Despite a concerted effort to keep my inbox tamed, it’s now back above 30 undealt-with emails. While falling behind, I’ve noticed some recurring – and annoying – behavioral patterns. I’m sure the list is incomplete, so feel free to share!
- “The two-for” – a person who always — always— sends a second mail with the attachment they forgot to include the first time. I can’t tell if the person is genuinely a flake or if they’re just pining for the return of corporate instant messaging. One wants to post a sign on their monitor: always wait at least 30 minutes after eating receiving the first message before swimming responding.
- “I must copy my manager on everything” – the sender wants to ensure their manager knows they’ve made a token effort to be “proactive.” Note the air quotes. (It’s also possible the sender’s manager “wants to be kept in the loop for minutiae” (cough: micromanages) or needs a high message count to justify her Crackberry.) I used to whittle the Cc list down, but have since decided that it’s best to keep the list going.
- “I must copy your manager on everything, too.” – If I’m the sole entry on the “To:” list, the sender is implying I won’t respond to their request by overtly creating an audit trail. Their manager is copied, too, as if to say, “See, I warned them to check their blood pressure / Beware of the Ides of March / Soylent Green is people — but they did not listen.” What usually happens is my over-detailed, super-helpful response will usually elicit a walk over for the executive summary.
- “The Escalating Cc:” – two people in an email discussion have differing opinions. Instead of, like, actually walking down the hall and having a conversation, they start adding additional people to the discussion. Sometimes this will devolve into the passive aggressive tone. Paraphrasing an exchange that might hypothetically have gone out to an entire department:
“I don’t want to blame anybody, I want to fix the problem.” [three sentences later] “[…] but Bob was the last one to touch it. I will ask Bob when Bob comes in what Bob did to cause the system to become hopelessly broken.”
By this point, I will walk over to ask Bob, whose work I respect, and ask I need to borrow the Covey Convincer (a 2×4 with “Synergize” written on one side) to put an end to this thread. Or, just delete messages on the thread until my name is in the blame stream.
- “The passive-aggressive.”– this is more of an attitude.Example #1: suppose a coworker was supposed to send you a TPS report draft yesterday, but didn’t. A chronic procrastinator employing the hat trick of obstructionism, ambiguity and blame might respond: “I can’t give you a draft of the TPS report because you haven’t approved the table of contents.” Of course, they didn’t tell you they were waiting on you, nor does it necessarily matter. In reality, they were spending all their time leaving anonymous notesin public places.Example #2: the “two-for” sends a link in a form that you can’t use like forward slashes (*nix) instead of backward (windows) ones, the document is on a machine that you don’t have permissions to access, or the document was created in a proprietary software format like AUTO-CAD or SmartDraw.
- More information than you require — when providing a response, assume the reader knows nothing about the subject and, in a non-sarcastic tone, explain in laborious detail. This is one I’m guilty of, often a sign that I’m responding late at night with sparse distractions to compose a lengthy tome. I know you won’t read it, you know you won’t read it, everyone knows you won’t read it.