5 Reasons Why Ignoring Emails Will Hurt Your Career

Everybody gets them. Unwanted emails from people you don’t give a hoot about or you wish would just go away. But is ignoring them the best way to deal with those pesky messages or requests? Probably not.

Here are five reasons why you may want to take the time to respond.

1. People Have Long Memories You may have forgotten all about their email, but they haven’t. Maybe you had a busy day and thought you would get back to them later and then forgot. Or maybe you saw their name on the screen and rolled your eyes thinking, “Oh them.” Rest assured they won’t forget your lack of response. They might forgive you once, but not the second time. That leads us to number 2.

2 .Your Reputation Will Suffer Unprofessional. That’s the adjective you might get tagged with, whether you realize it or not, if you ignore enough emails. If a coworker needs information and you ignore their email, you might be hindering them from doing their job. They won’t forget it (see number 1) and they may lose respect for you as a worker or professional. Sometimes a simple ‘OK’ or ‘TKS’ response is all that separates someone who is perceived as professional from someone who’s not.

3. Karma Whether you believe in it or not, what you do or do not do today will generally have consequences tomorrow. Said another way: What goes around comes around. A former colleague you ignored last year when they emailed for advice on a subject you specialize in, might just be the decision maker on the sales account you’re trying to snag today. That email from a coworker you couldn’t be bothered to answer last week might put you on the bottom of their ‘To Do’ list when you need information or help doing your job.

4. It’s Bad Business This is the business world, not junior high school. We’re not in a popularity contest. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has a value to you and what you do. Whether it’s your mother’s neighbor’s son, who is a recent college graduate, or a coworker you never liked, who is now unemployed, you ignore their email at your own peril.

The neighbor’s son might in five years lead a start up that makes software that would improve productivity at your company. No discount for you. You ignored his request for help when he was fresh out of school and needed all the help he could get. That unemployed coworker could show back up as your immediate supervisor. Ouch. (again see number 1).

5. It’s Rude Your mother taught you better manners. Manners aren’t just about not putting your elbows on the table. The true reason for manners is to make others feel comfortable. Business is still about people. Successful people make others feel comfortable. In this very competitive world, if a person has the choice between working with someone rude, or someone who makes them feel comfortable, it’s a no brainer who they will pick. Unless you’re Steve Jobs, your skills are replaceable, and they will be.

Even with the best intentions, replying to an email can sometimes fall through the cracks. If you find that happening a lot, it might be time to develop a system for yourself. Try one of the following on for size:

  • Make it point to review your emails regularly for ones you’ve missed. Maybe set up a reoccurring calendar item that reminds you to do it once a week. The person on the other side will be happy you responded even if it’s five days after the fact. That’s better than no reply

  • Consider creating a folder for emails that need a reply but you might be too busy to answer immediately. Develop the habit of moving those messages into the folder so that you can answer them when things slow down.

  • Most email systems have a built in method of marking or otherwise labeling messages that need attention. Experiment with those.

The key though is to realize the importance of answering everyone’s emails. It’s good business, plus your mother would be proud.

Carol Wolf is a freelance ghostwriter and wordsmith. She can be reached at CarolWolfMedia@gmail.com

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