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rockstar.esq

Any suggestions on addressing email echo?

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The volume of email at work has become unmanageable.  I have always sorted emails into job specific folders.  Two years ago, a project would go from beginning to end with 30 emails on smaller jobs, and perhaps 100 on bigger ones.  Today, my job folders overflow with over 2,000 emails apiece.  The jobs aren't bigger or more complicated.  

There seem to be two main causes of this increase.  The first is that companies have shifted away from having a single point of contact in favor of "collaborative" teams.  This has become the standard since the stay-at-home orders pushed people into telecommuting.

The second cause, is that every message is treated like a forum to discuss anything tangentially related to the job.  Everyone uses "reply", so I end up with a folder filled with dozens of emails that share the same subject heading.  It's gotten to the point where I can't ask rep A to send me document B, without half a dozen mostly irrelevant email exchanges popping up before I get the requested document.  It's like an echo chamber.  Some jobs/teams are better than others, but it's getting to where I'm averaging 100 emails per hour on a bad day.  

I can't just "tune out" my emails, because I'm always up against a deadline to deliver things pertaining to documents that are typically emailed to me. 

Any ideas?

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Dear Rockstar,

My only thought is that you get up on your back legs and say that you need ONE and only one contact person for each team with which you are dealing.  Tell them what you have told us, that you are being swamped with emails from all the team members to the point where you cannot get any work done yourself.  Let the team leader distribute your messages within his or her team.  You cannot have a bunch of group discussions.  You are not a member of their team.  You are a  person for their team to communicate with, as a team, with one team voice.

I also suggest that you discuss this with your own higher ups and tell them that this is a serious problem and here is how you going to deal with it.

I'm sorry that I can't suggest anything more substantive.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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George,

Thank you for your suggestion.  I think you're right, and I'll apply your advice where I can.  

Sadly, I suspect this is the natural outcome of a cost-cutting effort throughout my industry.  Senior people are getting laid off and their responsibilities are being spread among several inexperienced workers who prioritize participation over production.

 

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A large part of the problem may be that these folk are not very good at or experienced in functioning as a member of a team.  There is a whole set of group dynamics for working on a team and not everyone has ever learned them. Everyone needs to be aware of their role in a team and what to communicate to other team members so that the other members have the information necessary to do their job.  Too often everyone gives everyone else a stream of consciousness. Too much noise, not enough information. 

This is similar to the dynamics of a staff.  Not everyone knows how to be a good staff member and not everyone knows how to properly work with a staff that is supposed to be advising them.

It sounds like you are dealing with the reality of what a guy I used to work with recommended for making people think that you are crazy so that you are treated with caution, bang your forehead with the heel of your hand vigorously and say loudly, "All of you, just shut up!"

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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George, your reply reminds me of a science class assignment in middle school.  We were supposed to write down all the necessary steps to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Almost all of us forgot to begin with instructions on how to obtain peanut butter, jelly, and bread.  I don't think anybody recommended a particular type.  To teach us a lesson, the teacher went out and bought the worst looking options that technically followed the most detailed instructions.  The end product was unappealing. 

 

 

 

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