This question is related to my other question How to ask my supervisor to read my emails instead of asking me?

I used to believe as below and I expect the same from others as well.

  1. Reading my email is my responsibility.
  2. If I am getting so many emails or alert emails ( if working in production support), then I have to organize my emails.
  3. I have to read all emails or at least take a glance to decide that email is important or not.

Because, I should not miss any important information or I should not delay my action on urgent items.

I am working in IT for more than 10 years and this expectation was seemed ok and working till last year, so I was believing my belief and expectation are correct.

But after reading the answers & comments of my other question linked, It seems reading my own emails is not at all mandatory.

How much we are responsible to read our emails?

If someone or managers are getting so many emails which they cannot handle, then what is the point of sending emails to them?


Please note, these questions are coming from the frustration of repeating daily. And I do read my every email without fail.

  • Is your boss ignoring emails from everyone, or just your Jira tickets? It doesn't seem that unreasonable that he would decide that the best way to get an understanding of the changes you're making is to spin around in his chair and talk to you. Especially if he's responsible for this product and wants a better understanding than he can get in a few snippets on Jira. – pip install frisbee Jun 6 '19 at 16:39
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    I'm with you. Alert emails are sectioned and can be all read together where as emails from real people go to my inbox which I am alerted to when they come in. With each email i stop what i am doing to read it and take action if needed. When not on call I ignore all messages until I get into work the next day. The first thing i do every morning is read every email in my inbox, then check alerts and such. Afters the emails have been handled I then go to the slack messages I missed. It astounds me that people even on my own team will have thousands of unread emails sitting in their inbox. – jesse Jun 6 '19 at 16:46
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    If your manager doesn't read your emails and prefers verbal communication then just try to accommodate them. – sf02 Jun 6 '19 at 17:07
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    How you phrase the question is not going to change the hierarchical dynamics between you and your boss. – user85135 Jun 6 '19 at 17:40
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    No, most people don't need to read every email they get, but how you figure out how to skip ones you don't need to read is probably a bit beyond the scope of this site (and also isn't the question you asked). Filters help though. But you seem to be asking 2 somewhat unrelated questions here - what you ideally should be doing is largely irrelevant in terms of how to deal with others who don't do that. Also, it's physically painful to read text with a whole bunch of scattered bold sections. – Bernhard Barker Jun 6 '19 at 17:45

How much we are responsible to read our emails?

Depends on the expectation of your boss(es) and peers. At least once a day does not sound unreasonable.

If someone or managers are getting so many emails which they cannot handle, then what is the point of sending emails to them?

Exactly. On the flip side if you're sending your boss huge blocks of texts with long drawn out stories and you're doing this frequently, then eventually yes, your boss will stop reading the emails as any normal person would. It's quite annoying to have to stop what you're doing and read a long email. So best to get up and talk if you got a lot to say.

I found people who complain the most about lack of reading emails tend to be people who are sending (and expecting a response) to multiple emails. I had this coworker once who sent me an email, then immediately followed me tot he bathroom and asked if I read his email and his earlier email. Both of which got unread and deleted. His email would range from things he's working on to numerous questions regarding best practices and so forth. All containing links and huge blocks of text, smiley faces and emoticons. Eventually he stopped after a while but he was noticably upset by my inaction which I told him to stop with the emails.

  • "At least once a day does not sound unreasonable" - while frequency is an important consideration, I read the question as being more about the percentage of emails one needs to read. – Bernhard Barker Jun 6 '19 at 17:13

If they ask you to send emails to them and that results in more than they can read, then your obligation is to send the emails. (More on that later.)

If they do not ask you to send the emails but you are sending them anyway, and it is more than they can keep up with, then you should probably send fewer emails.

In the first case, knowing that they want the emails but also don't have time to read them, it would be useful to specify in the subject line whether the email contains information, a question, or an action item. In other words, help them triage the emails before reading. Then, make the most important point first, and then provide additional information. So they are able to take a quick glance and if they need to know more, the more is there.

In the second case, if the emails help you or provide some CYA, then, as long as the boss doesn't ask you to send fewer, you can still send them, but use the subject lines as above, with generous FYI tags, and continue to communicate the important stuff with your boss in the method they prefer.

The point of sending emails is to keep the boss informed. IF that is the method the boss wants you to use to keep them informed. If the boss prefers a different method, then use that different method. Some people do better by hearing instead of reading, and it's best to figure out how to adjust so you are communicating in the preferred method of the person with more authority.


I think there's a subtle yet very important point being glossed over - both in terms of the question you linked, and in terms of the entire concept of being "responsible" for emails.

It's the difference between reading an email, versus being able to mentally process, summarize, and store their contents. It's the difference between having information, and having useful information.

As an example, imagine you are sending your boss regular status updates on a handful of projects. Some other employees are, too. Your boss may or may not be reading, or at least glancing at, all of the emails - but at the end of the day, what they have is a massive pile of loosely structured information in their inbox.

If, at a moment's notice, they need the exact, current, summarized status of any particular project or issue, whether or not they've read the emails doesn't mean they'll automatically know or even be able to retrieve the information they need. And even if they can, it may be the case that the status has changed since your last email. So, sometimes, bosses ask employees for status, or use other methods (standups, ticket logs, etc) to log status, even if the information is contained in emails they've already read.

In other words - the fact that you sent them an email may not actually be solving their problem, so having a discussion about whether or not the person is reading your emails may be totally missing the point. Email can be a good communication tool, but it is a terrible information storage tool. When information storage (and access) questions are presented under the guise of "do people read their emails?" it's a bit of a misrepresentation of the actual issue.


How much we are responsible to read our emails?

Exactly to the point your boss tells you to. Maybe less if your boss' orders conflict with local laws.

  • boss's orders : Is he king? – NiceGuy Jun 6 '19 at 16:47
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    Well yeah. That's what being the boss means, no? – pip install frisbee Jun 6 '19 at 16:50
  • You're free to tell your boss no but you might face consequences. I don't think it will go in your favor no matter what. – Dan Jun 6 '19 at 18:27
  • @Dan, I am trying to digest the reality, let me try – NiceGuy Jun 6 '19 at 20:13

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