How to Send a Follow Up Email

Your coworkers get hundreds of emails every day and almost everyone is awful at managing their email. Just because you sent an email doesn’t mean the other person read it or that they’ll do what you ask.

Find out exactly how to send a follow up email, and get the results you want when communicating with your bosses and coworkers.

An Example of Poor Office Communication:

A great feature of email is that it’s archived and you can go back to it to prove a point. (See… I DID send you that file last week!)

Unfortunately, because of this I’ve noticed a lot of email “communication” is about covering your own ass (CYA) when it should be about effectively communicating with others to get work done efficiently and effectively.

Boss: “John’s late for this meeting. Did you tell him what time to be here?”
You: “Yep, I sent him an email about it last week”

This approach essentially covers you from being responsible for John not being at the meeting.

But you goal shouldn’t be to make it John’s “fault” he’s not there. Your goal should be to show your boss your impressive business communication skills. And to do that you need to make sure John comes to the meeting so the time can be used productively and your team can accomplish something.

One More Example:

It’s Monday morning and I just sent out an email to every salesperson in my company – letting them know that expense reports are due the following Thursday. What are the odds they will act on it and fill out their expenses today?

Slim to none in my experience. Because next Thursday seems like lightyears away. Instead, most of them delete the message and make a mental note to do their expense reports next week “when they have more time.”

The deadline comes and goes. You’re angry that a large group of salespeople haven’t done their reports. You feel insulted that no one listened to you about the deadline.

How could they be such bad employees?

You’re frustrated because you can’t do your job until you get these reports. Instead of doing the work you’re supposed to, you spend all morning emailing/calling people to get as many reports as you can.

In reality, you could have avoided all of this by sending another follow-up email or making a few phone calls.

The day before the deadline, forward the original message to everybody who hasn’t done their expense reports yet. Include a short note saying something like this

I know you’re all busy, so I’ll keep this brief. Just reminding everyone that expense reports are due tomorrow so that you can get reimbursed in your next paycheck. Thank you, Bob

The Two-Email Follow Up Method

The two email approach allows you to get the best of both worlds.

  1. The initial message – You send them a message far enough in advance that they can’t complain about having no time to complete the task.
  2. The Followup – You send the second message right before the task is due. Forwarding the original emails reminds them that you gave plenty of notice. And since the task is due soon they know that they have to more it to the top of their to-do list.
  3. Keep in mind – Your follow up email is polite and tells them the reason it’s important they meet the deadline. It’s even better if the reason benefits your audience. In this example, I made sure to tell them that the deadline was important because it meant they would get paid on time. That’s a pretty strong motivation for a lot of people.