I normally do not rant about my day to day work life. In fact, I take great pains to leave details about what I do out of this blog. (All the better to remain anonymous…) But, I can’t take it any more.

Our e-mail allows you to mark messages as “urgent,” which colors the message. Our voice mail system also allows you to mark messages as urgent, which brings them to the front of the queue when someone picks up their messages.

Because I have the maturity level of a 13 year old, if you mark your message as urgent and it’s not urgent, I will respond to you last. Yes, you heard me correctly. You get bumped to the bottom of the list.

Here is a handy guide to help you determine if the e-mail/voice mail you are sending me is urgent or not urgent.

There’s a board meeting in 30 minutes and I just found out they need the latest turnover figures! Can you help?

Not Urgent:
There’s a board meeting in two weeks and I just found out they need the latest turnover figures. Can you help?

Urgent but exceedingly annoying.
There’s a board meeting in 30 minutes and even though they asked me for turnover 2 weeks ago, I’m just now getting to you.

I have an employee that I just caught stealing computer equipment. Help!

Not Urgent:
I have an employee that I’m thinking about terminating at some time. Can we meet to discuss it?

Not Urgent:
How much vacation do I have left?

Not Urgent:
How come Bob gets more vacation than I do?

Not Urgent:
I heard a rumor that there might be layoffs sometime this year. Am I on the list?

Not Urgent:
Am I vested?

See, there are lot more things that are not urgent than are urgent. I have yet to get a vacation question that is urgent. Yet, the people asking tend to believe that all such questions are.

Stop it. You are annoying me.

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20 thoughts on “Urgent Messages

  1. “There’s a board meeting in 30 minutes and even though they asked me for turnover 2 weeks ago, I’m just now getting to you.”

    In my experience—worst offenders– legal department. We have a hearing tomorrow can you get (insert vague info request here) by noon. Sure, noon in what time zone? it’s 1145am. Oh, youve had this for 3 months?

  2. I cannot tell you the number of “urgent” requests that have come across my desk that the requester has known about for weeks, if not months, yet didn’t bother to ask about.

    Drives me nuts!

  3. Of course, the so-called “urgent” requests always have the “return receipt requested” on the note so the sender can document that he asked you and you got the email but you didn’t hop to it; therefore, the screwup is yours.

  4. I had a boss once who, when he knew the person was a chronic “return receipt” and “urgent” message abuser, would hit delete on all e-mails from that person without opening it.

    So, they got an e-mail back immediately stating that their e-mail had been deleted, unread.

    He would then go into the deleted folder and read the e-mail, but he loved to cause anxiety and freak outs in the abusers.

    I’m sure he got angry phone calls. Still cracks me up, but I don’t have the guts to do that.

  5. ah yes, the infamous return receipt–in that case, counter-attack with the also urgent “Ill need more information” email, and buy some time (or in my evil world– do it to cause delay and panic while you work on it)

  6. …stating that their e-mail had been deleted, unread.
    He would then go into the deleted folder and read the e-mail, but he loved to cause anxiety and freak outs in the abusers”

    Darn, I knew I should have patented that. I could be collecting royalties from him.

  7. I would actually tag the request 2nd one from the bottom “non-urgent” and “crazy if you’re asking HR this question and think you’ll get an answer”. Seriously.

  8. Funny -I just responded to an “urgent” email that was anything but. I definitely notice my tone is harsher when responding to those. This brings up a good question though -when forwarding an “urgent” email, do yu think to remove the urgent flag so that you’re not perpetuating the behavior?

  9. This post reminded me that I changed 2 settings in Outlook a long time ago:

    1) in the message list you can choose columns like “from”, “to”, “date”, etc. I just removed the column with the red “urgent” symbol.

    2) return receipt: my Outlook ignores return receipt requests. I don’t even know when someone sends me such a request.

    I’m much more relaxed since I changed these settings!

  10. I love it when a chronic non-responder to my requests sends me an email or voicemail and then shows up in person to ask me if I got their message. Telling them “no” and then watching their face twitch is really satisfying.

  11. Hmmm, I think that I’m not the only Evil HR person around. It seems to run in the profession.

  12. I always refuse to send a “return receipt.”

    Also – If it really is urgent, is email ever the right medium?? The reason I have a cell phone is for urgent, although if I don’t recognize your number (i.e. not programmed into my phone) it is almost never Urgent.

  13. The college that I attend sends us about 12 urgent emails a day. Most of them for things like “Speaker X will be here next month.” Since it is so much junk no one reads them. Unfortunately they sometimes send an actual important email and most of the students don’t read it. Which is why when the computer system quit allowing anyone to log in who hadn’t changed their passwords to the new type no one knew what was going on.

  14. I’ve had to train clients to live with my choice not to check email until around 11 each day. Most of them adapt quickly. It’s one of the advantage to not working in a corporation.

  15. These comments are only tailored to recipients who are truly “non-urgent”.

    But what about the legitimate urgent requests? Like the “I asked this from you 2 weeks ago and still haven’t heard back and I’m freakin’ b/c I DO need to go to a meeting in 30 minutes to present and where are my bleepin’ stats???”

    I can assure you that in moments like this, not only do I deploy “urgent” style vehicles, but also a quick march down to the individual so she can’t ignore my request, in person.

  16. @anonymous
    I would rather say that we wouldn’t write all these comments if only truly “urgent” messages were marked as such.
    The other anonymous (the one from the college) described it perfectly: dozens of wannabe “urgent” messages hide the truly “urgent-urgent” ones.

    Urgent messages should be the exception. They’re like us humans, they don’t get noticed if they’re like everybody else.

  17. I’m a recruiting supervisor, and one of the recruiters on my team suffers from exclamation point addiction. It drives me nuts. At the same time, she does it to everyone on the team, so one of my close colleagues and I have a contest going to see who can come up with the least urgent request from her that was marked “urgent”. I also love the “reply to all” feature. One of my favorite things is to watch two people have a conversation about their weekend, then come in on the 12837th one and ask if we need to have a call to discuss. It’s kind of fun to be evil sometimes.

  18. The Happy Employee – Our worst offender is one step ahead of that: She writes the important subject ” IN CAPITALS” and puts a space at the start like that, to separate it from your other (obviously less important) emails…

  19. The reason I now turn my personal cell phone off after 6pm. No one needs to know there date of hire that bad.

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