How to politely tell people to read their f*cking emails?
July 4, 2013 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I frequently get asked for information or asked to answer questions that I have already provided/answered in a previous email. This is time-consuming. How best to deal with this?

I feel like a jerk pointing out "as per my email dated xx, I mentioned that xyz..." or "if you search your inbox, you'll probably find the email I sent on xx date..." but have found no better solution. I'm getting tired of constantly forwarding my own emails. And the repetitive requests just keep coming no matter what I say.

I'd be curious how others deal with this and if anyone has successfully managed to get their colleagues to actually read their emails properly or use search to find the emails rather than having to repeat information / resend emails.
posted by ladybird to Work & Money (46 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Don't feel like a jerk. Just re-send the email, with a terse "info you requested was sent earlier, see attached" and leave it at that.

It isn't your job to make them read it, but it also isn't your job to extract the specific info they want at need and send just that back to them.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2013 [12 favorites]

Depending on how technical your coworkers are and how general the information is... I have worked on a few projects now where we had a project wiki (such as MediaWiki, which Wikipedia is based on). If I have reusable (for lack of a better word) information, such as instructions for connecting to the printer, logging in to the app server, etc., I put them on a wiki page. Then if people ask I just send them the link or (for hallway conversations) just tell them it's on the wiki. Eventually they do learn to search the wiki.

If you don't work with engineers or in a large organization, that's probably overkill. :(

Another aspect of your problem is that people don't read email. Especially long ones. They just don't. It took me ten years to get over that! I am very methodical and to me it seemed like willful disrespect when people ignored my communications. I had to learn that I was the exception, not the rule. Barring a wiki type of solution, just resend the information and chalk the time up as the cost of doing business. It's irritating, but wouldn't you rather be known as the informative person rather than the pedantic person?
posted by mindsound at 8:36 AM on July 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

Oh man... I get this. a LOT.

So one time when I got really sick of it, I sent out an email about a boring but necessary subject to my colleagues, and included a link to some "important information" which actually linked to a very funny image. Only two people of about twenty got back to me, going uh... I think you have a broken link there... and laughed when I told them what I'd done.

The best bit was that I mentioned this in our next team meeting and there were not only a lot of red faces, but also people were annoyed that they'd missed out on the joke. I threatened them I'd do it again if they didn't read my emails and I swear people have been extra vigilant since then, looking out for the next one. It's brewing.
posted by greenish at 8:36 AM on July 4, 2013 [41 favorites]

Best answer: First time they ask for a specific piece of information, give it to them. The second time they ask, give it to them by re-forwarding the email from the first time you gave it to them. The third time they ask, let them know you already sent it and approximately the date and ask them to search for it in their own inbasket. Fourth time they ask, ignore for a couple of hours/days (depending on how quick your normal response time is) and then repeat step 3. Continue to double the time between question and response as long as they continue to ask for info they already have. Your goal is to make 'ask ladybird' more time-consuming and less useful than 'search my inbasket'.

If you've got different colleagues who are all repeatedly asking for the same info as each other, however, you need a better platform than email for disseminating information -- a document library, a wiki, a database, an intranet, something of that nature.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2013 [16 favorites]

I've noticed that a lot of people CANNOT deal with emails with more than one topic. They read the first sentence or paragraph and that's it.

So simplify and give in to being the information repository of your department.

(Sometimes I will respond to phone calls with "I'm not near a computer, but if you search your inbox for an email from Jenkins with the subject [the exact information you are looking for] it should come up." People think I'm a magician.)
posted by gjc at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

I just re-send the first email. With a "Here you go".

Yeah, it's a real PITA.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

I agree with gjc, and I have also noticed that people lose/forget the original emailed info a lot less if I make sure the subject line has the major info they will need for later.

So no "re:something else that has nothing to do with the info here" -- ever.

My subject lines for this kind of email say things like MR. ED'S PHONE # AND TRAVEL INFO or SUMMARY OF 7/4 MEETING ABOUT TALKING HORSE.

I think this helps because you see the subject line sitting in your inbox for awhile after you have closed the email itself This does not perfectly solve the forgetting problem, but precise and non-repeating subject lines are the only way I myself can consistently find info in my own inbox or remember there was an email about it at all, so I do it for other people when I can.
posted by third rail at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm one of these people - I quite often completely miss an additional piece of information someone has sent me in an email, and end up asking the question twice. Then I get the email that tells me that I've already been answered, and I feel a bit stupid.

