Have you ever received an email from a colleague on an important issue and you didn’t get back to them within the time period they expected? Then they bombarded you with texts and/or calls because they assumed the communication got lost and they wanted to make sure you received the email? Responding to emails within an appropriate timeframe is a respectful business communication practice and an important place to improve your company culture.

One of the simplest changes we can make is to respond to the sender that you received the email/post/chat and you are working on the request.

Here are some of our favorite factors to keep in mind when dealing with communication, tasks and time management:

  • Acknowledge all emails and texts that request something from you ideally within a timeframe that your entire team has decided is the right time window. Some teams expect responses within four hours – some within eight hours. Pick the window that works for your team and then reinforce those boundaries.
  • A mere “I got it” response will often suffice. Most people just want to know you are on it.
  • Follow up as soon as possible to let the sender know when you plan to get to the request. Sometimes there are unrealistic expectations that need to be managed or a re-prioritization of work that needs to happen so be sure you have an agreed upon deadline.
  • Please know it is probably not necessary for you to drop everything and switch gears to work on the sender’s request – though sometimes it is. That’s why it’s important to be sure to confirm the expected timeline.
  • Reply to any questions or concerns the sender has as succinctly as possible and on separate lines so they’re easy to visually track and understand.
  • Ask for a confirmation of understanding with a phrase like “Let me know if that doesn’t answer your questions.”
  • Use emojis as a succinct and powerful communication tool. A thumbs up quickly conveys “I got it”. A smiley face quickly says it’s a favorable response. It was a brilliant design idea to build emojis into many of the new communication tools on the market (i.e. Microsoft Teams, Slack).

Recently Jan was coaching an event planning professional and prioritizing her important work while keeping track of emails was one of her challenges. She assumed she needed to respond quickly to every client email request with the full answer and often much of the work done. The reality was that this wasn’t necessary because many of her deadlines were two months and two years away. There are different processes and priorities for projects with upcoming deadlines compared to those in a different planning stage. Now she follows this process of just saying, “Thanks for the email. I have this work scheduled to be done by EOD Thursday this week. Please let me know if there are any issues with that plan.” More often than not the client is completely fine knowing they are on her priority list.

If you don’t have expected response time rules established for your teams, use these ideas to structure a discussion at your next team meeting. It’s an easy way to have clearer communication and have everyone on the team know your team is working together toward shared goals.

One thought on “No News is (Perceived as) Bad News

  1. I love this Jan! We are all so busy and expect things to be done on our timetable – we forget that others have different priorities. Opening the lines of communication to help set expectations is something so simple and yet we don’t seem to do it anymore. Thanks for the reminder that this is a great way to get back to working toward shared goals.

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