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I am working in IT and I include my supervisor (Technical Lead) in emails whenever needed. I notify him through Jira tickets ( he will get email notification ) whenever something he needs to be aware of about that particular Jira issue. Usually my mails have all the information he needed such as information, attachments, screenshots etc.

Hi sits next to me,and asks me ( most of the time ) like what happened to that issue and expecting me to explain in detail for 5-10 mins at least ( every time ).

I asked him directly couple of times as below.

Did you read my email?
Read my email first and ask me if you need any further information.

But when I say like above he gets upset or angry. So it is counterproductive and bad for my career. On the flip side, if he sends an email, he expects me to act immediately on that email.

How can I ask him to read emails without spoiling my career?


Update: ( after read some answers and comments)

To give more clear picture, He and I are both developers and our roles are 90% the same, so we both get same number of emails/responsibility except as he is from client organization and I am from vendor, I am reporting to him.

He is not managing a big team but only 2 people including me.

  • Does he get a lot of emails? From his perspective, if he gets a lot of email, or if he needs to know the answer to it at a moment's notice he may not want to take the time to sort through his emails to find the one you sent. Some people simply prefer face-to-face so they can ask questions and not have a misunderstanding. It can be incredibly frustrating if a co-worker refuses to answer a question and instead refers to an email. – Keith Jun 5 at 16:18
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    "Did you read my email? - Read my email first and ask me if you need any further information." Not the best tone to use when addressing your manager. – cdkMoose Jun 5 at 16:42
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    Nope. But he is the boss. – Keith Jun 5 at 17:18
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    The boss is the boss....ticking him off because you don't want him to bother you before he reads your emails is career limiting and potentially career killing. The size of the team is really not relevant. – Mister Positive Jun 5 at 17:19
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    You can ask him if you can just stop sending him emails since he doesn't read them and they're burning up your time at work. Or he might expect you to waste time writing things nobody reads, although honestly that would burn away my motivation pretty quickly. – Erik Jun 6 at 5:45
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This fellow has made it part of your job to explain things in person. It really doesn't matter whether you think it's inefficient. It's what he wants, and, boss. And, challenging him in the moment -- at the time he asks for an explanation -- might be a career-limiting move. It's definitely counterproductive.

Here's what you can do. When he asks about something you've written up, say, "please let me refresh my memory on that so I give you good information." Then find the ticket or email, open it, and take a moment to read it. If you can do this in a way so he can read it too, you'll appear to be professional and detail-oriented.

And, you can have a conversation -- not when you're discussing a particular issue -- with him about how best to communicate. "I know you prefer to have issues explained personally. Do you think I'm spending too much time writing up details?"

14

As a frame-challenge to your question, consider that your manager may be receiving many emails from many employees giving all kinds of detailed information. The problem from his perspective may not be whether or not he is in possession of the answer, the problem may be the effort and time required to sort through information and distill out the most important points.

In other words, you providing him with a constant stream of updates via email may not actually be helpful to him, based on how and when he needs to be able to get status updates.

Instead of sorting through emails himself every time he needs an answer, if he delegates that thought-effort to you, it may be less effort for him since he gets the relevant and most up to date information right when he needs it, with less effort.

That may seem "unfair" since he's dumping the work back on you, but as your manager, that's essentially what his role is - to decide who spends what effort on which problems. That effort and problem equation includes things like the effort required to give an accurate and up to the minute status on an issue.

This doesn't have to mean that you're stuck without options. It does seem clear that you emailing him is not the most helpful way to get him what he wants. Consider suggesting alternatives - maybe you have a tool or method where you can summarize and provide current status on critical issues. (You did mention Jira, which may seem like an answer for this, but ticketing systems can be just as sprawling and difficult as emails - just telling him to look at Jira may not be any more helpful than telling him to look at emails.) A critical issues log or dashboard, a daily standup, or some other tool that helps him get to the relevant points without having to sort lots of information is likely what he'd be happier with, compared to "go look at the email I sent you."

  • I just updated my question by adding his role to give more clarity – NiceGuy Jun 5 at 16:35
  • Thanks for adding the clarifications. Unfortunately the additional details make my answer less relevant but it does look like you're getting a lot of other feedback. – dwizum Jun 5 at 17:17
  • I think this answer is still very relevant. There's a good chance they are dismissing the emails as noise for whatever reason, in which case it's important to find a way to make the important information stand out more so he knows he needs to read it. – aleppke Jun 5 at 22:11
  • FYi: We have daily status meeting for 15 mins for 2 persons, where we discuss the status in detail. – NiceGuy Jun 6 at 15:14
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How can I ask him to read emails without spoiling my career?

You can't without risking your relationship with your boss.

What you can do mention toward the end of the conversation that "By the way, I did include these details in an email for you should you need them later". This doesn't sound condescending at all and most likely would be taken as helpful.

Otherwise, as you pointed out, it can (and does in your case) come across as disrespectful. Being the boss has its perks, and in this case your manager has a bit of control as to how the communication between them and their employees.

Attempting to train your boss on how you want them to communicate could backfire in a very epic way.

  • This is a highly pessimistic view. Offering feedback to a colleague about how they behave at work (in this case, asking for details that have been documented and syndicated elsewhere) doesn't need to be a career-limiting move. – Jay Jun 5 at 17:16
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    @Jay Perhaps, but based on my 20+ years of professional experience the juice is not worth the squeeze in this situation. I don't like repeating what I typed in an email to my boss, but on occasion I do it. I don't say go read the email I sent you as that would be a silly thing to do. – Mister Positive Jun 5 at 17:20
  • @MisterPositive, I am also ok to repeat occasionally, but not daily or everytime – NiceGuy Jun 5 at 18:11
  • @NiceGuy you may just have to deal with it, or move on to another company or manager. Most managers will not respond well to being told how to communicate. – Mister Positive Jun 5 at 18:13
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    @MisterPositive, Thanks for the perspective which clarifies. I completely agree on it. – NiceGuy Jun 6 at 11:29
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Did you read my email? Read my email first and ask me if you need any further information.

