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Background:

  1. We work remotely. Our managers are in a different country
  2. I know the best solution is to reduce emails and instead use either Slack or instant messages, but these managers are from another generation that want everything via email.
  3. Our emails are very detailed, to the point that we even summarize everything for them (bulleted points, with links, with colors, etc.)
  4. I am a manager myself.

However, I cannot stand this certain manager that chimes in in the middle of the email thread with a question that has been already answered in the email he actually replied to. He even asks it in a condescending way:

I assume technical team need to approve backport changes ??

This doesn't happen once in a while, this happens multiple times a week. He even sometimes "follows up" as if I was the one that didn't respond.

I tried the following:

  1. Responding by explaining further or just repeating the previous email.
  2. Attaching my previous response and saying "Hi Manager, I've already responded to that. please see attached."
  3. Messaging him over Slack (to which he sometimes doesn't respond to).
  4. Emailing him separately (to which he also sometimes doesn't respond to).

For many months, I've just tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was busy and didn't have time to read through emails, but I'm at wits end with this manager. How do else I deal with this? I want to confront him about this, but I'm not sure if I should.

Note: this is the same manager that says I don't attend 1-on-1s but I actually do. See Properly communicating that I don't like having two managers

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  • First question is why is this manager on the email chain - is it information only, or what? Second, perhaps the message is overly-detailed for what they need, and a separate manager-only summary is appropriate?
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 17 at 13:49
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    There is an old joke: "How do you keep a secret from your manager? Send it to them in an email." Although, in this case, the "detailed as F" is a red flag to me as most management needs high level summaries. Feb 17 at 13:53
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    One thing you don't seem to have tried: Shorten the emails and use only the bulleted information necessary to convey the point. Feb 17 at 16:08
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    Does this answer your question? How to proceed when remote boss doesn't answer emails?
    – Seth R
    Feb 17 at 19:49
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    Our emails are very detailed - Stop this immediately is what I'm saying. The more detail the less they read. Get to the point in your communications. Employ brevity. Feb 18 at 6:16

5 Answers 5

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How do else I deal with this? I want to confront him about this but I'm not sure if I should.

If it is true that this manager is not carefully reading your emails then there really is nothing that you can do to force him to do so.

All you can do when he asks for information that you have already provided in the email thread is to copy and paste the information that you have already provided. E.g.:

Manager: What about X?

You: As I previously stated, copy/paste your previous information about X

It takes no more than a few seconds to do this and as annoying as it may be this just may be the way that this particular manager works and you need to learn to deal with it or move on to a new company if this sort of communication is a deal-breaker for you.

For many months, I've just tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was busy and didn't have time to read through emails

Maybe he actually is too busy to carefully read through all the emails, especially if all the emails he is receiving from all of his direct reports are as detailed as you described.

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    Also, when pasting your previous text, you can add "Does this cover your question, or is there something more specific that you need to know?" Which is a bit passive aggressive. Feb 17 at 12:52
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    I like that addition but don't agree that it is passive / aggressive.
    – deep64blue
    Feb 17 at 14:00
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    I also disagree that it's passive aggressive but do agree the response should be a little bit. something a bit more direct could be 'This question was already addressed, see mailchain below' and move on. This either forces the manager to actually read before responding again, or maybe keep him from chiming in if he's just going to rehash already answered questions.
    – Blub
    Feb 17 at 14:15
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    I would go a step further and simply state, "Yes, it's stated in the email." Without the copy and paste part. Don't answer it again, just say it's addressed in the original email.
    – Dan
    Feb 17 at 14:44
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If mails are longer than one screen, requiring you to scroll, I would argue that they are too detailed. I know this is a much too general oversimplification. But especially in manager communication, it's true. I had a boss who just stopped reading if the mail didn't fit on his screen. And that was in a time where you worked on small 17" screens.

Cut the fluff until it hurts. Only send the most general overview, what everyone in the mail thread needs to know. The technical details can be supplied in linked/appended documents, for those who need more detail.

This way busy people don't need to digest a huge wall of text to get to the information they need. They fly over the overview and can then decide if it's worth looking at the details or not.

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I will assume that a good deal of "management" behavior goes to these email responses, attempts to seem more important and essential than they are actually are.

Not much can be done to avoid this, especially during cross-country remote development

IMHO, you should separate each topic to dedicated email thread. Also , keep each reply at the top and short

Entire response should be viewable in the preview pan of 17" monitor (15-20 lines)

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Cunningham's Law

The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer.


I assume technical team need to approve backport changes ??

This is an accusatory statement disguised as a question by someone who didn't want to read all of the minutia. It's accusatory and clearly achieves the results it desires because you got offended by the fact that someone doesn't appreciate your effort.

You sound like a "details guy" and want to present all information up front but the downfall of this is that now any lost information is your fault and it is easy to cast doubt on your completeness.


However, I cannot stand this certain manager that chimes in in the middle of the email thread with a question that has been already answered in the email he actually replied to.

If you're brave enough then reply with:

This was answered in a previous thread, please keep up.

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Good grief! This guy sounds exhausting.

I'd write

  • "please see paragraph below that starts with '(few words from first sentence)" or
  • "please reading beneath heading 'heading'"

If referring to a diagram, do a print-screen, paste into Paintbrush. Put a big red circle around what you're referring to, and paste the whole thing back into your email response.

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    That does sound like the career limiting option.
    – Simon B
    Feb 18 at 12:11
  • Not so much. Especially if the exchange is by email, because you're not sitting in the same room where you can point to something on a screen or in a document.
    – Xavier J
    Feb 18 at 18:11

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