Oddly, this only ever happens with one or two specific people. There has to be something in they way they write emails that makes information more likely to be missed.

What I'd suggest is that you look at how you compose emails, and:
1. Space out different discrete pieces of information - separate each thing into its own paragraph, and leave a blank line between.
2. Better still, send separate emails for each unrelated thing.
3. Ask yourself whether you're presenting information in short, clear sentences. A lot of people just skim emails, and will tend to glaze over when they read long, complex sentences.
posted by pipeski at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

You know what really grinds my gears? "As I told you before..." really grinds my gears. It doesn't help the sender or the receiver. It doesn't make me remember retroactively and go back in time so I never asked the question in the first place.

So what I do when I'm on the receiving end of the "re-ask" is either respond without referencing the earlier email and reflect on how much time I saved by not saying "I already told you"; or I just ignore it. Four times out of five, the person looks for it him- or herself before asking me again.
posted by Etrigan at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

What Ruthless Bunny says. It actually feels good not getting worked up about it.
As we all know, some people receive more than an hundred work-mails a day, and coping techniques are wildly over the map...meaning, they're not necessarily nonchalant, annoying, or beyond-reasonable-flaky, but maybe just really challenged by their workload.

As a preventive measure, I put the most important info in the first sentence of my emails. The editor in me often squirms, but it does help occasionally.
posted by Namlit at 8:59 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I get this where I work now, where I am the only writer and everyone else is a financial/IT/non-editorial type. So I am learning to simplify my emails to vital info only, no background, no explanation, just the facts ma'am. At the same time I am constantly asking for more detail from others! But the spare emails get read & responded to so that's just the culture where I work. It's good editorial practice for me anyway, & fun to challenge myself. Someday I may try haiku.
posted by headnsouth at 9:03 AM on July 4, 2013

I get this all the time, from both coworkers and family, re: things both previously mentioned in email and posted on easily accessible online status boards. The people who do this can generally be separated into two camps.

With some people, usually bosses...there is no solution. They feel like they're important and need answers right now, and/or believe in the supreme importance of "checking in," and/or have (regardless of whether it's justified) doubts about whether you are (or anyone other than themselves is) on top of things, and so they want you to tell them what they want to know directly, on demand, rather than searching their inbox or pulling up the status board themselves. You're not going to be able to fix this with them. Many of them keep everything (the business's schedule, all their personal anxieties, etc.) in their own heads all the time, rather than writing it down and letting it go, and they expect you to do the same. Or, on the opposite end of things, they don't keep track of anything—because they have you to do that for them. Or they skim everything while "multitasking" and misinterpret or quickly forget its content. For them, whether they're micromanagers or "big-picture people," if they're in a position of power over you, you'll need to have at least the bare minimum of information available (or quickly searchable by your own means) to recite verbally or re-email.

[heaves a sigh]

For everyone else...jacquilynne has it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:05 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I frequently get asked for information or asked to answer questions that I have already provided/answered in a previous email.
Like the person who complains they only ever meet crazy people, if this really is happening to you frequently then you should consider the possibility that your original emails are the problem, not your colleagues.

Without knowing what your job is any how you write your emails it's difficult to say, but maybe they're unnecessarily long or they lack clarity. Maybe you bury the lede.

Anyone telling you that "it's not your job to get your point across" is assuming you have a very unusual job.
posted by caek at 9:16 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

Two small suggestions that might help your problem: ONE topic per email, and USEFUL subject lines.

A thing I hate beyond reason is an email with the subject line "Re: RE: Re: Your mail". AAAAAAAAARGH! Sometimes I'll go out of my way to change that to something useful, at the cost of breaking threaded email readers, because I need to be able to find it later on.

Also, splitting up multiple topics into N separate emails to the same person is usually a good thing - that's N useful subject lines for later searching. (Some people may find this annoying, especially if they are trivial emails. But if I'm emailing a collaborator about two separate projects and I want responses to both, I'll make it two different emails...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I just reforward the original email without comment. It's faster.

I'm hyper organized in that I know where nearly everything is, pretty much all the time. I have had to accept that this is a superpower, and stop getting pissed off about people being spacey, disrespectful cretins who expect me to wait on them with my brain.

