

Of course, I’m speaking of emails that require or ask for a reply.

Amy Tori has written a new article about this problem. Enjoy it.

How To Deal with Someone Who Doesn’t Return Emails Without Sounding Bossy or Annoying

You know the feeling…you have an upcoming deadline…and your coworker is not responding to your emails. You did everything you were supposed to do. You sent the email in advance. You were extremely polite. You even sent a gentle reminder 3 days before.

But still no response. Nothing.

You are faced with a small, but very important decision to make – one that has the potential to change company culture.

Do you send another follow up? Do you go around the respondent’s back and talk to your manager? Do you risk coming off as annoying or bossy to make sure you do not get in trouble?

This an important morality test that many of us have faced countless times while in the workplace.

“It is these subtle and nuanced interactions that drive the culture of our workplace,” says Deep Patel, the founder of Owlmetrics. “In this case, the little things are really the big things that differentiate what it is like to come to work.”

So how do you get around this sticky situation?

Here are 3 simple tips:

  1. Empathize with the recipient.

Acknowledge and realize that your coworker is likely busy dealing with his or her own problems. Everyone is busy! And your request, although polite, may not be top of mind for the recipient. We all have our own priorities to deal with and can empathize with the feeling of receiving just another email assigning us more work to do.

Also realize that generally speaking, no one likes reading emails. Especially not long blocks of text requesting more work to be done. If you have not already, try sending shorter emails! They are far more likely to get responses.

  1. Talk in person.

Over email, things can get complicated. Words are misread. Tones are misunderstood.

The easiest fix is to simply get out of your seat and go talk to the person you need an answer from! Just like the good old days, you can rely on face to face communication to deal with issues like this. You are far more likely to get the answer you need faster, while at the same time avoiding any sense of awkward/rudeness.

  1. Hold a meeting with team to stop from having again

Once you have figured out the issue in this particular instance, either from talking to coworker in person or sending a gentle (and short email), you should realize that problems like this are generally systemic.

Building a culture of open and transparent communication is crucial to being able to get work done efficiently and effectively. If you have tight tension throughout the company, perpetuated by events like this one, you are likely to not be your best at work.

To solve this, you should hold a meeting with all involved stakeholders who may or may not be affected by the situation – this may include managers! Prepare an agenda for the meeting and acknowledge your appreciation for everyone showing up. Once you have established ethos, simply say what you think about fostering a more honest and transparent culture. This should have very positive long term effects.

Yes – having your co-worker not respond to you is unfortunate, but there are solutions. Take your time, be patient, and follow these steps.

Amy Tori is a women’s rights activist and a graduate from USC.

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