Respect: A Pop Quiz

Yesterday I wrote that the secret to employee engagement is frequent infusions of respect, with respect defined as: Giving due consideration to the other.

With that in mind, here’s a one-question pop quiz:

·      When is it OK to not respond to an email from a coworker?

I guess there’s no point in being coy.  The answer, of course, is: never.

I’m not saying that you have to drop everything just because Jones in accounting is looking for the receipt for the “Taco Tuesday!” team building dinner you hosted last month.  You have a say as to when and how you respond.  That’s why the “due” in due consideration is in the definition of respect. 

The “I’m too busy” dodge doesn’t fly, either.  A response such as this —“Got it.  Back to you by end of day Fri.  If Fri not ok holler.”—is perfectly acceptable (as long as you do, in fact, get back to him by the end of the day on Friday).  You have acknowledged receipt of Jones’ message.  You have told him when you would be responding.  And you have given him the opportunity to raise a flag if that response time isn’t good enough.  All in all, a pretty good helping of due consideration.  And it only took 60 key strokes (62 if you use the serial comma). But to not respond at all is, quite simply and quite damningly, disrespectful, and that is not—not ever—acceptable.

Remember that the context for this discussion of respect has to do with having a more highly engaged workforce.  Can you think of anything that could be more dispiriting—more dis-engaging—than to be treated as though you didn’t even exist?

Let’s also remember that the sender of an email has a responsibility to give due consideration to the other throughout such a transaction, too.  Even though you may feel that insufficient attention has been paid to the Zombie Apocalypse in the company’s Business Continuity Plan, sending your boss a 5000-word diatribe on the topic would probably not be advisable.  Not only would it not be a career-advancing move, it would also be disrespectful, something that is not—not ever—acceptable.