See? that's way too emotional to be about an email. So I just reforward it, or send the basecamp link, or whatever, and if I'm feeling especially magnanimous I'll be like, REMEMBER ON THE BASECAMP, THINGS ARE ORGANIZED XYZ! (I realize some of us are Basecamp haters, I'm just making an example.)

If you are actually organized and a good communicator, people will learn eventually that you've probably already sent or posted whatever they are looking for and they will start looking for it on their own. People are used to shitty project managers and lackadaisical organization and bad grammar and all sorts of other things that impede their ability to get their job done, and this "email the project manager or other x-person instead of looking" thing is a learned shortcut. You need to rock out the organization and clear communication to retrain people. And they will love you for it. Eventually.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Things I already do:

- write concise, short emails
- emails on one topic only
- ensuring every email has a descriptive subject line that accurately corresponds to the email's content
- use bullet points as needed to separate information

I appreciate all the advice, but I'm not really looking for suggestions on on how to write emails more effectively.
posted by ladybird at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wrote some pointers about making your emails more effective, and then I refreshed the page and saw you posted. It sounds like you guys need a different way of communicating information. Besides email, where do you guys store relevant information? It sounds like you guys need SharePoint, BaseCamp, a WiKi or something similar.
posted by emilynoa at 9:36 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dear lord, if someone finds a true solution to this, they have my vote for president.

I just re-forward and/or reconfirm and say "we discussed this on this day" etc. Resistance is futile.

However, the upside - being one of the few who doesn't do this all of the time means people think you are some sort of genius.
posted by amycup at 9:36 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have found the following to help:
• One topic per email
• Descriptive subject line
• Limit recipient list to those who really need to see it
• Include all recipients names in salutation
• Be succinct
• Use bullet points instead of sentences

(Sorry - I see you replied while I was typing. I would just forward the original email with no commentary.)
posted by The Architect at 9:36 AM on July 4, 2013

Take a look at your assumption that people have an inbox to search. Everybody processes their email differently and it is very personal. The "zero inbox" people exist and they will not have the context of a previous email. Some email servers limit the disk quota so emails will get archived or deleted to stay under quota. Some people are on mobile phones with limited search capabilities (I haven't upgraded from Gingerbread on Android - email search is useless and I have a month synced on the phone).

The second time you are asked for a piece of information is a clue that you need a wiki with a search function. If you send the same wiki link every time with instruction on how to search, you can train people that way. Another way to train people to use wikis is to go to the person's desk in response to the email, pull up the wiki page on their web browser, and dictate search terms while they type. The second approach has the advantage that you're teaching them how to fish and you know that they've seen the wiki in their web browser.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:45 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't believe no one has mentioned this yet, but start responding just a little slower to these requests. Your colleagues may have learned that the fastest way to get the information they want is to ask you for it again and again. If they have to wait for a response, then they'll have time to try looking in other places. Obviously YMMV with regards to how long you can wait to reply before you start violating office cultural norms but I bet if you give people an extra hour or so to find stuff on their own they'll start to get the hang of it.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've noticed that a lot of people CANNOT deal with emails with more than one topic.

I see you have already done what people are suggesting. So I suggest you are already doing all you can. It may be 'suck it up' territory.

Try even harder to be more concise - even to the point of missing detail out. You could manage to retrain people if they get much shorter emails with stuff missing. That way you only write the detail once. After you have trained them to read your too short emails to look for the stuff that is missing you can slowly add it in and maybe they'll read all of it.

BUt some people just only EVER skim emails and add their first thoughts. It's the same principle as the READ THE OP deals in here and on the Blue (and everywhere else). People will jump and skim. It is just what happens.
posted by Brockles at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2013

If you are actually organized and a good communicator, people will learn eventually that you've probably already sent or posted whatever they are looking for and they will start looking for it on their own.

If you send the same wiki link every time with instruction on how to search, you can train people that way.

You would think so, but for some people, that isn't enough. The "online status board" I mentioned is Basecamp, which also functions like a wiki, and I update it immediately when I set up an appointment, change the status of a project item, make a call on something that necessitates updating our style-guide writeboard (basically the equivalent of a style-guide wiki), etc. But for whatever reason (I've speculated about a few possibilities above), there are some people who will still call me, email me, or even stop by in person every time they want to know the status of something, rather than refreshing the status writeboard or searching their inbox for my previous reply.

