February 26, 2019

You would never snub a colleague trying to strike up a conversation. Yet, according to research, when you ignore an email, that’s exactly what you’ve done: digital snobbery.

When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious – organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. This is not to say that you must answer every email. If senders aren’t considerate enough to do their homework and ask a question you’re qualified to answer, you don’t owe them anything back. 

Here are some general rules:

  • You should not feel obliged to respond to strangers asking you a dozen times to share their content on social media, introduce them to your more famous colleagues, blah, blah, blah. Ignore these emails guilt-free.
  • Set boundaries. People shouldn’t be forced to answer endless emails outside work hours. Consider telling your colleagues that you’ll be on email from 9 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. each day. Spending hours a day answering emails can stand in the way of getting other things done.
  • Don’t abandon your inbox altogether. Not answering emails today is like refusing to take phone calls in the 1990s or ignoring letters in the 1950s. Your inbox isn’t just a list of other people’s tasks. It’s where other people help you do your job. It allows you to pose questions with a few keystrokes instead of spending the whole day on the phone, and it’s vital to gathering information that you can’t easily find on Google.
  •  If you’re habitually too busy to answer legitimate emails, set up an auto-reply giving people another channel where they can reach you. Twitter. Phone Number. Post-it Note. Carrier pigeon.
  • Remember that a short reply is kinder and more professional than none at all.  If you have too much on your plate, say so. And if you want to say no, just say, “no.”

SOURCE:  New York Times, 2/17/19