Has anyone else noticed that there seems to be a marked rise, from even a decade ago, in terms of the regularity and predictability with which all kinds of messages are returned? Because I have.
Call me old fashioned (I’m only 35 at the time of writing!), but I always felt that returning messages was important, a sign of reliability, a good thing in business. I always make it a point to return all messages—unless a message was completely off-topic, such as a cold call peddling commercial refits to our home-based team — by the end of the day. I might have left just a very short voicemail or a brief email, but I still returned them. I viewed it as a responsibility.
So what’s going on?
To try to make some sense of my observations, I spoke with a number of people, including fellow Millennials. Interestingly, no one really disagreed with me; on the other hand, no one seemed too disturbed about it, either.
Here are 3 reasons why people ignore messages based on my limited and casual research:
- There are too many different kinds of messages out there. Between texts, tweets, Facebook messages, LinkedIn emails, traditional emails, voicemails, and others, it’s easy for any single message to get lost in the shuffle.
- People are too busy. Everybody’s rushing and multi-tasking, zipping from one activity to another with mobile devices glued to their ears and fingers—and in a generally frenetic environment, it’s easy to have small things like messages slip through the cracks.
- People are kind of lazy and they’d rather avoid the hard stuff. This may account for why increasing numbers of my harder-edged, shall we say, business messages go unanswered. Conflict is unpleasant, as is the notion someone might not be doing something all that well. So if there’s not a clear expectation that a definite answer is required (and sometimes even if there is) it’s easier and less stressful to ignore and forget it.
I always felt responding to messages was kind of the unglamorous bricks and mortar of how business got done. Unexciting and tedious, but a necessity.