Early in the week Paul Hebert wrote a provocative post about out of office email messages, reading his post made me think about one of my biggest email pet peeves: the “high priority” flag.
I used to think these were necessary but now I tend to wince when I see the red exclamation point in my inbox.
You see the problem is that the high priority flag is rarely used as intended. I would say that 9.75 out of 10 times when I receive a high priority email, the email is rarely high priority.
Here are some circumstances when the high priority email is un-necessary:
- It’s actually an emergency- in this case you may want to actually pick up that weird thing on your desk that you never use, it’s called a phone:I’m going to let you in on a secret…people receive so few phone calls these days that you may actually be able to speak with someone who will help you in a much quicker fashion then if you sent an email or IM. I’m not kidding about this, try this next time you are trying to get a hold of someone.
- Every email – I am sorry but every email you send is not high priority, no matter what company/business line/department/group or manager you work for. You should not send out every email designated as high priority. Do you know what happens when people realize you send out every email high priority? People ignore it – you have now become the girl/guy who cried “Email Wolf!”
- The email with pictures of your wedding/new baby/bridal shower/new house/ etc; Yes, Virginia, this person exists as well. Under no circumstances should you flag a personal email as high priority at work….it’s annoying and unprofessional at the least.
Do not get me wrong, I understand the need for the high priority flag, I’m just asking for some sanity when you use it. If you use it on rare occasions when you truly need rapid response time I get it, I understand, I will open your email first thing when I see it.
Think of the high priority flag like ancho chili powder- it should be used sparingly or you run the risk of annihilating the taste of your food, or in this case the message you are sending.