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For years, I have used the following technique to ask for a status update for requests I have made. If I have not received a response after at least 48 hours and normally more, I sent the following email:

Please send a status update for this request. Thanks

If sometimes I am in a more polite mood and ask this way:

Would you please send a status update for this request. Thanks

In the last week, I have been received feedback from my manager and company director that this wording

seem kind of rude, aggressive

and

please check your tone in emails going to our client and the tone seems more like the tone of someone who works for you, not someone who pays your salary

How would you recommend I ask for a status update in a more professional, polite, and sensitive way?

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  • 5
    related: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/21987/102 May 5, 2019 at 16:08
  • 3
    Not a full answer but: I tend to agree with your manager, the wording seems awfully short, and lacking any greeting/etc. bordering on rude. I'd use this for people I now very well and have been working with together for years (maybe people in the same team), but never when communicating with a client.
    – fgysin
    Jan 20, 2020 at 11:56
  • Agreed, this is not the way to address a Client, it's fine IMO for teammates. Lots of good suggestions as to how to soften it below - ky advice is make it clear WHY it matters (is it just a status update or does Task XYZ that the Client really cares about depend on it?).
    – deep64blue
    Jan 5 at 13:35
  • "If I have not received a response after at least 48 hours"? Wow, that seems to me like an extremely short amount of time after which to request a "status update".
    – mrodo
    Jan 13 at 16:26
  • In our software company it is normal to send a reminder every 2 days (e.g. in teams/e-mail), where I also emphasize in a correct way that it is a 2nd or 3rd reminder. Much better and faster is to give someone personal attention and start a (teams) conversation with "Please do you have a minute..." or "when can we talk". This gives space to the audience and time to prepare. Jan 14 at 13:21

12 Answers 12

46

What I frequently would use, quite informally:

Hey, is there any news on my request?

This basically asks for the same thing, but sounds quite less demanding. I also think it is useful to ask concrete questions, including why it is important for you.

We are currently blocked by this issue, do you think the bugfix will be deployed this week?

Or

I would like to incorporate your plan in my presentation on Monday. Do you think you can send it by Friday, so that I can still include it?

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    Totally spot on, you are dealing with a person not a machine. Make the email sound like you are communicating with a person who has feelings and has a "relationship" with you...however plutonic it might be. Would you ask for a coffee and then ask the barista for a status report on your coffee?
    – mutt
    May 6, 2019 at 11:07
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    I'd also point that speech patterns and how you interpret them are highly culture-dependant. Example: I consider your wording aggressive even if you were my boss. If you're dealing with clients that do not come from the same culture as you, I'd err on the side of polite. Oct 8, 2019 at 18:54
  • if you receive requests like this, do you feel extra burden, because you're already know that you should report updates but you keeps forgetting to do so?
    – Ooker
    Sep 15, 2020 at 9:35
  • @mutt if its really late sure
    – bakalolo
    Jan 29 at 1:26
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It's always worth thinking about what you're actually asking for, and why.

As a busy geek, my gut-reaction to "status update" requests (even if I have the self control not to say so) is "if you people stopped bugging me for status updates, planning meetings, review meetings, "catch-ups" and the rest, I might actually have time to do stuff!".

"Status update" requests often fall into one of three categories:

  1. Thinly-veiled nags. (I asked you to do X, I've not seen evidence it's been done yet, and I don't trust that you're on the case)
  2. Back-covering. (Y assured me X was happening and going smoothly, so it's not my fault it's all gone pear-shaped)
  3. Managers are expected to provide reports to their boss weekly/periodically on their projects (possibly a variant of 2).

If it's not just a nag, terse "status update" requests often imply that there isn't a good ongoing dialog and human- or professional-interest in the project being enquired after.

If it is a nag, don't pretend it isn't. Try:

I'm sure you're busy, but have you had a chance to do X? We need it by Y because/it's holding up progress on Z. Is there anything I can do to help you achieve X?

If it's a genuine catch up, try:

Please can you spare a moment to write a couple of sentences to let me know how X is going. Give me a phone call if you think that'd be a better way to keep me informed.

