Work-related emails zoom in and out of our inboxes, but some messages make us stop and think.
Take, for instance, a recent email exchange between billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and one of his analysts. Investigators think the analyst gave Cohen inside information on Dell’s upcoming earnings.
Right after the email, Cohen reportedly sold his entire 500,000 shares of Dell stock.
Insider trading, perhaps? We’ll let the authorities decide.
In the meantime, what kinds of work emails do we worry about opening? Let’s start with these: 8 Email Subject Lines You Never Want to See from Your Boss.
1. “Are you still awake?”
Your head is nestling into the pillow, and you’re on a first-class trip to dreamland. Right then, a late-night message from the big cheese you feel compelled to answer. So much for a restful night.
2. “About this weekend”
Classic Friday afternoon Bill Lumberg move. You are oh-so-close to freedom and then WAM… the email subject line that dooms your Saturday, Sunday or (sadly) both.
3. “Scheduling your yearly review”
Damn. You were flying under the radar so well, and then the annual assessment blows through with the force of a sharknado.
Wait, is that joke already played out? Hopefully it hasn’t jumped the shark… nado.
The scariest email subject line of them all. “Hey” could mean ANYTHING. A compliment, criticism, idle chit-chat about last night’s episode of True Blood. ANYTHING. Be on guard.
5. “Small favor”
Nope. Those don’t exist. With “small favor,” the boss is giving a heads up that he’s about to come at you with a big ask.
6. “I know you’re on vacation”
… and I don’t care. Put down your margarita, tap into the WiFi hotspot at the tiki bar and get back to work.
7. “We have to talk”
RED ALERT. RED ALERT. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “the four worst words in the English language.” Open the email with grave caution.
8. “Before you leave today, stop by my office”
Um, am I about to get fired? Or are you giving me two tickets to the Yankees game? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?
The Truth About Bosses and Email
Email correspondence — especially after work hours — is one of the grayest areas of office etiquette. Just because you have a (company-owned) smartphone, does that give management carte blanche to badger you as needed?
In a Forbes article, career coach Robert Hellman of Five O’Clock Club says if you’re in a new job, you should answer the email immediately. After about six months, he thinks you can gauge company culture and decide how urgently to respond.