The 12 most annoying email behaviours

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Where  would the modern workplace be without email? According to statistics*, 107 trillion emails were sent in 2010 alone, and an average of 294 billion were sent per day.

Yet it all comes at a price. In the course of his work with a wide range of companies, US-based workplace training expert David Grossman heard more and more employee accounts of feeling overloaded and stressed by email. So he conducted some research into employee perceptions of email and found that:


  • While participants are overwhelmed by email, they still believe it is an effective communication tool (84% of executives, 84% of middle managers and 77% of employees concurred).
  • Email “misbehaviors” are the problems that need to be addressed to improve email efficiency (61% of executives and 55% of middle managers said reinforcing email etiquette would be very effective at improving e-mails in their workplace).
  • Email is a multimillion-dollar problem for large organisations - middle managers said they spend 2.5 work weeks a year just dealing with irrelevant emails. Some companies are fighting back by banning email, mandating time off from email, and developing other communication channels in lieu of email, but the research shows these efforts don’t get to the root of the problem.

Grossman’s research also led him to put together the following lighthearted list of the 12 most obtrusive, inefficient, costly and annoying email misbehaviors:


  • The Motor-Mouth is the back-and-forth replier who fills your inbox with small comments that take time to sort through, but rarely add value to the conversation.
  • The Hermit doesn’t lift his head up from the screen, emailing away when a phone call or face-to-face conversation would be more efficient.
  • Reflexive Reply-All’s don’t bother to take 10 seconds to think about to whom they actually need to reply. They  tend to fill up your inbox, regardless of whether or not you need to see their message.
  • Clear as Mud emailers don’t structure their communication in a way you can quickly and easily understand, and one wonders why they sent you the message in the first place.
  • The Town Crier has a large carbon (copy) footprint, neglecting to use the bcc field for large groups of recipients.
  • The Windbag blathers on in long, drawn-out emails, using many paragraphs to make a simple statement – adding stress to your workday and distracting you from priority work.
  • The Cliffhanger doesn’t include next steps in their email, generally meaning everyone takes the message as an FYI and nothing gets done.
  • Captain No-Context peppers you with emails that don’t tell you what it is they’re emailing about or why it’s pertinent, ultimately forcing you to respond with questions and wasting your time.
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf sends routine messages with red flags and urgent subject lines, pulling your attention away from work that’s actually a priority.
  • The Black Hole doesn’t reply to your email, leaving you to wonder where things stand or if they read your email at all.
  • The Gas Station Attendant fills up your email with unannounced large attachments that clog up your server and exhaust the storage limits of your inbox.
  • Old Yeller believes the constant or periodic use of all capital letters and exclamation points somehow elevates their message to a higher status, in spite of its unprofessional appearance.

The upshot? Used well, email is an important communication tool that makes us more efficient and effective individually and collectively, Grossman concluded. “But this list sheds a fun light on a serious problem, and is something everyone can relate to and everyone can learn from – minimising the downsides to workplace email and maximising its upsides.”

*Website monitoring service


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