Show that you're actually paying attention with:

Previously you mentioned you had a few concerns about X; how's that going/has that all been resolved now?

or

Previously you were anticipating some great results from ... ; how did that go?

Indicate the level of detail you're seeking. But consider whether a scheduled periodic phone-call/Teams-chat would be more interactive and give a deeper understanding of the progress.

6

You should ask for status update in such a way that it shouldn't sound impolite to the receiving person irrespective of whether they are a fellow employee, manager or client. This is how I usually deal with it.

Hi Jay,

Did you get a chance to try out the solution for the above error? Please let me know in case of any queries with the solution document. It would be great if you help me with the current status update so that we can be on the same page for the next meeting.

Thank you.

Kind regards, Kevin

1
  • Personally, I think that's far too wordy. When people have to remind me (which is often) I prefer informal and concise: "Hi, Michael, any chance you could raise the priority on this? We're hoping to get the project finished next week." Jan 13 at 9:53
3

Maybe a few variations of this?

Hi [name],

I hope you are doing well. I am writing you regarding <project/task>. Could you please give me a status update? Thanks for your help.

Bob

Emails can be easily misinterpreted, but once they read your name as the sender they will filter the text through their knowledge of you.

So, the best thing to do to appear kind and polite in emails is to first demonstrate kindness and politeness in your in-person interactions.

If you have a new colleague in your team, have a one-to-one meeting in person or with video with her/him before you start exchanging multiple emails per day.

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    "I hope you are doing well." is a bit too much. I think using greetings (with the person's name) and asking an actual question instead of demanding an update is all that is needed here.
    – MlleMei
    May 6, 2019 at 9:39
  • different strokes for different folks, I guess
    – user38290
    May 6, 2019 at 11:48
  • @MlleMei what language differentiate asking form demanding within a question? I am trying to understand how the tone is demanding. Thanks
    – Barry MSIH
    May 6, 2019 at 17:19
  • @BarryMSIH In the examples you provided, your tone indicates you're demanding something, instead of asking. Helena's answer is a good one on that front.
    – MlleMei
    May 7, 2019 at 11:50
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The usual method of making something sound polite is to ask "Hi Jane, could you provide a status update?", couching it as a request rather than an instruction to act, which is an example of the minimum amount of ceremony for any communication with another.

An alternative simple device could be "Hi Jane, do you have a status update for this?". This is couched as an enquiry into what they have (with the expectation that what they have be forwarded only implied).

In other cases, more padding will be necessary, especially if it's not reasonable to assume that the other person is familiar with the subject and history of your enquiry, or if the motivation or legitimacy of your request (including the legitimacy of approaching them instead of another person) would not be clear.

The only exception to these minimum markers of politeness is if your familiarity and collegiality with them is already sufficient to dispense with politeness and reduce the communication to a mechanical one, or if the situation is such that both sides understand that you are not addressing someone in a personal capacity, but triggering a functionary to act in a routine way with a known signal. Treating people as functionaries when they do not see themselves as being a functionary is impolite.

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I know I am late, but it's better late than never.

Politeness is the key

Politeness is the key feature of communication skill especially while talking to customers. Here are few ways that you can ask your customers about the next update:

a) There are two ways to ask for an update if you have asked customers to check something and waiting for their feedback on it:

METHOD 1

We certainly understand your busy schedule, but considering XYZ work as priority did you get a chance to check XYZ things so that you can update us?

METHOD 2

As you know we are working hard to serve you better and to help you serve much better in future, could you please help us with the latest update for the request sent recently?

b) If you are really pissed but still want to be as calm as the sea:

Considering XYZ project as priority when do you think you can get back to us after prioritizing your busy schedule with the latest update so that we can help you serve better?

May be this will help others.

