How to write a follow-up email without sounding passive aggressive

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Welcome again. Bump this to the top of your inbox. Did you see my last email? I wanted to check in quickly.

You must be ignored by email at least once in your career – and when you do it, it may be difficult to know how to follow with someone.

At what point does persistence become annoying? How do you encourage the other person to respond without seeming desperate, or worse, passive-aggressive?

Next time you’re struggling to wait for a response from your boss or uneasy colleague, workplace therapist Brandon Smith says there are two approaches you can take:

When someone doesn’t respond, you always want to assume positive intent, Smith says. They could be overwhelmed with something in their personal life, they could be assigned to another time-sensitive project, or maybe your email went into your spam folder.

Here is an email you can send:

Hey [insert name here],

I know you have a lot to do, but I am still waiting for your directions on it [insert issue here]. When would be a good time in the next few days for us to communicate about this? It won’t take long. Thank you again.


[insert your name here]

This approach is effective because “you’re putting the ball in their court and letting them set the deadline,” Smith explains. “Now you have a reason to follow up and hold them accountable for that question.”

If you’re working to a tighter deadline — or if someone is habitually skittish — give yourself a deadline, and ask for a response at least two days before the actual deadline.

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Smith suggests the following text: “I know you’re really busy, and I hate to do this to you, but I have a deadline [insert earlier deadline here] And I really need your help. When you have a minute, can we communicate about this?”

You may also get ghosted because the other person’s inbox is out of control. In this case, Smith says following up with a call or voicemail is a “foolproof” backup plan.

“The phone calls are more personal, so it is easier to create a stronger emotional communication with the person, and accept what he will say,” he says.

In your voicemail, or when they answer the phone, Smith suggests starting with an emotional plea: “Hey, I really need your help. I know you’re busy, but this deadline is fast approaching, and your input would really help.” [task/project/assignment.]”

If it’s an hour before your deadline and all you’re getting is radio silence from your colleague, it’s time to reach out to their manager.

“Explain the situation to them in a calm, diplomatic tone and ask for advice,” Smith says. “You could say, to be completely honest, I’ve finished the majority of the work, but I can’t get this person to respond to me after following up a few times. I could try my best to get this project across the world,” Finish Line said, “but this was a huge hurdle. How do you want me to continue?”

إذا كان رئيسك في العمل هو الشخص الضعيف، فاتصل به أو واجهه شخصيًا، كما يقول سميث. Be specific about what you need from them and when you need it.

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For example: “Did you have a chance to review the email I sent you? I would need to [insert ask here] by [insert date/time here] To fulfill the deadline for this project, if possible. ”

If they remain unresponsive, Smith says you may need to escalate the issue to their manager or another higher-up.

“As one of my teachers told me years ago, we think we’re working with adults, but we’re not — they’re mostly kids stuck in adult bodies,” Smith says. “When you have these conversations, and you ask someone to be accountable for their work, you invite the other person to grow.”

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paying off:

The number one mistake people make when writing business emails: “Most people don’t get it right until they’re in their 30s or 40s.”

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