My Boss Doesn’t Answer My E-mails! What Should I Do?

by Dec 13, 2009Lessons Learned

The 1st version of this post I wrote 12 years ago. To this day, the post still is one of the top 10 most read on my blog. Back when I wrote it 1st, Blackberry was a serious competitor to Android and iOS. Now it is just meme stock. What has changed since then were the additions to the communication stack. Email may have taken the backseat to more instantaneous communication platforms like Slack, Hangouts, and other ubiquitous systems. What hasn’t changed is the anxiety-inducing communication issues. What also hasn’t changed is my view that one communicating needs to own success of their message. I have a separate post on how to write emails to your boss or an executive, head on over there for the content tips. 

This post focuses on timing, mode, and understanding what may be out of your control.

Understand and what you can’t change:

  • The choice of mode of communication is the choice of the receiver. Slack, and the like platforms, may work well in a group of 5-10 colleagues and for communications about lighter subjects. But the moment group or depth of detail gets too big, a large number of people will get overwhelmed. The more teams report to you, the more threads you become part of and less attention to detail you can afford. So what should you do? Get their attention and ask directly. “I need to address <INSERT YOUR ISSUE>. What would be the best way to communicate with you re. those subjects?”
  • Not everyone cares for technology. It isn’t a generational issue. Sales of vinyl records are on the upswing, and the generation that buys them wasn’t around when the last time vinyl was hot. What was old is new again. Fax may be gone (YAY!), but you may need to pick up the phone or walk over a piece of paper. Being an effective communicator who gets things done means using every means necessary.
  • Time your messages! I work with people in different countries or even different timezones within the US. Why I may write an email for someone at the time convenient for me, I schedule the email to go out when I know my recipient is most likely to read it. Usually, Mondays are not optimal, and so are Friday afternoons. Some folks answer many messages Sunday evening, and some don’t address their inboxes until Tuesday.
  • You may need to get creative. Let me give you an example. I worked with this CEO, who was also our primary salesperson. He was so busy that we insisted on hiring him a driver. We turned those two hours of the commute into productive time for calls and emails. So when I needed a decision from him, I would look at when he had the next meeting and where, wait for him to pop out of his office, and get what I needed from him as he walked to the next meeting.

In closing, never get discouraged, understand and accept things you don’t control, and get creative about getting your message through. It is worth it!

Image credit: Firemind

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