8 types of emails everyone hates receiving at work (stop sending them!)

Email has revolutionized the way we work, mostly for the better. The days of inter-office memos and fielding never-ending phone calls are gone. That’s mostly a good thing. However, email poses its own challenges. It’s so easy to send an email, they’re often misused. We also spend an inordinate amount of our workday answering them. Did you know the average Canadian working in an office occupation spends 30% of their day answering emails? That’s a lot. So let’s band together and eliminate some unnecessary emails like the ones below.

emails everyone hates receiving at work

1. the ‘how are you?’ email

The how are you email could also be called a small talk email. These occur when someone feels like they must exchange pleasantries before they’ll get to the point of what they really want to ask. They’ll ask how you are, or talk about the weather, or something equally meaningless as a means of starting a conversation, with no other context to the email. This type of conversation starter is even more common over instant message. Usually you’re better off just getting to the point, especially if it’s someone you talk to often. If you haven’t spoken to the person in a while, you can open with pleasantries, but make sure to add the reason for your communication lower down in the email. It’ll save everyone time.

2. the one-word ‘thanks’ email

This is probably one of the most common emails on this list, and most of us have probably sent them. Yet in the vast majority of cases they’re absolutely unnecessary. In real life it’s rude not to say thank you when someone does a favour for you, so we tend to apply that same logic to emails. However, the two aren’t really equivalent. The person receiving your thanks email has to open, read and file away your ‘thanks.’ It’s a small thing, but if it happens many times per day that time can add up. Unless you’re a terrible, ungrateful person, most people will assume you’re thankful. You don’t have to say so every single time. Save it for special circumstances, or add something else to the message. If there’s nothing else to add, you probably don’t need to send an email.

3. the ‘I need a favour’ email

The ‘I need a favour’ email can be a tricky one. If it’s from your boss, or someone of authority, you’re probably going to have to live with it. The real problem with ‘I need a favour’ emails is when they’re abused. Sticky situations happen and it’s nice to help out when you can. However if you have a coworker who has a bad habit of dropping things on you last minute and demanding you help them out, that’s an issue. No one likes to receive emails that demand help. If you need a favour, ask rather than tell, and offer some kind of reciprocation. For instance, if you need a shift covered, offer to cover the person in return, at a later date.

4. the ‘why didn’t you tell me in person’ email

If you’ve ever sent an email to someone who sits at the desk next to you, when you could have just told them in person, this is directed to you. Okay, yes, there are times when you need to send an email to someone in your direct vicinity, such as when there are multiple stakeholders in the conversation, or when you need a paper (or email) trail of the conversation. However if the request is a short, one-time thing, why not just ask in person? A little human interaction never killed anyone (that we know of.)

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5. the novel-sized email

Email is a great means of communication. It’s revolutionized the way we communicate at work and made our lives easier in many ways. However it’s not always the best way of communicating long or complex ideas. If you send someone an email that’s the size of War and Peace, there’s a good chance they’re going to a) ignore it, b) be confused or c) doze off reading it. Maybe you’d be better off calling a meeting or scheduling a phone call if the topic that needs to be discussed is particularly complex and will lead to many questions.

6. the ‘everyone is copied in’ email

If you work at a company that’s on the larger side, you’ve probably run into a few egregious abuses of the reply-all button. Let’s be honest, no one enjoys these emails. You might think you’re being nice by acknowledging someone’s promotion or achievement. But does everyone at the company need to know you wish so-and-so well? Send the person a direct email with the congratulations if you really want to acknowledge their efforts. This’ll prevent everyone at the company being bombarded with 25 one-word replies like ‘congrats!’ or ‘good job!’ that they need to waste time deleting or ignoring.

7. the ‘late to the conversation’ email

Ever been copied onto an email about 10 back-and-forth replies after the conversation started? It's even worse if the newest reply says something along the lines of ‘What do you think? See below.’ You have to read through all the replies to try and figure out what the hell is going on, and spend way more time trying to put together the puzzle than any reasonable person should. These kind of late-to-the-conversation emails are a hassle for everyone involved. If you need to, compose a new email that contains only the information the new entrant needs to know.

8. the ‘why was I copied in’ email

Have you ever received an email where it seems like the topic being discussed has absolutely nothing to do with you or your work? Admittedly, sometimes the line between relevant and unnecessary can be fine. And mistakes do happen. But let’s admit we all should take a moment before sending an email and think, ‘do I really need to be sending this to everyone in CC: bar?’ Unless someone’s input is essential, or they need to be aware of updates, you’ll probably be doing them a favour by not sending the email. Because, let’s face it, time is valuable and the less time we spend reading, sorting and replying to unnecessary emails, the better.

If we all could spend just a little less time answering emails, the world would be a better place. What are some of your best tips for optimizing your email productivity? Do you have any types of emails you hate to receive? Let us know on LinkedIn.

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