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Q.
My boss marks her every email as "high priority." How can I tactfully remedy this?

A.
According to Carleton University researchers, one-third of the average office worker's time is spent reading and answering emails – of which the academics estimate 30 percent are neither crucial nor imperative. As such, marking every email as high priority is the digital-age version of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Instead of the intended effect, which is for you to immediately act on missives, it has the opposite one: of you ignoring them to some degree.

The best way to resolve this is to sit down with your boss privately. Start by explaining that you cannot be effective unless you are able to rank her needs from high to low so you can give each request the attention it proportionally deserves.

Further, tell her that you will be focusing on the top 10 things each week and ranking them in order of what she designates as most important, giving, as an illustration, her email requests. Offer her examples of several emails and ask how she would want them ranked in significance.

Next, let her know that if she needs something moved up in importance, you will be glad to meet with her and determine which other to-do items on the list need to move down a notch accordingly. Once she understands that you are not ignoring her requests but trying to prioritize them to get things done, I expect she will be more cooperative – and you will feel less like going postal. E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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