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  • Personally I hate insincere explanations: "For the comfort and safety of all our passengers we will stop providing free meals". Better to have no explanation at all than one that's clearly a lie. Jan 13 at 9:56
  • @MichaelKay, I am sorry I didn't get you what you are trying to say. Are you saying what I have written is rubbish, or is it not? Jan 15 at 6:44
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    (Thinking of item 2 here) It's not rubbish, it just sounds to me like corporate puff. The purpose of the email is to make a request, not to go on about what a wonderful company you are. If you're going to pay any compliments, pay them to the other party, not to yourself. Jan 15 at 9:42
  • @MichaelKay, got that! Will ensure to avoid such statements in future. Thank you very much. Jan 16 at 5:52
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Personally I wouldn't ask for status updates if the original email was an explanation how to work something out. I would assume that the person was successful if they didn't reply with anything.

As far as asking for something or input from them. I usually just use the email that I initially replied with.

So if your initial email is something like....

X, I understand your issue that you cannot do Y. In order for me to assist you the best, I need to know why Z is. Can you please tell me what Z is?

Then if you don't hear anything, you can follow up with something similar....

X, I haven't heard back from you and I am sending a follow up. I am wondering if you were able to resolve the issue? If not, I can assist you.

And see what they say.

I do agree with your boss that just sending out simple "What happened?" emails tend to be informal. The person may have forgotten or got busy so they have to re-read what you sent instead of just answer yes/no.

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Requesting status, especially from someone outside of our sphere of influence, is a tricky thing. We have to be respectful but firm at the same time. Missing either of these attributes results in loss of trust or not getting the information that we are asking for.

My approach is to provide a quick recap of the plan that is already agreed upon, its importance and then seek an update on current progress. All this can be captured in few sentences.

Hi X, I hope you are doing well.

As part of project Y, we have an upcoming milestone to provide UX mocks by Z-Z date. This is an important one as product development will start once the mocks are available.

Could you please let me know the status update on your UX mocks deliverable?

Of course, persons with better language skills can make this even more effective. Overall idea is to emphasise on the importance of what we are asking for and then ask it. Politely.

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Have you ever though that maybe the problem is not only in how you ask a status update, but in the fact that you are requesting a status update at all, or at least, that you are requesting it too soon?

I don't know what field you work in, but 48 (or even 72) hours seems to me like an extremely short amount of time after which to send a follow-up request for a status update, unless you're dealing with really time-critical life-threatening stuff.

0

I used to work full time for many years but have a consulting business for the past few years. What I have realized is that you need a status update from your team because the client will explode if you don't give it to the client.

My team knows that if client is not happy then there is no more money coming in. All this politeness and all that does not matter because if there is no happy client then there is no money coming in. So my team is upfront because the edict in my company is - 'Keep the client happy always!'.

When someone joins my company, I tell them upfront that they have to provide daily updates as a discipline because its all about the client and the money.

You might find this toxic or what not, but I have been in this business for 20 plus years and it all boils down to keeping the client happy and the money! If your team cannot understand this then they are not living in the real world.

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If I were in your shoes, I would try to be a lot less blunt and a little more personal, no matter who is being addressed.

Hi, X. How is Project Y coming along?

You can also give your reason for asking for a status update:

Hi, X. What stage are we at with Project Y? I need something to feed back to Person Z

If you are asking about a delayed project:

Hi, X. Are there any remaining blockers for Project Y?

Or if the delay is unexpected an unknown:

Hi, X. Is everything okay with Project Y? I've noticed that Deadline Z [is fast approaching/has been and gone] and I'd like to know if there's anything that can be done on [our/my] end to [get/keep] the ball rolling.

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  • whoever voted this down, please have the courtesy to leave a comment to help us understand why. thanks
    – Barry MSIH
    Jan 27, 2020 at 19:28
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My modus operandi (between 2 time zones, 10 hours apart)

Day 1: request to Joe, cc: Joe's boss, asking for something (I am wide awake at work, Joe is asleep in bed) Go home; Joe is about to start work

Day 2 (if no action): query to Joe's boss, cc: boss's boss

It doesn't make friends, but it does influence people ...

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    if OP managers are concerned that the wording is agressive, adding more people into the emails, while surely effective, will enworsen the original problem when it could just be resolved with more polite wording.
    – Marc S
    Jan 12 at 23:25

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