Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

When Can I Expect an Email Response? 232

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the turnabout-is-fair-play dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ever sit there waiting for an email response and wonder what's going on? Did they get it? Did it get filtered? A study looks at the responding habits of a large group of corporate users. They find, among other things, that users would try to 'project a responsiveness image. For example, sending a short reply if a complete reply might take longer than usual, intentionally delaying a reply to make themselves seem busy, or planning out timing strategies for email with read receipts.' Tit-for-tat, 'Users would try to reciprocate email behaviors -- responding quickly to people who responded quickly to them, and lowering their responsiveness to people who responded slowly to them in the past.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

When Can I Expect an Email Response?

Comments Filter:
  • Its all individual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mordors9 (665662) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:03PM (#16011226)
    I have 8 people that work in my Unit. When I send out an email to the group needing an immediate response, I know that only 2 will respond right away (assuming they are at their desk). The rest of them check their email at different frequencies. The little notice they get apparently does not stimulate their curiosity as it does mine. One of them will check each hour. I have one person that will check it each morning and that is it. So if you need an answer before that, you have to call him.
  • Surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gemini_25_RB (997440) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:03PM (#16011230)
    I'm not. Frankly, I would have guessed this, especially considering that this is _corporate_ america, where looking busy can be more beneficial than doing good work. It is interesting how people would send an email and then keep checking "constantly" for a response. Why not just pick up a phone (or walk to the next cubicle in some cases) if you are that concerned about the message? Reciprocating, however, is ... odd; What do all the OCD emailers do the first time they contact someone?
  • by stefanlasiewski (63134) <slashdot@@@stefanco...com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:04PM (#16011238) Homepage Journal
    "Email means that someone can ignore you instantly"... this after sending 25 emails and making 10 phone calls to someone else in the organization, and that person's supervisor, and the supervisor's supervisor.
  • Well, yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:05PM (#16011242) Journal
    Most users check their email "constantly"

    One thing that contributes to that is Lotus Freaking Notes' brilliant feature of checking email, putting up an alert when you get new mail BUT NOT ACTUALLY DISPLAYING IT IN YOUR INBOX, thus forcing you to break your activity to make sure it's not something that can't be ignored.

    As with much of Lotus Freaking Notes, this is a) an interface issue that was ironed out by the rest of the developer world 20 years ago and b) would have taken maybe 15 seconds longer to code properly than it did to do it wretchedly.

  • by RevDobbs (313888) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:13PM (#16011306) Homepage
    . . .The little notice they get apparently does not stimulate their curiosity as it does mine. . . . I have one person that will check it each morning and that is it. So if you need an answer before that, you have to call him.

    Which is fine. It means he is concentrating on the task at hand and not being easily distracted.

    If you need an immediate answer, why the hell are you resorting to email? There is no reliable way to even be sure that he received your message, let alone that he is going to read it right away or take the time to addesss it.

    If you need an answer for something, never rely on email. It is great for "please review the attached doc and get back to me by Friday" (if followed up with a phone call before Friday) or "FYI" stuff. But it isn't a substitute for a phone call (which may still be shunted to voice mail), or a physical visit if the person is close enough.

  • I've cut back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:15PM (#16011322) Homepage
    I've massively cut back my response times to email, and deliberately so. Maybe five times a day I'll go through and reply now, sometimes maybe three.

    Instant messenger I tend to reply to...well...instantly. Even if it's only to say that I'll have to answer in a couple of minutes. Your best bet for getting hold of me is a phone message. Why will sound familiar to many. I was getting so distracted and interrupted by email that I turned off any notification that I'd received any. From then on, I found I was able to concentrate on my work a lot more.

    What's been interesting is that people I regularly correspond with have noticed this and fitted in with the pattern fine. I don't think they've consciously done it - they've clearly learned how to get hold of me if they need to, and what kind of response times to expect otherwise. It's beneficial all round really - the key is that the two methods of getting hold of me quickly are interactive methods - phone or IM. This cuts down misunderstandings, stops people wasting time formulating the perfect email to send me because they can just get through it in a normal conversational style, adds informality as we're able to use a spot of humour whilst discussing whatever needs doing...it's just better. IRC aside, flamewars are more common in email than in IM. And phone-based flamewars? When's the last time you ever heard of one, if ever? Personal contact always mitigates such behaviour.

    So email is no longer a quick way to reach me at work. It's a conscious choice, and it's worked out absolutely fine.

