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I am remote from the rest of my department and other departments I frequently interact with. But even when I was just down the hall, I had this question: How much back-and-forth with email is expected and considered proper?

We have lots of internal support questions throughout the day, and they arrive directed to my department or even multiple departments' group addresses. Then, someone responds saying, I'll be right there. A Thank You reply goes back to dozens of people. Then, more info is needed. More replies. A confirmation that the problem was handled goes out. (sigh of relief) Then, a big hearty Thank You goes to everyone. Then, You're Welcome comes to all the email boxes. This goes on all day. These people are in the building with each other, they are not working from home (mostly).

So, when I receive a message, I am unsure where the interaction is done. Is the 'you're welcome' expected? Would I seem short if I didn't give it? (Remember, I am in a different office from all these people.) I decided to just err on the side of being voluble, but really, a lot of this inbox-undation could be avoided. Not by being less friendly, but with... a support ticket system? A dedicated support email box that a person is assigned to monitor each shift? Smoke signals? Anything. Gosh.

Is the Thank You / You're Welcome just required? I'll continue along if it is, but as an introverted person, boy, it seems very silly. I'm paid to help my coworkers, and happy to help.

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4 Answers 4

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As an e-mail writer, try to limit the list of recipients to those who are really interested (or should be interested). A "thank you" response is appropriate to the one who did the work, not to everybody on the initial request list. A "you're welcome" is most likely unnecessary, and nobody should really be upset when you don't write one.

If your colleagues like being chatty, it's probably best to just drop the uninteresting e-mails silently so as to avoid adding even more noise, and to do what is within your areas of responsibility and ability to limit the amount of chatter.

Of course, installing a ticket system for regular support requests is a very reasonable approach and should be done as soon as possible, you might suggest this to the appropriate people (and maybe even bring it up in workplace discussions as an option). However, ticket systems have their own peculiarities, and might not fix the perceived problem.

If the underlying cause is some cultural convention of conversational politeness, you probably can't do much beyond just swallowing it. Different cultures are radically different in their communication conventions.

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A lot of this is why things like Teams/Slack or other Instant Messaging business apps are useful.

That moves a lot of the trivial (but otherwise polite and socially 'required') comments out from an Inbox and into a less monitored and less crowded area.

If your company doesn't leverage these, then I'd perhaps start suggesting that they look into it.

To answer the actual question (as you've asked it):

Question > Answer > Confirmation.
Or
Statement > Response > Confirmation.

e.g. "What's the X for Y?", "It's 1.21 Giggawatts", "Thanks very much"
or
"I'm going to be late to our morning meeting", "Okay, well make sure you read the minutes", "I will, thanks"

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  • Does the thanker expect "you're welcome": not usually; that can be taken as implied.. Engineering types don't tend to put a lot of value on formality for its own sake.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 1:54
  • I stand by my opinion -- but why not ask them, rather than us?
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 12:28
  • It is never rude to ask someone's preferences. We don't know the details of your company's culture, and individuals may have their own opinions. In fact, with this emphasis on your question, I'm seriously tempted to vote to close it as a matter of opinion. We can tell you what's most common, but can't answer the question for your own specific subculture.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 14:20
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If their answer solved your problem, a quick "Thanks!" will be appreciated so they know you got what you needed. (Or "Tnx", or any equivalent.)

But keep it short and to the point. This is a specific exchange of data, not a social discussion.

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  • The convention here: on SE is to up-vote good answers and checkmark the best; that functions as acknowledgment and thanks. (I presume that's what you were fishing for.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 23:10
  • Essentially, yes. SE has evolved its own social conventions. It takes us all a while to figure them out. There are documents that can help, but it's fairly common for folks to dive in and learn by experimentation/feedback.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 1:51
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We have lots of internal support questions

That is the root cause of your problem, e-mails just hide it.

For support, you need to use the ticketing system (bug tracking, issue tracking, whatever). There, all the information is visible to anyone interested, and there is no need to "Thanks" or "Cc:" half of the company. Also, in the ticketing system you can put the clear mark when the issue becomes closed and no further interaction is needed.

How much email interaction is proper?

As little as possible, but not less. If there are too many emails (and too long) they become a serious problem, as they decrease productivity. The more people in Cc, the worse. And considering how fast mail history grows (the "Re" and "Fw"), the matters quickly become wild.

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  • Just curious now, you do whatever business you have, without a ticketing system?
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 10:35
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    @ the brave downvoter: Any comment on the downvote, please?
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 10:38
  • @HappyIdiot: yeap, they are brave only when downvoting, but explaining the downvote causes them to be shyer than a virgin maiden.
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 6:07

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