Just Send An Email

Anti-Patterns for email-centric organizations

http://email-anti-patterns.com
@JustSendAnEmail

Email Anti-Patterns List

Redirect

You send an email politely asking for something and the reply politely informs you to send your request to someone else.

Redirect (Setup)

From: B
To: A

Dear A,

could you please do this?

Thanks,
B

Redirect

From: A
To: B

Dear B,

sorry, I am unable to comply with your request. 
Please kindly contact C, who will be able to 
assist you instead.

Thanks for your understanding,
A

Redirect

  • How long before you get a redirect?
  • How many times do you get redirected around?

Redirect (Refactored)

From: A
To: C
Reply-To: B
CC: B

Dear C,

I am forwarding you B's request, 
which I know you can take care of.

Thanks,
A

PS.

Dear B,

in the future, please contact directly 
C to deal with such matters.

Thanks,
A

--- Begin Forwarded Message --
From: B
To: A

Dear A,

could you please do this?

Thanks,
B

Re:gret

The email you put off responding to since you want to give it your full attention - and thus never answer, giving the sender the impression you don't care, when in fact it's the most important thing in your inbox.

Faked Reply

Prepending your email subject with "Re:" to make your message appear as if it was a reply

Unsecure sensitive email

Whatever you send by email, unencrypted, is available for the rest of the Internet to read.

Unsecured Sensitive Mail

  • Content can be read by anyone along the way
  • Identity of the sender can be forged
  • Time of the message can be set arbitrarily
  • Message payloads can be tampered with
  • No guarantee messages will arrive

On Behalf

From: A
To: C

On behalf of B:

----

Dear C...

On Behalf (Setup)

From: B
To: A

Dear A,

could you please send the message below to C?

----

Dear C...

On Behalf (Failed Reply)

From: C
To: A

Dear B...

On Behalf (Reply)

From: C
To: A

Dear A,

could you please send my reply to B? 

----

Dear B...

On Behalf

How to make it difficult for everyone that receives your email to answer you directly by replying to the email?

If you are wondering why nobody is answering to your emails, try to send them on behalf of yourself

To for Two

When you send 1 email to 2 (or N) people, nobody feels in charge and you get 0 answers.

To for Two

From: M
To: A, Z

Dear A and Z...

(Followed by no reply)

fw'd:cc'd

When someone forwards me an email that I was already cc'd on.

Apply by Mail

Please kindly submit your application by email

Please confirm your participation by email

Process Patch

Exploit email to exchange at any time whatever information is not explicitly foreseen by the process you are supposed to follow

Process Patch

  • Missing activities?
  • Missing data?
  • Approaching deadlines?

Just send an email

Process Patch (Refactor)

  • Using email as a work-around is acceptable for dealing with unforeseen exceptions
  • Do not institutionalize email process patches: eventually the process should be fixed to include the missing activities, reminders and data

Attached Body

An empty email with an attachment containing the actual message

Datamail

Email used for asking a person to read or write data into files, databases, or information systems

Collaborative Edit

Attempt to write a document with multiple authors exchanging drafts over email

Collaborative Edit

Can someone please send me the latest version?

Dear Tpyo

I could not care less about spelling your name right...

Dear Tpyo

Even if you don't re-read your emails, please spell check the name of the recipient

Copy it from their email signature if it is difficult to spell

Lightning Reply

Lightning replies reach your inbox while your email client is still working on sending out the original message

Lightning Reply

Ok
Yes
No
Thanks
Come and see me right now
Cool: I will reply later

Lightning Reply

  • Impossible to recall emails: re-read one more time, think before you send it
  • You are setting expectations: next time it should be sent even faster

Eager Undetected Reply

Please kindly return your complete report within a month
(Two hours later)
Please find attached the complete report as requested
(One Month later)
Your report is now overdue. Please send it as soon as possible, as your delay is severely impacting our productivity.
What would be your reply?
Please find attached the complete report as requested
Fwd: Please find attached the complete report as requested
Please check your inbox, I did actually already send you the completed report sometime ago

Untimely Reminder

Broadcasting reminders via email addressed to an entire organization five minutes before the event can be a symptom of desperation.

5pm Reply

  • A polite clarification question
    (What did you mean?)
  • A friendly redirect
    (I am not who you were looking for anyway)
  • Always at the end of the business day
    (The next email will need to wait until tomorrow)

Friday Evening Reply

  • A nicely worded acknowledgement
    (Thanks for waiting)
  • Some excuse that nothing happened yet
    (My boss was traveling)
  • Always at the end of the week
    (So my inbox is emptier)

Monday Morning Mail

  • How do you get the attention of busy professionals overwhelmed by hundreds of emails every day?

Unintended Reply-To-All

Replying to all recipients with the intention of privately replying to the original sender only

Unintended Reply-To-All

To: all
Subject: Salary reduction

Dear all, 

due to the current economic situation we must reduce everyone’s salaries and will begin enacting our early retirement program. 

Sincerely, 
Your CEO.

Unintended Reply-To-All

To: all
Subject: Re: Salary reduction

Dear finance department members, 

you will get your bonuses as planned, and do not worry: the retirement program that has been just announced will not affect our department. 

Sincerely, 
Your CFO.

Intended Reply-To-All

To: all
Subject: Re: Salary reduction

Dear IT department members, 
 
we have decided to outsource the finance department, and do not worry: you are getting their bonuses.

Sincerely, 
Your CTO. 
 
P.S. Oops, did I just send that to all?

Total Recall

Asking the Internet to please disregard your last email

Total Recall

To: all
Subject: Recall: Salary Reduction

Dear all, 
 
please ignore my previous message.

Your ex-CFO.

--

Dear finance department members, 

you will get your bonuses as planned, and do not worry: the retirement program that has been just announced will not affect our department. 

Sincerely, 
Your CFO.

Fuzzy Link

For more information visit my homepage!

(Nothing happens when you click on ‘homepage’)

Fuzzy Link

You can find more information about the detailed
product specification on our company website.
The forms should be completed, signed and returned to us. They can be downloaded from our website, look under the registration pages.
Select one option out of the list which you can find linked above.
It’s on the wiki. You received a link to access the wiki in the email I sent you when you joined our project team.
Thanks for reporting the bug, please go to our support page, I am sure you will find the fix ready for download there
You find the documentation attached to the mail I already sent you the other day.

Fuzzy Link (Refactor)

  1. Refer to a website: copy and paste the link!
  2. Refer to a previous mail: give the exact date and subject

Email from God

Dear all,

effective immediately...
  • Random frequency
  • Context-free changes
  • Deadline-free actions
  • Channel-free polls

META SPAM

Dear all,

as you may have noticed today you are receiving
some SPAM messages.

You are kindly asked to not respond to them.
Our office is working hard to stop them
and prevent their spread.

In case you already answered to those email,
we kindly ask you to immediately change
your account password.

Sincerely,
IT Services

The sender's perspective

  • Do I really need to send an email?
  • Do I really need to send it right now?
  • Do I really need to send this mail to everyone?

The recipient's perspective

  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Deny
  • Delay
  • Do

Read the book


Cesare Pautasso, Just send an email: Anti-patterns for email-centric organizations, Leanpub, 2015-2017