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Why The F**k Won't You Answer My Email?

antoinette0x53 profile image Antoinette Maria ・2 min read

I'm currently on a project to POC a product from a bunch of different vendors. These products require integration with tools that my team doesn't manage which means (you guessed it!) I have to talk to and work with people from different teams. We are on fairly strict timelines with these products due to licensing and milestones set by the project team, so I need to get things integrated as soon as possible so that I can get the products working and do my analysis on their performance.

This brings me to an unnamed employee that we'll call "Alex", because that is a gender neutral name. Alex is the contact I was given on a team that manages a software we need these product to monitor for the POC. However, Alex won't answer my emails asking about getting the integration set up. I've sent a follow up email every day for the past 3 days and on the last email I cc'd our project manager and my leader. I'm beyond frustrated at this point, because this isn't this first time Alex has done this. I've had to reach out to this person before for help with their software and they never responded then either. That previous issue was less of a priority and I didn't feel the need to follow up, but now it just seems ridiculous.

Update! Alex finally answered me after the email that cc'd my leader and PM

For those of you who have been in my situation, what did you do? How did you get an unresponsive person (who might be blocking your project) to respond to your emails?

Discussion

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

I’m in a similar situation with a personal contact I’m working with but have no superviser to CC. Super frustrating.

When I encounted this in the past I’d go sit at their desk until they answered all my questions- but with remote people I just don’t know D:

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Alexey Voinov

Always start with your lead in CC, and probably Alex's too. That works for me every time, and I didn't get any complains ever. :)

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Chris Raser

Ugh. Yep. Been there. It makes me crazy. Super-frustrating. You totally shouldn't have to deal with this.

First, if you're not already, be super-concrete in your email about what you need from Alex: "Can you please set up new login credentials for the Frob service, and whitelist IP 123.23.45.223? Thanks in advance!" The less analysis Alex needs to do, the more likely they are to take action. I generally send a bullet-point list of what I need.

If that doesn't work, then you need to figure out what emotional reason they have for ignoring you, and get them past it. Go in person, and bearing gifts, and make Alex really feel that they're appreciated, and that you're grateful for their help. This helps defuse a multitude of psychological/emotional blockages.

If you haven't already read it, my all-time favorite book on workplace psychology is actually about kids, because we're all grown babies: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk.

If Alex is remote (or if you are), then a phone call or video call is the next best thing.

And sometimes, there's simply no time to play nice. If CC-ing Alex's boss & the PM gets things moving, so be it.

Good luck! And if you figure out how to get Alex moving, let us know!

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antoinette0x53 profile image
Antoinette Maria Author

This was a great response! Thank you. I ended up bumping into Alex (serendipity) and we spoke in person. Turns out their team is swamped with work. I personally believe it is still polite to respond and say that is the case and you'll get back to someone when you can, but everyone has different ways of doing things and I'm not perfect at email either.

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Paul

Even if I'm totally swamped, I try to respond with something so the person knows I'm not ignoring or avoiding them.

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Chris Raser

Glad you liked it! After I posted, I was worried I'd responded with problem-solving talk when really you just needed to vent for a sec and were totally on top of it. :P

Glad things are working out!

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Irene Soave

sorry, but if one has to respond an useless "ok" line to every email one gets, one should rather hire a secretary or give up even trying to think about what they're doing. is anyone here actually in charge of something important? bc if you are you simply have no time or room in your brain for this!

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Patrick Minton

A few things:

1) If what you need from Alex is a thing that Alex needs to make happen, track in your JIRA or whatever. Make the fact that Alex's task is a DEPENDENCY that is BLOCKING you visible to the stakeholders. Alex may have multiple competing priorities, and you won't be able to champion yours without giving the stakeholders insight, so they can prioritize.

2) If people are just generally not responding to email/slack, you need to train them to. With email, I give people one day. If there's no answer, they get a follow up. After one more day, if there's no answer, they get a CC to their manager. Simply "ack"-ing these types of requests is a mandatory communication skill.

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Antoinette Maria Author

I don't want anyone to be confused about this. I loved my job and I believe my company employees top talent. This person is allowed to be busy and I'm allowed to be frustrated, but at the end of the day we'll figure it out and get it done because that's what you do. This isn't an "Art of War" cut throat Uber-esque corporate culture. It's just a bad day.

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Friedrich Nowak

Full ACK, but difficult to achive this situation on existing legacy code. It take a while to refactor everthing, but on the long run its perfect.

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Adrian B.G.

First, who makes the estimates and schedule should know better and do not trust what they can't control,meaning you cannot set tight schedules based on other teams.
If they don't answer you escalade, talk to your and their lead asking for another person.
Answer with the same coin, if that person is a jerk he had it coming.

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Irene Soave

Personally, I believe that no such thing exists as a "constitutional right" to have one's emails responded. When she'll be able to do what you ask, or to provide you with an answer which is more than "ok, thanks", she'll probably do it. No use in mailbombing her. I got on this page searching for the opposite problem: how do I stop my mailbox from overflowing? One answer is: let's please stop considering it a value to promptly respond to any f..ing email one f..ing gets. It is not a value, it is a major time and concentration waste. Stop mailing your colleague already - she'll eventually get back to you and guess why? because she has to, it's her bloody job. In the meanwhile, find yourself something else to do and leave her be!

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Antoinette Maria Author

I had to re-read this since it was a bit old. Anyway, there's taking some time to answer and then there's not answering at all. Which happens. At the end of the day, if you have a job to do and a lot of the work correspondence is via email, then having a full inbox is just part of the gig and figuring out how to get the job done is part of that too. Acknowledging that you received a message takes about as long as it takes to type "ACK" and press send. There's nothing wrong with letting people know you got their message, even if you can't respond in that moment.

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Salavora

When I am completely swamped at work, it is possible, that I will get a mail-backlog that spans days. I fell bad about it, but it is simply impossible to answer every message with "sorry, no time right now, will get back to you within the next two to three weeks, I hope". If I would do that, my backlog would increase even more. So I scan for high priority stuff judging by the mail topic and mail-prio. (Although: if a contact abuses the mail-prio, I will start to ignore that for their mails...)
When my supervisor is included in the mail, they will evaluate, wethere or not I should be changing my priorities to working on the mail or not. If they belive I should, they come over and tell me so ^ Since they are the one who give me hell for being late on my regular mountain of work, this is the only way to go, at least for me.
Maybe Alex too has a mountain of work and people breathing down their neck? If so, their supervisor might be the only way to go for you in my experience

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Matt Graham

I always CC my manager and/or PM on matters of importance, regardless of who it is I’m sending it to.

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chatelao

Use the instant messanger or the phone. Personal contact helps a lot. Used the last 1 Mio. years :-)