It sounds like that's the kind of behavior that the OP is up against as well, and in that case, it's not necessarily as simple as "Be a paragon of virtue and organization, and everyone will soon stop bothering you." If only!

I bet if you give people an extra hour or so to find stuff on their own they'll start to get the hang of it.

This can help. Some of my favorite times in the office are when my email stops working on its own every other afternoon, and for a while, I'm blissfully unaware of redundant requests for information. Stuff still gets done.
posted by limeonaire at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2013

Seconding the suggestion of replying a bit slower, if that's not going to get you in trouble. Currently, it's easier and more efficient to ask you for the information again, so technically they're being sensible (if a bit rude). I leave non-vital emails for a few hours, and occasionally have even come back to follow up emails which say "Don't worry, found it myself!"
posted by lucidium at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call them on the phone. Have them do a search of their email while you're on the phone. They should tell you the search term they are using. If they complain, give them the old "teach a man to fish" proverb. This gives you a chance to help them with their search terms.
Tell them that from now on you cannot respond to the request unless they include the search terms they tried in their request. Yes, some may actually write a request including the search terms without actually doing the search. Those people you can increase your delay in replying.
posted by Sophont at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Limit recipient list to those who really need to see it

That was my thought. Are the original emails giving people information they asked for or that's immediately relevant to them, or are you just broadcasting information to many people who may or may not need it? If it's the latter, then realize you're training people to think that much or most of what you send them is pointless junk and a waste of time to read. If only occasional bits of it eventually turns out to be useful, those may just be the exceptions that prove the rule.
posted by jon1270 at 10:42 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just want to chime in and show my support. I think this is a real dilema for many people, and it doesn't matter how you write the email etc- a lot of people just don't read their email, a lot of people have been forced into using email who don't want to (or don't know how). I work with people who check their email once every 2 weeks! In addition, depending on the email server there might not *be* a search function (true story I work for a LARGE Public School district who has not updated their email service in a long, long time and there is not a search function available!) and/or the email might not have gotten to the person (again from my own experience with said old, janky email server, sometimes emails bounce back if your mailbox is over limit). We have moved to google drive at the school I work at, and that has been an improvement to be able to tell someone the info is in the google drive. In addition, for my old school teachers I have moved back to memos in mailboxes for info that really needs to be read (and they ignore that too! :)

I would try as much as possible to not get too upset, be selective in who you reply to and always just forward the email you all ready sent. Try hard not to get too mad about it- it is a reality of working with a range of tech savvy people and people who have different levels of organization.
posted by momochan at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2013

Best answer: This forms a large component of my job. Options, in order of utility.

1. Put it on a wiki, tell people "it's on the wiki" when they ask.
2. Say, "Oh I sent you an email three weeks ago, I'd dig it out, but I'm super busy".
3. Say, "I don't know, sorry!"
4. Don't respond at all.
posted by smoke at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

How much email do you regularly send out? And how does that figure into the amount of total communication you send out through all channels? My boss will sometimes send 40+ emails in a day and forward me emails with information but no context, on top of a two hour weekly staff call (during which he talks about 100 of those minutes) and the occasional TWO DAY staff meeting (yep, you heard that right), during which he does about 90% of the talking. And his expectation is that all staff members will have memorized every. single. word. he uses. This is not hyperbole, btw.

I don't have the time or capacity to deal with this constant barrage of communication in any organized way and still get any actual work done. Asking him to slow down and consolidate his emails has not helped. Asking him to better utilize subject lines so that topics are more immediately clear has not helped (he will often send out crucial info in reply to a message on a completely unrelated topic, for example.)

I work in a fast moving policy sector and a wiki would be a LIFESAVER - I would MUCH rather be able to find the info I need in that way rather than going through this email BS with him - but he is not interested in upping his tech skills at all, so there is no way he will use that as a tool. I have never been so frustrated in a professional setting before, ever. This seeming impossibility of finding synchronicity in communication styles with the person I report to is one of the main reasons I am looking for another job.
posted by deliciae at 11:35 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

My wife is a uni prof and she deals with this, which happens to her all the time, by completely ignoring the requests. People are usually just being lazy and using her as a email version of Google search. When you don't respond right away they will usually find the answer on their own.
posted by srboisvert at 11:39 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I concur with those saying that 'I'll just ask ladybird!" has become the easiest, fastest and most effective way for these people to deal with their problems. If you slowly start to back off your response time to these two-and-three-time offenders, they will likely start trying to fix it themselves.
Doing it slowly decreases the chance of someone jumping up your butt and complaining about your response time.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "I sent that to you in an email on May 14th, at 11:22 am. The subject was 'Summary of the Johnson-Hughes Proposal Meeting'."

