Chances are you get hit with “urgent” email messages all the time. You may even get bombarded with them.
Yet in most cases, many of those messages aren’t that critical. (The people sending them on the other hand think you should drop everything and deal with their issue immediately.)
How do you respond tactfully and manage expectations without dropping whatever it is you’re working on?
Try these three suggestions:
1. ‘How urgent is this?’
Ask the sender when he or she needs a response to their problem.
Urgent doesn’t always mean immediate. The sender may simply be anxious about a problem or a project. Clarifying the actual urgency can help you and boost communication.
2. Give a timeline
What the sender may really need is a plan of action, and not a resolution. At least, not right away.
Consider this boilerplate response: “I can get you an answer by noon tomorrow. Will that work?”
Just be honest with yourself about how much time you can give the issue and how busy you are.
3. Get feedback
The sender’s request may require that you postpone some project you’re working on. If the email is from a client or your boss, then you may want to clarify the priorities you’re currently dealing with.
So ask the sender how you think the work should be prioritized. In other words, if they really need you to drop everything you’re working on, verfiy that’s they want.