Charlie Bavington

French to English Freelance Translator - I.T. specialist

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Solving global problems, one step at a time

May 20th, 2014 | Categories: agencies, business, mass emails

Like many (most?) of us, I tend to, at the very least, treat email not addressed to me personally as a low priority, shall we say.

Fortunately, my email client enables me to see a) the first few words of the message, so I can read the “Dear xxxxx” bit, and b) whether the email has been sent solely to me or to several people. Hence I can, and do, delete some email unopened.

In the last few months, an agency I’ve worked with for years started to send out these uninspiring missives. (So I’m not talking here about the unsolicited tripe sent by folks you’ve never heard of or from previously.) Some I deleted unopened, some I opened then deleted, some I opened, read and declined, and some I even opened, read and replied positively. On occasion, I was assigned the project. The “deleted unread” pile was the pile added to most frequently as the weeks passed, but not the only pile.

And so it came to pass, by virtue of wasting time reading a lengthy document before responding, only to find my reply was the second acceptance to arrive, that a dialogue was entered into with the PM concerned.

Now, I do fully understand and appreciate the occasional need for group emails. In a nutshell, unless and until each and every one of us pledges here and now to respond to all individually-addressed email within about 5 minutes, I don’t see them ever disappearing. I do think that the description “urgent” is most definitely abused and over-used (I even used the old “lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” line), but again, here too, we do ourselves no favours. Jobs that weren’t urgent become urgent when we fail to respond reasonably sharpish. I say “respond”, I mean “decline, so the PM can look elsewhere”, of course.

I naturally put forward the reasons why us tetchy old grumps do not spring enthusiastically to respond to group email – the ones I could think of at least. These were understood and accepted as valid. And while we all like to think of ourselves as uniquely skilled, I know fine well that agencies get plenty of mundane corporate crud that could be assigned to me or probably a dozen other people with equally dazzling results. Some stuff is, indeed, actually urgent.

But I objected, and still do object, to reading a source document in good faith and then finding the project has been assigned to someone else. That was and remains my major issue with this kind of group email. And I have a solution. Surprisingly, not a solution that had occurred to anyone at this agency. I proposed this solution. The PMs (another had joined the fray by this point) agreed it would help improve the perception of group emails, and would take almost no effort, and they would implement it forthwith, if not sooner.

What’s interesting is that I don’t know whether they have or not. Before the discussion, I would get group emails from this agency daily. Since this discussion, a month ago, I have received one.

Yes, yes, Charlie, I hear you snap impatiently, but what is this stroke of genius that has obliterated the problem of group emails at a stroke? The solution, chums, is this. Ask the agency/PMs whether they would be so kind as to send a follow-up group email once a project, previously announced by group email, has been assigned. If my experience is any guide, the strain involved most be so monumentally draining that they would rather not bother you in the first place after all. Hey ho. Onwards and upwards.

  1. May 20th, 2014 at 11:35
    Quote | #1

    Quite agree Charlie – it drives me mad when this happens and I’m inclined not to answer at all either. I do have one favourite client, however, who, on the rare occasions they do send out group e-mails, always qualify them with profuse apologies and a note right at the start of the e-mail to the effect that they have sent this out to a number of translators because of the urgency of the job. For some reason, that makes me much more inclined to respond – and yes, they’re the kind of agency who even reply thanking you for taking the trouble, even if you’ve said no….

    • Charlie
      May 20th, 2014 at 11:50
      Quote | #2

      Thanks Claire. I should perhaps add that this crew also usually acknowledge and apologise at the start of group emails, and usually thank you for replying even if you’ve declined the job. In every other respect, in fact, their behaviour is pretty much top notch (certainly compared to the horror stories we all hear). Hence I find the subsequent silence a bit odd. Despite the tongue-in-cheek title, I genuinely believe a group “job has been assigned” email would be an improvement, but when push comes to shove, I don’t miss the group emails, so either way it’s a win :-)

  2. May 20th, 2014 at 15:10
    Quote | #3

    I am so glad that by solving this problem and not getting these annoying group emails any more you have managed to find the time to write another blog post. I have missed your sparkling wit and unique perspective. Please don’t keep us waiting so long again.

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