There, now it's no longer your problem, it's once again theirs. This will train them to search through their email first before, essentially, asking you to do it for them.
posted by Ookseer at 12:19 PM on July 4, 2013

….or use search to find the emails rather than having to repeat information / resend emails.

We have a similar problem where I work, and it's a combination of culture - everyone is working on many different projects, so information tends to be very widely broadcast and the resulting mass of emails is overwhelming - and technology - Outlook's search function SUCKS (and we are not allowed to download third-party clients to assist). So often I will unsuccessfully search for something even though I *know* I've received it, and end up asking someone else in the conversation in hopes that their memory is a little sharper about the timing/subject of the email (or that their Outlook has done a better job of indexing content that day).

In other words, I agree 100% with Ookseer, and that's the protocol we usually follow; receiving a response like that both verifies that the information had already been shared (and don't feel like a jerk pointing that out, it's extremely useful to know!) and gives me enough information to track down not only your email in my inbox but also others in the conversation, which means I'm probably not going to have to shamefacedly ask a similar question about what was in your followup email in 20 minutes.
posted by solotoro at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2013

I'd attach the original email to my response. "Hi Joan, I'm resending my email of 7/1, this should be the info you need. Let me know if there's anything else!"

Or, if you don't want to attach it: "Hi Joan, I sent an email about the Glitter meeting on Monday - if you don't have it let me know and I'll re-send it."

Give them the benefit of a doubt - they aren't not seeing your email or forgetting it to get under your skin, it's just how it is. At my current workplace there are hundreds of emails a day and though I am copied on many of them I don't actually need to see 95% of them. So I have filters set up. 99% of the time, the filters save me a lot of frustration. 1% they filter out something I needed to see. I live with it and hope people will be nice when I do miss something.

As is commonly pointed out on, you can't change other people. You can only change your response to them.
posted by bunderful at 12:39 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel the pain. I use short paragraphs, I include graphics, I may use colors. Frequently I send "respond to X" emails including X's edress and maybe phone. Several replies come to me instead.
I am tempted to ask how often the non-checkers look in their snail mail box.
posted by Cranberry at 12:46 PM on July 4, 2013

"Please let me know if there's any aspect of my email on this topic dated 7/1/2013 that I could have made clearer or any details I left out."

Normally I despise passive-aggresive tactics like this because I prefer aggressive-aggressive methods, but I've found that this works. It's more polite than the "what portion of my email did you not understand?" response, and yet it creates a feeling of deserved embarrassment in the person sending the email for making YOU feel like you did something wrong.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2013

People are usually just being lazy

Sometimes it's laziness, sometimes it's a power play.

I work with someone who plainly thinks she's too important to do anything so menial as to keep track of her email. Unfortunately for her, she's not actually that important. So I send her a note saying 'It was my email on 7/1 titled "Email Thing"'. And I do not make it a priority among my other tasks, so she gets it whenever I am done with actual work.

It sounds like you're doing everything else you can, other than having a wiki set up for your team, which is helpful for everyone.
posted by winna at 2:22 PM on July 4, 2013

Happens to me all the time, despite using all the recommended strategies here. I also have lots of info. available on our intranet and up in the in house version of dropbox ... which I still have to point people to all the time, though they should know it's there by now. It's frustrating because I work in a sort of academic setting, so you would think people who have PhD's would be able to handle emails with a couple of paragraphs.

At this point, I'm resigned to the fact most people only read the first few sentences of an email and so like Ruthless Bunny I usually just resend the original email with a note at the top saying something like "Here you go." (I confess to bolding the most relevant passage in the email if the person is getting on my nerves by doing this a lot). I don't necessarily do it really quickly though unless it's my boss (one of the prime offenders in this regard) and he is physically standing by my desk asking for it. So, I make the point that I've given them the info. previously, but don't rub their nose in it (usually). The better people usually apologize sheepishly. I do play the delay game a bit to make a point, but since I'm genuinely super busy and can be away from email and phone on work business for hours sometimes, people have learned they don't necessarily come to me first for info. if it is time sensitive.

