You’ve Got Mail

Posted on March 25, 2013


Remember the days when you eagerly checked your new email account to see if anyone had sent you an email?  For some of you, maybe not.  I do.  I was never fond of AOL, so unlike Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the movie “You’ve got mail”, I opted to open a YAHOO account.  Eventually migrated over to Google where I’ve been ever since for my personal email.  In the corporate world, I’ve done the gamut of Lotus Notes (pretty interface if good developers), Novell Groupwise (try exporting contacts to put into InterAction – let’s say hell) and for much of my IT/Marketing career with the various flavors of Outlook.  This post really wasn’t meant to be a journey through email platforms, but more of how behaviors have changed in the electronic communication world.  And, a little about email expectations and etiquette, and okay, a little vent from me.

First, I must say I like many others of you are completely inundated with email communication.  A typical day is spent triaging my communications and some days are more challenging than others.  It is a bit challenging to remember how excited I was when I first began my electronic career.  Yes, I said it.  I would be excited to get an email.  I would be disappointed when I would log into my email account only to find mine said “You do not have mail.” 

Along came the device known as blackberry which would forever change my life as it would many others.  At first I was more excited about the blackberry than I was about my first email account.  What a brilliant idea this blackberry was.  I would never miss an email.  Boring meeting?  Why check and respond to email.  Waiting in a long grocery line while the person being checked out at the register sorted through their coupons or a price check on an item or they run back to an aisle to get an item they forgot?  Why check and respond to email.  For those of us blackberry addicts, we could even respond to an email one handed while doing things we shouldn’t be doing….driving.

Suddenly the blackberry meant that the expectation was to respond instantly to email no matter the time of day or night.  As sudden communication responses became the norm, not responding instantly was frowned on and could cause the sender to get very unhappy with their perceived “lack of responsiveness” from you the recipient.  I found myself with the blackberry practically attached to me 24/7 and yes, I confess I slept with it under my pillow.  You can only imagine my mom’s dismay when a meal meant food, plate, glass, silverware and of yes, the blackberry.  When I showed up at her front door her first words would include “did you bring the blackberry?”  

These days of email overload, instant communication, the expectation of responding 24/7 with blackberries and smart phones has led to email responses to the wrong person (had one today) and a lack of responsiveness (isn’t that ironic) to those emails perceived as not important.

And now to my vent and I guess the etiquette part.  As I said earlier, I understand all of us are bombarded with email.  We all must prioritize when we can respond to an email.  My venting is when you get no response at all from an email you send out.  You know the feeling….crickets.  No response.  Not a “I’ll need to get back with you” or “when do you need me to get back to you.”  Simply nothing.  Now one email?  Yep, maybe I can see that.  But email after email and with something that you have asked to be a part of.  Nope, I don’t get that.  Not even if it is a volunteer project because you volunteered.  If you’re too busy for something you volunteered for, simply say you’re sorry you can no longer be a part of.  People certainly understand.  We’re all busy.

I have to question.  If you volunteered to be part of something, then how are you responding when it is your client or customer communicating with you?  Hopefully it is only with your volunteer activities that you ignore the email of the person who coordinating the activities.  I’m hoping.  But I’m also thinking you’re missing the opportunity to build relationships with people which is the important part of any job and any business. 

So my reader, how are you responding to “you’ve got mail?”