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Answering someone else’s question is poor email etiquette

Email2Back in March, I did a series of blog posts on appropriate email etiquette, and the things people do (or don’t do) with email that negatively affects their credibility and effectiveness.  I even did one post on When email is not the best choice ….  Well, prompted by a conversation I had with a client last week, I have one more “don’t” to add to the list.  Don’t respond to questions in a group email that are not directly within your scope of responsibility, at least not right away.

This “don’t” applies to emails you receive in which you are one of several addressees.  I’m not talking about the single informational email that is sent out to a large group distribution, but rather an action-oriented email in which a few people have action items or questions that are under their area of responsibility.  When you get one of these emails, don’t respond to questions or issues that are not under your purview, at least not until the person whose responsibility it is has had a chance to respond.  Sure, if you’ve done this in the past, there’s no doubt your intentions were good.  After all, you knew the answer, and you were saving your colleague the hassle of answering, right?  Wrong.  Even though you may not realize it, the most likely perception is that, at best, you’re undermining your colleague’s authority, and at worst, you’re shaming him publicly.  Which I’m guessing was not your intention.

So hold back on responding on things that are not within your purview.  Let the person who is accountable for that issue respond.  Once s/he initiates the discussion, you can jump in with further questions or clarification.  But wait your turn.  It’s not only good email etiquette, but it will also avert unintended disrespect.

So, do you agree with me?  Or is this issue just someone being too sensitive?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  So please comment below. 

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