I love greenish's solution, but that would probably get me fired or reprimanded. That only works if the culture of your workplace is amenable.
posted by gudrun at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2013

I get hundreds and hundreds of emails -- overwhelming quantities. I do my best but it's really challenging. Fortunately I have some work- arounds including various search tricks but sometimes I just need to ask again. It's not because I'm lazy or inconsiderate or engaging in a power play.

Email quantities are ridiculous and I am unable to read them all carefully. Email is just one part of my job that threatens to engulf other parts that are equally or more important. The pressure of email management is one more stressor in an already stressful job.

I say all of this as a plea that you think more kindly of those who ask again -- most people are doing the best they can.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:23 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sometimes it is a communication issue - I just had it with a big report and they asked me a few things that I know I included BUT it was also pretty clear that the language I was using wasn't what they wanted/needed AND they wanted confirmation.

And with emails covering lots of topics, I often find that my actual memory is pretty crap - if I'm trying to remember the email X sent about Y, and Y is buried in a long email, my memory just doesn't cope with that. I remember the top part as a reference so even if I remember "X sent me the email about Y" and go to check it, I sometimes won't find it. So I try for single topic emails where I can. Add in shitty searching in Outlook (my old job had a 150mb limit and I regularly received images for review that were 2 - 7mb) and yeah, it is sometimes easier to check back in with the person AND it ensures that if something has changed in the mean time, I'm up to date too.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:49 PM on July 4, 2013

People gravitate towards the lowest effort solutions to inconvenient problems.

It requires 10 seconds and no brainpower to ask you for repeated info, so they just ask you without thinking and get on with their actual work-work. You will reply at some point soon, and then they will have the info. Very easy.

Using a search query or thumbing through email folders, however, requires thinking and possible frustration. This might require 5 seconds to 5 minutes with no idea up front how mentally distracting it will be. And if they can't find the info, they'll have to ask you for it anyway. What a drag, what a waste of time.

This analysis suggests two approaches to get people to stop asking you for information they already have.

1) make sure they can find the info easily on their own.
a) simple emails that are easy to find and search for
b) wikis or other online content management systems
c) personal calendars or vertical solutions that manage data according to business needs
d) paper-based information systems such as sticky notes or bulletin boards

2) make it more difficult to ask you for the information.
a) reply more slowly or not at all to asks for duplicate info
b) do not provide the information but instead provide a pointer to it
c) get promotion or otherwise change in status so people intrinsically don't want to bug you
d) policy change from boss: no longer permitted to ask you dumb questions

Some or all of these techniques may be helpful for your situation, but what I would suggest before you attempt any change in response habits would be to log how much time you spend answering dumb questions for a week, then ask your boss if that's an appropriate use of your time when you could be doing your real job.

Ultimately, if your boss says, "yep, it's part of your job to be Auntie Memory" then you got to suck it up, or find another job. On the other hand, if boss is disappointed by how much time this all takes, then you can work together on finding a solution that works for everyone.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:18 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If these requests come from peers or below, I'd start CCing supervisors so they can see how their staff is wasting your time. But I worked in financial services, where dickishness is the norm, so YMMV.
posted by charlemangy at 7:23 PM on July 4, 2013

This used to happen to me, until I stopped writing multi-topic emails and shortened email length by about 60%.
posted by stompadour at 8:26 AM on July 5, 2013

I'd go with Smoke's approach. If your company uses IM, you could send the asker a message saying something like "Oh, I sent that info to you in an email 2 weeks ago, I'd dig it out for you but I'm working on [IMPORTANT TASK] right now, you should be able to find it pretty easily though."
posted by TwoWordReview at 9:29 AM on July 5, 2013

Do you have a documentation area on your network, or an intranet? If you share the same info over & over, put it somewhere central. Otherwise, re-send with I think p.3 answers your question. Let me know if you need clarification.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2013

First request for repeat info - attach previous email with no commentary.

2nd req and on - just delete the email. IF they don't hear back from you they'll look in their inbox and find one of the previous 2 emails. They just know theyre looking for something they heard from you and asking you seems more intuitive than searching.

I don't think you'll ever be challenged for non responsive because you already have the built in defence that your are doubly responsive and the recipient is not attentive.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2013

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