    Cheers,
    Ian
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:30PM (#16011450) Homepage Journal

    Like cancer or AIDS? Just a thought.

    Because everyone knows that research in one discipline never proves useful in other disciplines. Thank God knowledge is inherently categorized into "useful" and "unuseful" boxes, so we can easily dismiss research that is a waste of time.

  • Re:Well, yeah... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffy210 (214759) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:44PM (#16011543)
    You know that's one thing I think Microsoft got right in Outlook 2003. When you recieve an email you get a semi-translucent pop up in the lower right corner of your screen with the sender, subject, and the first two lines of the email. If you move your mouse to it, it'll turn solid and you can open it, delete it or flag it right then and there. If you choose to ignore it, it just goes away after about 3 seconds.

    I've found it's really made things easier because I don't have to check every time I hear a new message come in. I can just quickly glance at it and decide if I need to take care of it now or later.
  • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:51PM (#16011585)
    We're the Cut'n'paste generation. We don't really think about what we write before putting 'pen to paper' anymore for the following reasons:

    1. You can cut'n'paste you sentances to make some resemblance of ordered thought.
    2. You can get a quick response, so if you're imprecise, you'll know about it quicker.

    So basically latency has plummeted, but we're probably less efficient at doing things than we used to be before all this 'new fangled technology'.

    Am I going to read this comment through? Do a spellcheck? nope, I'm going to spin in out, with it's imprecision, flaws and ambiguity, for I know that someone else will pick up on those point very rapidly and therefore I do not need to bother...
  • by Geekboy(Wizard) (87906) <spambox@@@theapt...org> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @06:52PM (#16011590) Homepage Journal
    I ignore them until I want an interrupt, then I deal with them in the priority *I* give them. I do not acknowledge how important you think it is (or how important you think you are). If they come to my desk, I tell them "I'm in the middle of something, and will get to your email/call soon".
  • by WuphonsReach (684551) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:07PM (#16011695)
    Two words: top posting

    I work for a company in the UK which works with a company in the States. Sometime I have to email fairly technical (ie its about source code and programming in general) messages to my counterpart in the States. To make the process as simple as possible I spend some time breaking my question(s) into pieces, numbering them, and making them clear and hopefully straight-forward. The American company practically *always* only replies to the first point in the email. If their reply addresses the problem, we still have all the others to go through, as could be seen if they'd been read at the time the first one was.

    (I'm being somewhat funny, but I think it's the main reason why. If you're top-posting, then you have to scroll up/down to see the entire message that you're replying to. That or the frequent use of preview windows where you only see the upper portion of the message.)
  • Re:I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:10PM (#16011710) Homepage Journal
    An AC makes some insightful side points, which I'll quote for the +2 masses:

    ======
    We're the Cut'n'paste generation. We don't really think about what we write before putting 'pen to paper' anymore for the following reasons:

    1. You can cut'n'paste you sentances to make some resemblance of ordered thought.
    2. You can get a quick response, so if you're imprecise, you'll know about it quicker.

    So basically latency has plummeted, but we're probably less efficient at doing things than we used to be before all this 'new fangled technology'.

    Am I going to read this comment through? Do a spellcheck? nope, I'm going to spin in out, with it's imprecision, flaws and ambiguity, for I know that someone else will pick up on those point very rapidly and therefore I do not need to bother...
    ======

    Unfortunately, this is very accurate. The digital age has made the hurried, poorly-thought-out, flung-to-the-winds reply that much easier to commit, as any flamewar veteran can attest.

    The nearest pen-and-paper equivalent would be to read only the first line of each snailmail letter received, then reply by scribbling on postcards, right three at the post office, and immediately throwing them into the Outgoing Mail slot.

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:21PM (#16011779) Homepage Journal

    I have 8 people that work in my Unit. When I send out an email to the group needing an immediate response, I know that only 2 will respond right away (assuming they are at their desk).

