10 Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues with Email

When I go through my email, it’s filled with messages that break every rule of business email etiquette out there. If you want to annoy your co-workers, poor email etiquette is a great way to do it. Learn proper business email etiquette.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #197

10 Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues with Email

This past Friday afternoon, I opened my inbox to find yet another email with a big red exclamation point. Ugh!! I could feel my face heating up and turning red just like that stupid exclamation point. I wondered who was sending me this email and what was so urgent on Friday at 4pm. Did it really require an exclamation point?  .

As I suspected, it wasn’t an urgent email; at least not urgent for me. It was just another person annoying me by using that exclamation point for something that was urgent for them. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that some things require immediate attention, but 9 out of 10 times, when someone includes that red exclamation mark it really doesn’t qualify. Can you tell this is one of my pet peeves?

It turns out, however, that one good thing resulted from that not-so-urgent, urgent email. It gave me the idea to go through my email and write about the 10 most common ways people break the rules of email communication etiquette.

So, today, I have for you a “Top 10 List,” David Letterman-style. Here are the “Top 10 Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues with Email.”

#10: Read This (Just Because I Said So!)

I really hate when someone sends me a link with a short, vague note that says, "I think you'll like this" or "You should take a look at this." I never understand why the sender just didn’t take another minute to explain why I should take a look or why I would like it.  When I see an email like this, I usually assume it’s not worth my time and delete it—but that has gotten me into hot water. If you want a colleague to read or watch something, briefly explain in the email why they should take the time to do what you ask of them.

#9: Reply Now! Now! Now!

Please don’t expect an immediately reply, and then get mad if you don’t get it. Please don’t send me an instant message to tell me you just sent me an email that you want me to reply to asap. If I am not responding to email, usually it’s because I’m with a client or I’m working offline so that I don’t get interrupted. If you have something that is urgent, then email isn’t the best way to reach me. May I introduce you to an antique communication apparatus known as the phone?

#8: Leave the Subject Line Blank

The subject line is the most important part of the email. It’s how the receiver will prioritize your message. When I get an email with no subject line, I’m tempted to send it straight to the trash because quite often spam emails don’t have subject lines. Instead, I’m forced to open it and read it before can I decide what to do with it.

#7: Use a Stale Subject Line

I have nothing against recycling, except when it comes to email subject lines. I understand that one email will often spawn several different discussions. But if you change the topic being discussed in email, update the subject line; please don’t reuse the same one again.That creates confusion for all parties.

#6: Reply All

When you receive an email that has been sent to a large list, it is important to carefully consider if the entire list needs to see your reply. I often see this with congratulatory messages. The email says, “We are so proud of Ricky and his latest accomplishment!” and suddenly you have 30 replies saying “Congrats! “Way to go!” and on and on. Before you hit “reply all,” think about whether everyone on the “To” line needs to see your answer. It would be more personal if you sent your congratulations privately, or better yet, with a handwritten note.

See also: When Should You Send Mass Emails and Reply All...And Other Ways to Tank Your Career

#5: Give My Email to Everyone You Know

When you send a group email and include all the recipients on the “To” or “Cc” line, a whole group of people that I don’t know, now have my email address. If you want to include me, then use the Bcc function (blind copy) to hide my address.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.