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This part of doing business always confuses me.

I reach out to someone asking them the status of a request. And if they can't answer the question, they come back to me with "You need to reach out to this person".

What I'd like to know is, why are they telling me to reach out them? Instead of them just adding someone to the thread themselves.

So when someone writes:

"Good Morning Tim:

Please reach out to Jared Gray, as this request is assigned to him."

Do I just send out another email with the new person added to the thread? Or do I acknowledge that I'll reach out to that person and then start another thread?

  • 20
    A good analogy would be "Hey, boss, toilet's clogged." to which he responds "OK, go talk to Steve from maintenance, he has a plunger. This concerns me no further." vs "Hey, boss, I need some plutonium." to which he responds "OK, lets go see Steve from maintenance because only I know the secret handshake and have to sign off on a few things and make sure you are using it legally." – MonkeyZeus Nov 1 '16 at 17:29
30

why are they telling me to reach out them? Instead of them just adding someone to the thread themselves.

The most likely explanation is they do not want to be involved.

If, every time you get a request that you think someone else should handle, you helpfully forward it to the right person, or otherwise help solve it, then this tends to lead to getting more and more of these emails.

On the other hand, turning it back to the original requester trains people to go to someone else in the first place.

Note that this behavior is inherently neither good or bad. Bad employees may do it to avoid work. Excellent employees do it because they need to focus on the things they really need to get done. It all depends on the context.

On whether to copy them in to future emails, I would take this email as a statement that they don't want to be involved. Your default position should be to respect that and not cc them into future emails on this topic (In general, only people with a clear, identifiable need to receive a communication should be copied in, anyway--otherwise you are just filling inboxes with noise).

There may be exceptions, though--for example if you think this really is their job, and they are just passing you on to someone else, then CC them in. And in this case, make sure the email starts:

Dear Jared,

John told me that you were the right person to contact about this...

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    ..."getting more and more of these emails." This is accurate. You will become known as the person who knows who to contact in order to get things done, which is a valuable commodity in its own right. – Eric Hauenstein Nov 1 '16 at 18:06
4

It will depend on the context of the "referral".

If it's a 1-1 email, the author may be expect the conversation to remain private. You should be able to tell by the language of the email.

Because they didn't bother to Reply All adding the proper recipient, it's probably likely they don't care about the conversation at all, and they consider their current level of engagement with the conversation needless. I wouldn't reply to the person (thanking them - it's just needless clutter), and instead start a new email chain.

In cases where the proper recipient is unclear (aka, you're getting the run-around) you can add the new recipient to the existing email chain. Be sure to thank the first recipient as the first sentence, so the new recipient is aware that they are included.

In cases where you want the first recipient to know that you're pursuing the matter with the second recipient, you can continue the email chain with them BCCed. This also gives the first recipient visibility that the second recipient know what they have said. They will not get subsequent emails in the chain.

  • I disagree with the BCC. If the referer really needs to be aware that the chain has moved forward, just forward the sent message after sending, informing that they are out of the email chain. Then they have the chance to ask to be re-added. – Mindwin Nov 1 '16 at 18:09
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    Doesn't that have the same effect with the exception that it's more steps. Is the advantage that they can now clearly know they are not part of the chain anymore? – Gregory Currie Nov 1 '16 at 22:41
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    @Mindwin BCC is a tool, why not use it? Why reinvent the wheel? – user30031 Nov 2 '16 at 12:45
  • @DoritoStyle goes with the company culture, but several consider BCC not useable because it lacks transparency. BCC opens a can of works some companies want to keep closed. And it is not reinventing the wheel. it is using hovercrafts when the ground is swampy. Wheeled vehicles are fine if you have a road. – Mindwin Nov 3 '16 at 13:13
1

What I'd like to know is, why are they telling me to reach out them? Instead of them just adding someone to the thread themselves.

Is it really their responsibility to fulfill your request? If you are asking them for help, and they point you to the person you need, what else is there for them to do?

If they were to email Jared for you, it could start a never ending email chain looking something like

"Dear Jared, Tim asked me to ask you to..."

Keeping one person as the "owner" of a task allows for greater clarity and organization. Another reason may be that this person does not want Jared to feel as if he is being given the task by someone else other than you (Tim).

1

To add to the existing answers, I get a right hump when people suddenly add other people into an email conversation. Those new people now have access to the original email trail, which (if done correctly) includes topical, quoted replies. Those messages were not written with that audience in mind.

I agree that it is courteous and helpful for the respondent to bring in the person they think may be able to help you, but they should remove the email history first.

Starting a new email thread would be best:

Hi, Gary

Jess has asked me X/Y/Z but I don't know the answer.

Perhaps you can help?

Best regards,
Clueless original recipient

In this context, the person who is CC'd actually becomes you.

0

I've seen a mix throughout my career. Some company cultures are very forward/cc heavy (some are very bcc heavy... ugh), others seem to want to treat everything as one on one conversation.

Personally, I prefer forwading or looping people into conversations as opposed to maintaining a series of parallel conversations. Unless I've never ever seen anyone do it, someone tries to correct me, or someone gets upset, I'm going to forward/cc.

In this case, I would Forward to Jared Gray. (Forward because Susan clearly doesn't want to be on the thread)

(I'm going with Susan being the person you originally reached out to)

Jared,

I'm having XYZ issue and Susan indicated you are the go to for this. Any assistance you could provide would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Tim

Two positives to this approach: You won't get a situation where Susan sends you to Tim who sends you to back Susan, and Tim now has the full email chain where you described your problem and potentially did some back and forth with Susan before she decided it was Jared's domain.

If I were in Susan's position, I would have included Jared on a Reply All with something like:

Jared,

Tim is having XYZ issue which is part of that thing you're responsible for. Can you please answer his questions.

Thanks,

Susan

I would likely end up staying on the exchange during a series of reply all's, but it doesn't really bother me to dismiss future emails, and I'm a naturally curious person who would be interested in the answer, even if I never expect to need to know.

There are of course times when you should not loop someone into a conversation, but those are generally few and far between. Unless you're in a management/leadership position or working some super secret project, your email communication at work generally shouldn't include information that would be inadvisable to forward. Just use your best judgement if you think that might be the case.

-1

This is typical slopey shoulder behaviour. Chances are, both parties have an interest in this.

My approach (which may or may not work for you) is to reply to this email, copying in the person that I have been newly pointed to. That way, if both parties have an interest, both are involved. If only the new party is involved, they will often reply without the first (or just straight up say so).

One of the nice biproducts of this is that you occasionally get someone straight up lying, saying it's not their remit when it is and landing a colleague in it. On these occasions, I recommend getting the popcorn and enjoying the drama.

  • 2
    I personally use "Forward" to include a referred person - having an "FW:" in your inbox tends to draw more attention than yet another "RE:". Both methods do the same thing though. Forwarding or replying retains the original email trail so that the referred person has a chance of understanding the context. – Snow Nov 1 '16 at 14:15
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    Not all attempts to avoid being involved in something are "slopey shoulder". Often this is very justified. – user45590 Nov 1 '16 at 14:36

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