Email Timeouts

Why aren’t they returning your emails more quickly?

Maybe you’re in time out.

I don’t do it often, but I just had to do it recently to someone and it has me thinking about it. In this case, they were just annoying to deal with. I would provide clear information, then they would respond and ask me something that I just answered with that information. The dynamic of the email is such that I didn’t want anything from them, they wanted something from me, so I didn’t feel particularly compelled to hop to it and re-clarify. If it was the first time, I wouldn’t even flinch, but as this was the third or fourth similar annoyance, I put them in time out for a few days. (Which means just basically ignore the email for a while, perhaps set a reminder on it so I don’t have to look at it while it is in time out.)

I don’t think this is particularly great email behavior on my part, to be clear. It prolongs how long this sits in my inbox. It doesn’t help the other person move on. But I’m human, and sometimes I have to walk away from situations I find annoying until I can re-engage with it without bringing snark.

The dynamics of email timeouts are nuanced but natural. You may not be able to put your boss on email timeout without some kind of eventual consequence, as much as you might want to. And you don’t need to be told that, I’m sure you find it rather obvious. If you’re the one asking for help (or a favor, or any other kind of “ask”), you can’t timeout the person you are emailing, lest see what you are asking for dry up.

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