Radical concept: Emails must be answered without a phone call asking you to do so.

It was a meeting (yet another one!) to say what could have been said via email, but the two meeting organizers were lawyers and they never put anything in writing. They are also horrible in answering their emails, maybe due to their aversion to written documents. Usually, they answer in a timely manner only and if someone of stature is copied in the email. They take care of the labor unit at the HR department and advise on anything related to employees of this large organization, which provides services in the legal area, real-time.

These lawyers are the SMEs on everything labor and, sometimes, they receive emails that require answers on the spot or very soon: some of their colleagues that depend on their expertise work in positions that deal with real-time needs from several locations of the organization. But they don’t answer their emails in a timely manner at all or, when they answer in the same day, it is so late and the answer is so general that it is of little or no help. More than likely, coworkers will receive a phone call about the matter at hand one day later or more, and almost never a written answer (which could be a resource in a future similar situation).

Back to the meeting, a coworker asked who, then, to email in case of an urgent need. “Good you mention that. You should email us.” Silence. They continued “If we don’t answer soon, contact Vicky and she will be able to hunt us down”…Eyeballs almost jumped out and rolled on the floor…”Or Lia, who can also track us down”. More silence. Unbelievable that they play unreachable and do not commit to improving their response time/timing. The worse of all is that they are disrespecting the time and the work of others and don’t even think twice.

Anyone who needs real-time SME’s answers at work knows the importance of having responsive SMEs anytime they are needed, even if the answer is “I need to further investigate”. Fine. Emails are a common way of communicating, they provide easy access to information in the email’s folders, immediate delivery in most cases. Emails can almost eliminate distances. We all know that and use it to scale up our productivity, our time, and our response.

What is hard to accept or understand is the blatant disrespect to one’s coworkers. When an email is written at work, it demands an answer. This simple. One should not “hunt down” someone to answer their emails at work, this is disrespectful with your colleague. Visualize it: one colleague writes an email that demands a reasonably quick answer from another. After a long time without an answer, the sender will stop her work and start calling people, who in turn will stop their work to start calling other people to find the recipient of the message to, then, tell him to answer the email! It is ludicrous and insane, to say the least. It is also blatantly disrespectful and impairs the productivity of everyone involved, not to mention arrogantly selfish.

Here go a few tips to answer your work emails without being “hunted down” to do so and to not leave your colleagues waiting for answers they need to do their own work: if you are out of the office on business or in meetings all day long, make sure you reserve 15 minutes here and there to check (and answer) your emails. Make sure your work email is connected to your smartphone and that notifications are in place. This way no one will need to call you to let you know you have email. If you don’t want to do any of these, you should not be in that position, so move from your current position as SME to a new one and let someone else more responsive and interested in doing the job to take your place. Or simply quit and let productivity soar.