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Your Email Does Not Constitute My Emergency

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Your Email Does Not Constitute My Emergency

The New York Times,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

It’s time to stop feeling guilty about less-than-speedy email replies.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Eloquent
  • Engaging


“Sorry for the delay…” has become a standard email opener in business culture. But are these apologies justified? In this eloquent op-ed, organizational psychologist Adam Grant explores the value of setting boundaries regarding your relationship with your inbox. After all, Grant notes, most emails aren’t genuinely urgent, and even if they were, he argues, a less-than-speedy reply should not automatically spark feelings of guilt. To avoid the burnout endemic in today’s “always on” work culture, people need to start valuing the quality of a reply more than its speed.


In today’s “always on” work culture, people feel guilty when they don’t immediately reply to emails.

How often have you received a reply to an email – or written one yourself – that began, “Sorry for the delay”? This phrase has become ubiquitous in today’s “always on” work culture. It sounds polite, but apologizing for what, in most cases, is a perfectly reasonable reply time frame reinforces the problematic notion that everyone should be available for work-related matters at all times. 

Human beings are not built for responsiveness at scale. In the pre-digital days, people only had to deal with those in their immediate workplaces, communities or families...

About the Author

Adam Grant is a contributing Opinion writer for The New York Times. He is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, the author of the book Think Again and the host of the TED podcast Re:Thinking.

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    E. O. 3 weeks ago
    This is a message worth spreading. My bad planning may lead into unnecessary emergencies and pressure over the whole team. One of my formal supervisors used to set clear that she would dedicate the morning to address emails and then focus on her daily tasks. During her focus time, people were aware that their emergencies would not be seen as such, and I think that it helped me see things differently.
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    M. B. 3 weeks ago
    Fully agree
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    m. m. 2 months ago
    i like this