This absolutely isn't the tone you should use with your manager or as a vendor with a client.

Also, your comments in this thread suggest that you might have a problem with clear, fact-focused communication. You should ask yourself - or other people if necessary - whether that's the case and whether your communication is clear enough. Ask yourself whether your emails/ comments in Jira are clear and have only one meaning. Aren't they too long? Aren't they too convoluted? Is the message always completely clear and not contradictory?

I also have a subordinate who enjoys telling me phrases like "as I've already explained twice" and "as I wrote in my email". He simply lacks communication skills and can complicate the easiest thing to the extreme, so my approach when dealing with important stuff is to ask him once again to confirm my understanding to be on the save side. Everyone has the same problem with him. He doesn't get that and probably never will. Instead he insinuates I'm an idiot.

Your manager receives many more emails a day than you. He probably has a much higher-level approach to things than you do too. If they need a short update, your role is to provide it to them. By using the tone you used in the quoted passage you can only lose, since you show you don't know what professional norms are.

  • I would definitely analyse about my communication or reduce emails, but with this client, most of the time, he is not at all reading the emails and he himself said that. – NiceGuy Jun 5 at 21:07
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Short answer:

When your supervisor asks about something which you already described in an e-mail / Jira ticket, start by asking

  • "have you read my last e-mail titled ..."
  • "have you read my last Jira comment in ticket ..."

When your supervisor replies "no", open up the said e-mail or Jira ticket and review it together.

Longer answer:

This situation looks quite natural and neutral, don't worry about it too much.

  • Your supervisor didn't read your note yet - it's OK.
  • They happen to need the answer at the moment - it's OK.
  • You already have the answer at hand, written down - it's perfect!

Make sure not to sound rude. Make the most out of the fact that you're physically there: a human with a written note can provide more info than just a written note.

  • You can be helpful by skimming through the written answer first, highlighting the most important points.
  • You can see if the supervisor wants just a quick answer, or all the details.
  • You can just let them read (if they prefer) & be there to answer any questions and offer clarifications.
  • You can give your supervisor freedom to decide if they'd like to go through the full answer with you, or to read the whole thing offline, possibly at a later time.
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For all you know, he's inundated with email and your email is just one more in an endless list of emails. Maybe he has email "fatigue" and hasn't read your emails, or he's read them and wants to have a more detailed discussion. His communication style and comprehension might be more suited to in person communication than in electronic communication. He may comprehend things better when he talks them out.

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You can't control your lead, but you can mention to them the issues with the communication channels between you. In particular, you may want to let them know about the issues with context switching. If you are working on something and your tech lead/supervisor/etc asks you a question and wants an immediate response, that requires a context switch for you and hurts your productivity. In that context, mention to them that information they need to know is usually contained in your emails/tickets/etc, and to only ask you if they have questions after reading those things.

There is an old saying: "What's in it for me (and why do I care?)". This is the question your boss is waiting for you to answer. What's in it for him if he stops annoying you by asking these random questions instead of reading your reports? Right now, you have presented nothing to him, so if you chastise him for bothering you it will end badly. The first thing you should do is explain what's in it for him, which has to do with context switching and productivity. Then you can explain what you'd like him to change and he may be more receptive.

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It might be useful to propose to do an end-of-day summary with your manager. That way he gets to fully understand what you've done today, without the hassle of you being interrupted every hour by him asking about every ticket. If he comes up to you during the day, let him know a short state of affairs with that particular ticket - is it complete, currently being taken care of, or if it is delayed.

It is also best to be human about it, and explain why you want to no longer have to talk 5-10 minutes to him about the work every now and then - you're finding him approaching you all the time frustrating, as it distracts you from the work you're doing. It is difficult to get back to the task at hand after being snapped out of it like that, so you'd prefer if there was a different approach you can take.

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How can I ask him to read emails without spoiling my career?

Offering feedback to a colleague or suggesting an alternative way of working are normal parts of being on a team and should never put your job at risk. I'm sorry that you feel that it might.

It's ultimately up to you: if you think offering feedback is too risky, don't do it, or involve someone else whom you trust. Otherwise, consider having a frank but kind conversation with your colleague.


Providing feedback and asking for a new working norm:

Ask your colleague for a time when you can both discuss how you have been working together and offer each other feedback -- put the meeting in the future and make it clear part of the discussion will be feedback. Tell him or her what you observe (e.g., "You frequently ask me for many of the details of a case that I have documented in a ticket") and how it makes you feel (e.g., "I feel like I've wasted my time on the ticket and that you don't trust me to come up with a good solution"). Leave time to listen to your colleague's response. Acknowledge what is said, but you don't have to agree ("I hear you" instead of "Yes, I agree").

Ask for a new working norm -- perhaps set up dedicated time during the day to check in on cases that you find challenging and get your colleague's help and input. Maybe a 15-min check-in and check-out in the morning and afternoon.

Involving someone else:

You might also consider reaching out to another manager or senior leader in the organization for an informal conversation about your experience. They would be able to help you understand the behavior you're observing from a different perspective, help you develop a plan to talk with your colleague, and can involve themself if you ask.

I don't think anyone shows up to work trying to anger co-workers, but we all do things that are occasionally annoying or abrasive. It's entirely okay to frequently give and receive feedback, and try out alternative working norms to see what works best for everyone on a team.

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