Preemptive Escalation and Email Overload

Posted on January 13, 2010 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

Being Preemptive is usually good: for example, preemptive maintenance beats reactive repair any day, right? But recently I encountered an organization where people were using Preemptive Escalation.

What was going on is that when someone sent a coworker an email asking them to do something, the recipient’s boss would be added to the message, as pressure on the recipient to respond. Of course escalation – letting the boss know that someone is unresponsive – is an old device, and a useful one; but usually it is a second level method, applied after the direct message had failed to achieve its aim. Putting the boss on the original message may be effective too, but it means that the managers were getting a lot of extra mail that in many cases would have been unneeded.

But then, slow response always creates added email load as people frantically resend their messages hoping to elicit a reaction. It’s just that usually it’s the unresponsive person that gets “punished”, not their innocent manager…