Posted by: kerrywills | August 13, 2010

Not responding is unacceptable to me

I have to say that my biggest frustration in the workplace has to be people who don’t respond to messages (or need to be asked five times before they respond). Unfortunately due to workloads most corporate cultures today communicate almost exclusively through e-mail. This causes project deliverables to be dependent on the responsiveness of the people who get the e-mails. I understand there are people who have hundreds of e-mails and may take some time to get back but what i cannot deal with is people who don’t respond at all.

When people join companies, there is nothing in their orientation materials that says that work or responding is discretionary. So to not respond at all to messages seems like a form of insubordination and poor performance. I am probably taking a more aggressive view on this but my mindset is one of efficiency, responsiveness and productivity. Therefore, having to follow up with people on items where 3-5 messages were sent seems like a waste of time to me.  I think it is perfectly reasonable to respond saying “I can’t get to it now” or “I don’t think this is my accountability” in which case a conversation can be had. But by not responding it puts the onus on the sender to keep following up vs taking accountability for the item.

Just click the button

I know I have a pretty strong stance on this so am interested in other opinions.



  1. Hi Kerry – I certainly understand where you are coming from. You probably feel this more acutely than many others given Project Management responsibilities.

    I had a bit of a rant on a similar topic a bit ago ( Replying is part of basic social skills, not just skills in the work environment.

    RSVPs – what are those? No one seems to reply to those any more either. It’s hard to accruately plan events when you have no idea how many people will show up. If I don’t know, I simply reply that I don’t know at this time and will let you know if the situation change.

    I believe that this is a symptom of several things (might be a root cause of why you have challenges in PM, but it is symptom when viewed from the other side).

    1 – Lack of Clear Line of Sight: Accountability, Authority, Responsibilities are often murky in the work environment.
    2 – People don’t want to stand-up and be accountable, to make a decision or draw a line in the sand. That is risky. Especially these days – or many feel this way.
    3 – Group think or consensus building.
    4 – Overloaded work environments.

    As you noted, emails are overloaded these days. I believe that this can be changed by:
    1 – RESPONDING. As you noted, you often have to send multiple messages.
    2 – PICK UP THE PHONE. Sometimes a situation requires a two-way dialog. Texting and email seem to be the default. It takes more time (at least for me) to type than talk. It can be comfortable to type, not talk but it is often less efficient.

    3&4 go together. I saw a client situation last year where the cc list was out of control. It stemmed from the top. To decrease the number of individuals cced, if often means that there will be times where someone didn’t know something or someone is caught “unaware”. To me, this is an acceptible and reasonable exchange for reducing the complexity of many situations and reducing the in-box overload. In the long run, it will actually add to better knowledge.

    Clarifying #1 and taking on #2 also make a huge difference. I’ve seen situations go around and around because of problems related to these two items. For years, I ask myself (and others) the following question – “who’s decision is this.” There are times to provide opinions, times to argue and times not to argue. Sometimes the best way to help is to simply get out of the way.

    So there’s my long-winded reply. Am I perfect in my own responses, no. Do I know I try more than others, yes. No only do I have internal, but also external validation for this. Someone recently reached out to me to alert me of a situation. Why, to quote them “you always reply. I didn’t think you knew because I had not heard from you.”

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Ryan, linusjf. linusjf said: Not responding is unacceptable to me « Adventures in Project Management: via @addthis […]

  3. I agree with the article 100% Its a pet peeve of mine when people don’t respond.

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