You’ve Got Mail!
Just 22 years ago in 1992—a time that even some Millennials remember—America fell in love with something new we called email. It was mesmerizing, fun, and addictive. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were the first to fall in love online. Those were the heady days when your computer screen happily announced, “You’ve got mail!”
For people in organizations, the love of email has turned sour.
Today and every day, 144.8 billion emails are sent, the majority of which seem to come to my inbox—I know you feel the same way.
How are you handling your emails? How many emails do you have in your inbox right now?
How many emails and texts did you handle yesterday? Did you delete some and wonder if you shouldn’t have?
Do you have some system that helps you decide which emails you answer?
Drowning in Emails? The Only Real Answer Is to Answer Them.
If your emails come from a real person who wrote to you directly about something specific to you as opposed to a marketing machine—answer them! Why? If you don’t, there will be consequences. Often you won’t see any consequences to unanswered emails, but they’re out there hurting you both for days and for decades.
When I write you an email my sense of worth is on the line. Personally, you’ll never get an email from me unless I thought it was important that you answer me. When you don’t reply I never forget it—you’ve told me I’m not significant to you. If I know anyone who is really important to you, there are a thousand ways I can undermine you both in subtle or obvious ways.
People who don’t answer all their emails have to guess which emails are not important. People who guess whose email they should answer always guess wrong. You never, ever know whom you’re ignoring—they’re not important to you, well, not now anyway. Some people use as a rule that they only answer emails from people that have power over them.
So answer my email. Be brief, be terse, be a turnoff, but ignore me at your own risk. Short answers are fine. The answer can be from, “Can’t answer you now,” to, “Get back to me September 32, 2025.” Just don’t ignore me. was only going to answer emails from his boss—bad idea. His team members really began to despise his non-responsiveness and ended up not being willing to give him the time of day. Needless to say, he failed at his job.
People who pick and choose who they will respond to will never know the opportunity the person you ignore can eventually open up for you or the damage they might cause you.
Some people actually feel powerful because they don’t answer those little irrelevant people who show up in their inboxes. These people most often lose out in the end, overstepping their little power trip. I know CEOs who answer every email they get with a short response. It hardly takes longer to write a couple of lines than to hit the delete button. I have received emails from people who didn’t have the time to answer me, but they did, and there is a bond of loyalty to that person that can last a lifetime.