7 deadly email sins and possible cures

email_overloadEmails are a curse of the modern professional world. Day in and day out, staying connected all the while, emails never cease to exist. Occupational psychologist Dr Emma Russell, who is based at Kingston Business School, believes she has identified the seven deadly email sins that can lead to negative repercussions if not handled correctly.

Responding to out of hours emails, for instance, might make an employee look keen but it could also mean workers find it difficult to switch off, according to the study. “This puts pressure on staff to be permanently on call and makes those they are dealing with feel the need to respond,” Dr Russell, an expert at Kingston’s Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS), explained.

The report was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference. The seven deadly email sins from the report are presented here along with possible ways to tackle them:

Ping pong – constant emails back and forth creating long chains
Solution: Get up from your desk or pick up the phone. Talk and settle things out.

Emailing out of hours
Solution: Yes, staying connected all the time is becoming part of the culture but there still needs to be a stipulated time you give yourself without any device around. Email hours can extend a few hours after work time as well but an empty bracket makes a lot of difference.

Emailing while in the company of other people
Solution: This point is not very clear whether it means emailing others while in the presence of their company (because that also happens).

Ignoring emails completely
Solution: When emails are not responded to, a sort of discomfort starts rising within the person who has sent the email. When someone raises a query or expresses a feeling, he or she expects some sort of a response. As a company policy, internal mails can be given a time frame of a few days beyond which a reply can be made mandatory even if it is ‘Let us take this offline’.

Requesting read receipts
Solution: Almost everyone serious about their jobs reads emails. Even though there are some who do not, requesting a receipt on an email is a bad etiquette, better avoided.

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Responding immediately to an email alert
Solution: This response is necessary in many jobs but such behaviour increases anxiety within a person. A 10-minute slot every one hour can solve the problem to an extent.

Automated replies
Solution: Too impersonal but necessary in cases of very high mail volumes.

How have you dealt with email overload? Do comment.

About the author

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about and analysed more than 1000 startups. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he plays with technology, farming and eco-construction. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at

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