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I do a lot of short term, temporary work. I had an interview with a company awhile ago. They decided to "hire" me and said I would be getting a lot of work. For the several months I received no work but still received all their emails. My manager changed several times (as I know from the emails I had been receiving). Some of the emails were very long, and technically speaking since I wasn't receiving any work couldn't possibly apply to me. As such, I started skimming them over or ignoring them completely.

Recently I started getting work. When I asked my current manager a question, he replied asking me if I had received a certain email from someone several months ago. I misspoke and said I was receiving a lot of emails and wasn't getting paid to read them. (this was rude of me but I asked the manager a question that really was his responsibility to know)

My point is, I had been receiving 100s of emails and since I wasn't getting any shifts I wasn't getting paid to read them. Now that I started to get shifts I read everything carefully. How can I better phrase this? Should I try to explain what I meant by this to the manager?

closed as unclear what you're asking by gnat, Michael Grubey, Bilkokuya, Strader, JazzmanJim Apr 10 at 17:21

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    Your manager asked you a question. You responded with sass, condescension, sarcasm, and rudeness. Here's your answer "I don't know, let me check". I don't know why you think he cares that you were receiving 100s of emails months ago and weren't getting paid to read. His question was simple. Yes, No, or Let me check. You would be fired if Joe was your boss. – Jack Apr 10 at 1:53
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    Interesting that all the answers / comments seem to suggest that you should « work » for free ie read all emails even if you don’t get any work.... – Solar Mike Apr 10 at 4:30
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    You're not calling anyone out here. The only childish one here is you I'm afraid. And spreading lies? Truly a childish remark. I am not surprised anymore with how you responded to your manager. – Jack Apr 10 at 9:56
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    @SolarMike Who said anything about working for free? His manager asked him a very simple question. Did he receive an email or not. He asked him this during work hours I presume. His only answer should've been Yes, No, or Let me check. – Jack Apr 10 at 9:58
  • In the comments, you mentioned " I'm only paid for shifts. I do not read emails during shifts. Therefore I'm not paid to read emails". Does your employer forbid you from reading your work emails during shifts (including, not giving you the equipment that would allow you to do so), or is this your personal choice? I'm asking because in most employments, reading emails is considered part of the job (and it's assumed everybody uses some of their paid time to do so) – Bilkokuya Apr 10 at 10:06
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Just keep it simple

I may have received the email a couple months ago but due to the volume of emails I receive daily I can't say for sure if I received it. Let me look and get back to you

Its perfectly normal to forget about emails or forget to respond to emails- obviously don't neglect your email but I don't think anyone will fault you for not remembering an email you received several months back.

Don't mention about it not being part of your job to read emails- because its kind of assumed that you will check your work-related emails for any job you work.

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    I guess I'm wondering, did they really expect me to be reading all the emails when I wasn't getting worked? Is it fair to do so even when not getting paid? – Bertelem Apr 9 at 21:47
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    @Bertelem I don't think most people read every single email they receive at work- but I'm sure the expectation was there for you to at least be checking for and reading the important emails you were receiving. If you missed one its no big deal- but people don't get paid to read emails. If you felt it was unfair that you weren't receiving work you should have left the company. – chevybow Apr 9 at 21:56
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    @chevybow I have to read all my work emails - from students and staff.... – Solar Mike Apr 10 at 5:27
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    people don't get paid to read emails Oh yes they are, as it is part of the job. If your boss wants you to do something, you are working for him and you should get paid. – SJuan76 Apr 10 at 9:32
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    @chevybow and everyone else seems confused by a pretty simple concept here: the original poster doesn't appear to have a full time or permanent position. He gets assigned shifts occasionally. During time periods when he is not assigned any work, he is not meaningfully an employee. Emails sent to him during time frames when he's not getting any shifts are spam, and nothing more. – tbrookside Apr 10 at 11:38
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My current manager asked me if I had received a certain email from someone several months ago. I misspoke and said I was receiving a lot of emails and wasn't getting paid to read them. (this was rude of me but I asked the manager a question that really was his responsibility to know)

How can I better phrase this?

How about something like "I'm not sure boss. Let me check my emails and I'll get right back to you."?

Rudeness seldom pays off.

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    The OP should be prepared to get fired. Giving sass to your boss for asking a question? Unacceptable. – Jack Apr 10 at 1:49
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    It sounds to me more like the boss was demanding to know why OP wasn't working (keeping track of company updates via email) during time frames when he wasn't actually on the clock (i.e. being paid either a salary or an hourly wage). Had this happened in the US, his boss would have been straightforwardly breaking US labor law. It's like a boss demanding to know why you weren't reading all the company emails while you were laid off and on unemployment. – tbrookside Apr 10 at 11:41
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    @JoeStrazzere Yes, I did. It seems pretty clear that the exchange involved OP not knowing something, and the boss thinking he should know it, because the expectation was that OP would read all emails and learn and retain all their associated information even during time frames when the company gave him no hours. The boss may have innocently expected this, and not been aggressive about it, but it's the expectation itself that I find unreasonable and possibly illegal. And I tend to be a "see management's side of it" type of guy most of the time. – tbrookside Apr 10 at 11:49
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You has asked some connected questions:

"How to explain to manager that I wasn't reading emails because I wasn't receiving shifts and therefore not getting paid (for 100s of emails)? How can I better phrase this? Should I try to explain what I meant by this to the manager? I guess I'm wondering, did they really expect me to be reading all the emails when I wasn't getting worked? Is it fair to do so even when not getting paid?"

I see two questions in that:

  1. Was it correct of the manager to expect the "email reading thing" of you?

  2. How can you fix your relation with this manager?

1. Was it correct of the manager to expect the "email reading thing" of you?

This depends from the place in which you are working: what laws, what employment contract ...

From Europe I can say, if you not "at work" you do not have to read E-Mails in general. But most bosses and most employees do so, because of a feeling of liability. In my opinion in case of emergency the people take the phone to contact me...

Another point is: the manager can expect a lot, but one can refuse polite with (or sometimes without) good arguments.

2. How can you fix your relation with this manager?

If you feel sorrow for your "rudeness" you can talk to the manager. Explain, that the load of E-Mails was a lot and upsets you (a lot/a little), and because you do not have started shifts, you expected you do not have to read all of them in time.

In each case ask the manager, how you should handle this in future and how other employees do. (That shows your interest, to respect the rules of your workplace) If the managers expectation differ a lot from yours, maybe both of you can find a compromise (you have to give arguments, a nice thing here is "work live balance", a lot of managers want to make a good picture of them in this field).

And next time think before react : ) Most times people misinterpret each other, especially if they are not familiar with each other (yet).

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