Tag Archives: emails

January 17, 2013, 3:23 pm

Let’s skip the small talk

I don’t understand why some people have such a strong resistance to using email to communicate at work. I frequently hear and read that “email is a distraction” and “it’s so much better to communicate face-to-face.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I can deal with most emails in two minutes or less, and I can do it when I want to. It’s a lot harder to get rid of most people who pop into my office in less than two minutes.

Especially when they want to chat.

I am not a small-talk kind of person. I’m not very good at it, and I don’t enjoy it. I’ll do it when it is socially required, and I always try to be friendly, but in general I try to avoid it. I especially hate it at work. I strive to be efficient and productive from nine to five so that I don’t have to work more than forty hours a week. I prefer just to get down to business in a meeting or when I have a work request for someone…

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February 1, 2012, 2:53 pm

How to appear competent in one easy step

Manage your email inbox well. That’s all there is to it.

Photo of cat in a cardboard box

Not that kind of inbox.

I understand that there are faculty members and administrators who receive many, many hundreds of emails a day and find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume. I wish them good luck. However, if you are a graduate student or postdoc, you do not receive “too much email.” You might think that you do, but you are wrong. I’m sorry, but it’s true. You are simply managing it poorly.

If you miss important announcements, if you regularly fail to respond emails from collaborators asking for input, if you can’t get things done in time because you “didn’t know” about them (because you didn’t see the email), you will be perceived as incompetent and a drain on more productive people. However, if you are able to quickly…

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September 23, 2011, 9:05 am

Advanced faculty wrangling techniques

Getting a group of faculty members together to accomplish something has often been compared to herding cats. I disagree. When I want to get my cats all into one room to do something at the same time, all I have to do is stand in my kitchen, open a can of Friskies, and yell “Num nums!”

Three cats in a neat row.

Cats, neatly lined up. Completely unlike faculty.

Not so with faculty. If you have, say, 20 professor cats, and you would like them all to arrive in the same place at the same time, you can’t just send out a general email to all 20 of them that says “Num nums will be served in the kitchen at 6 pm.” Most professor cats will just delete that email, if they see it at all. Only 2 or 3 professor cats will show up – the ones with the most interest in num nums and the most criticisms to offer. They will spend the whole time coming…

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September 16, 2011, 12:27 pm

Email autoreplies

I understand and accept the usefulness of email “away” messages. But I must admit it drives me crazy when someone emails me, and I hit “reply” and send a prompt response, only to get their “away” message in return.

Especially when the away message says “I will return on September 9 and respond to your email as soon as possible”… and it’s September 15.

October 14, 2010, 4:57 pm

Titles and respect

I see a lot of bloggers complaining that their students do not call them “Dr. So-and-so” and how that is disrespectful – and how it happens far more often to female faculty than it does to male faculty. Having done quite a bit of teaching myself, I understand the problem very well and sympathize.

But I would argue that it is worse when you are in an administrative position and the faculty members that you are managing assume you are staff, and address you as “Ms.” in their emails. Even when your email signature clearly points out that you have a Ph.D. When I was hired for this position, they were looking for someone who had a Ph.D. and who would continue to do active research, because they felt that it would be valuable for many of the responsibilities of this job. They are even giving me a faculty appointment in one of the departments to assist with things like getting funding. However…

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October 8, 2010, 10:12 am

Things that fill me with rage

Day 1: I send an email to all faculty with Request 1 for information.

Days 1-9: No response.

Day 10: I send an email to all faculty with Request 1 for information (Repeated), this time making it sound more urgent.

Days 10-15: A few responses dribble in.

Day 16: I send an email to 4 faculty members with Request 2 for something else needed for an upcoming event.

Day 18: One of the 4 faculty members – WHO NEVER RESPONDED TO REQUEST 1 – responded to Request 2, saying “This would be a lot easier if we had a list of info [that I asked for in Request 1].”


September 28, 2010, 7:00 am

Writing these emails wouldn't be so bad if somebody READ them

The text of an email I sent yesterday:

For the [funding agency name redacted] report, I need “brief biographical information in one page or less” from all of you. Basically, this is a one-page version of your [redacted]; the conflict of interest info is not required. I am attaching examples from [redacted]. Please send me your 1-page bios in the next week or so.


1. How many pages should this bio be?

2. How many people got the wrong answer to #1 yesterday??


September 27, 2010, 11:01 am

Re: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Email

Lately, if someone were to ask me what my job is, I would answer “Writing emails.”

I write emails. Then I wait for people to answer them. Most people don’t, so I have to write another email to follow up on the first email. Sometimes I make phone calls about why my emails weren’t answered.

When I do get responses to my emails, half the time the responders don’t actually give me the information I requested but instead either 1) ask me a different question or 2) explain why they can’t/haven’t yet/don’t have time yet/don’t know/are not the right people to give me the requested information.

Then I respond to that email and the cycle starts again.

I am pretty sure this is not the most efficient way to get work done.