No doubt it’s frustrating when people won’t return your emails. However, if you become rude or demanding, you only increase the chances that they’ll delay responding longer—or that they don’t respond at all. Instead, follow these tips to garner a response without damaging the work relationship:
Make it easy for them to respond. People may skip over a long, complex email. Keep it concise and to the point, and tell them exactly what you need them to do next and by when. Don’t fill the message with fluff. While you should be polite, skip the pleasantries.
Use your subject line wisely. Including “Your response is needed by 10/15” or some other directive can help people prioritize the message. Avoid flagging every message as “URGENT” or “IMPORTANT,” and use those distinctions only for messages that truly are.
Ask them to confirm. Don’t make it easy for people to say, “I never got that message.” Include in your email, “Please respond to confirm you received this by 4:00 p.m. today.” If they don’t confirm receipt, stop by their office or call them. The more you do that, the less likely they will be to ignore future messages.
Time a follow-up. Depending on the scope of the task, you may need to follow up a day or two before the deadline. Forward the original message, and say “I haven’t received a confirmation from you, and I just want to ensure that you are all set to deliver this by 10/15.”
Don’t start copying other people. You may be tempted to copy the person’s boss or some other authority figure to force him or her to act. That almost always backfires. You may make an enemy of your co-worker and come across as a tattletale to your boss.
Call or meet the person face to face. If after two emails you’ve heard nothing, pick up the phone and call them or visit their workspace to remind them of the deadline.
At this point, you may need to state some consequences if they fail to act. For example, “If I don’t have your feedback by 1:00 p.m. today, I will have to submit the plan to Joe without it.” Most will act fast so that they don’t look bad in front of the team or.