Do You Want or Give One Word Email Responses?

What are your feelings on receiving one word responses to emails? Do you give one word answers back to others?   I posed this question to many of my friends and work acquaintances over the years and got nothing but mixed messages. Some folks – just flat-out hated receiving them. Others felt like it was a way to insure that the message had been acknowledged. No consensus either way. For me, I am not a big fan, but I am guilty of offering up one word email messages from time to time. It is sometimes too easy…

Folks that don’t like the one word emails have a variety of reasons. The main one is it is a waste of email. Email is cheap, but when it hits your inbox – you have to do something with it. Time is money!  For me, I kept some stats on my inbox for 7 days. I averaged 500 emails per day. The one word emails back to me were about 20 per day. Overall that is not a high number, but it required me to look at it. Thank-you is cool and all, but not really necessary. The second loudest reason to not get those emails were many times the message was misinterpreted. Folks like to read into stuff too much. A simple okay could mean many things (got it, on it or the job will be done).  Which one is it?

Those that don’t mind those one word emails, say it is all about the acknowledgement of the message. They want to know that the receiver has gotten, opened and understood the message. They feel that a thank-you is important for the work that has been done. Definitely see no problem with the additional emails. To them it is building a relationship.

As a manager of a large teams, I have changed my philosophy on sending and receiving one word emails. Back in the day, I really did not care. When my inbox would explode to 500 per day, I started to care. I really wanted to reduce my time in email. I wanted to make sure that my work habits were really about getting work done, rather than spending time pushing emails. I started with reducing some of the work, by changing the email expectations of my team.  Asking them to do the same exercise on email stats. After 1 week of data gathering, it was apparent to the team that we needed to do something. We all felt that we need to change our email habits! We set out to work on how as a team we would change.

  • No one word emails! If the email was a work request or something that needed to get done (in the subject line we would add AR or Work Request – then the subject). No reply was necessary unless you could not do the work. Then we would start a dialog on the subject. The basic assumption was if you did not get back to the request in 24hrs – than you were on it.

The interesting part of this little exercise, we found out that we wanted to change more email habits for the better. We had some success with this one and the team wanted to go deeper… Look for a future post that has some more of what the team did…