    I've had a request to "send" "data" to someone, with a deadline of thursday for a few weeks now. It began, "OK, fine, no worries just tell me what data you need and in what format." No response. The owner of this project starts sending me colour-coded emails. "Urgent send data" I reply to him, "Give me an idea which items you need and in what form to send it." I get back "put it in an excel spread sheed, I don't know, here talk to this person xxxxxx@xxxxx.org" I email their contact and a week goes by. I get another urgent email. I reply I still don't have any spec or specifics and get another email. I send out a query to that one. Days pass and nothing. Finally I'm getting orange (which I presume is more urgent than red) and another plea to "send data soon, deadline approaching." I reply, to the entire list of those cc'd with the plea. "these people need to contact me, I need specifics, I don't just send "data" any old way." Finally someone kicks the people at xxxxx.org in the pants and they phone. Bam! It's taken care of in mere minutes. Got exactly what they needed.

    So why did it take so long?

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @07:23PM (#16011786) Homepage
    If you send someone an email, you want to be able to hold them to what they say in the reply.

    If you talk in person instead of email, you don't want anybody to be able to hold you to what you say.

    It's all about repudiation.

  • by GJSchaller (198865) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @08:20PM (#16012113) Homepage
    I have found the reason a lot of people use email over phone, IM, or in-person meetings is that when email is sent, they have a (semi-)permanent record of that message, and it provokes a response back in the same manner, resulting in the same record. This "paper trail" then allows someone to go back and claim they discussed topics, brought up facts, alerted the appropriate people, and generally did everything they were supposed to do, and if a response did not happen... it's not their fault.

    This is a double-edged sword. I work Help Desk - often, I request that a user send request by email so that A) we get all the details in writing, such as screen shots or error text, and B) they have a record that they sent the request. B is important because it prevents someone from saying "I reported this a week ago, why isn't it fixed?", but it also means that when they DO send it, I need to respond and follow up in a reasonable time frame, because it then becomes a part of Help Desk Metrics.

    Some users despise email, because it consumes all their productivity handling it. Others live and die by it, unwilling to throw out even one-liners from 4 years ago for fear that a manager will ask them to review it at some point in the future. It is the latter that ratchet up the stress associated with email, because if you don't treat the system with the same importance they do, it throws their own system off-kilter (They no longer can rely on a timely response they can refer to in the future if needed), and it may be perceived as a lack of respect for them personally. It also means you need to carefully word and consider every email you send, because someone else will keep it for reference for possibly years from now.
  • by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) * <davec-slashdot@lep e r t h e o r y .net> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @09:33PM (#16012463) Homepage

    All you're doing is forcing your desired communication method on other people. Have you even tried picking up the phone? It usually takes less time than an e-mail. Learn which ones respond well to e-mail, which ones always pick up the phone, and you'll not only get better responses, but you'll also not be such an asshole. Try that shit on me and you'll get a blunt reply, CC'd wherever you feel like it, that I'm just too busy and can't do anything for you until tomorrow, if you're lucky. Unless you legitimately have an extremely important (to the managers you're CCing, not just yourself) issue (in which case I'll help you, but you'll pay later), it's pretty easy to come up with a justification for letting you cool your heels for a day or two. Hell, try it twice and your e-mails will start "getting caught by the spam filter."

    See? You can be trained too.

  • by cyberbianMom (948831) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:57PM (#16012851)
    "Resist the pace of urgency"
    These are the wise words from the Director of my department. She has a lot of experience dealing with kids with Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, who believe it or not, resemble many geeks [wired.com]. For those of us who provide technical support this doesn't mean ignore or stall. It means prioritize and set reasonable boundaries for yourself. Some people seem to think better after they've articulated their problem in an email. Half the time, given some perculation time- they can actually solve their own problem. So stay focused, do your work, and deal with emails as you see fit. If you are one of those who may have high functioning ASD tendancies, don't worry, you are in good company [aspiesforfreedom.com].
  • by mdhoover (856288) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @02:24AM (#16013721) Homepage Journal
    I have to wholeheartedly agree with your approach.
    I personally have reached the point where I may check my email accounts maybe once a week if I am lucky.

    If folks need me they have a few options.
    * For conversations, telephone, IM, IRC. There is no way in hell I am wasting my time on an endless email conversation when it will only take me 30 seconds to tell you in person.
    * For tasks, lodge a trouble ticket in the queue or assign the bug to me (I'll see it when I refresh)
    * You want a meeting? Put it in my calender.
    * You want to spam the company with meaningless corporate crap, put it up on the website so I can ignore it there instead.

    Due to the above policy my productivity has at least doubled, and everything of importance is done in a timely manner. Email is a millstone around the neck of the modern worker, utterly abused for tasks it was never meant for.

"Be *excellent* to each other." -- Bill, or Ted, in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Working...