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“e-mail rabbit hole” September 19, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.

e-mail rabbit hole
EE-mail RAB-bit hol

Have you ever found yourself in a back-and-forth volley of e-mails with no discernible positive solution? If so, then you’re in the “e-mail rabbit hole”.

Here’s how it works: you’re tooling along, doing your thing, and your boss (or co-worker) sends you a very brief e-mail. For example, “why isn’t x this way?” You distinctly remember making x a certain way, so you say, “x is that way.” You receive an almost-immediate message to the effect of “no, it’s not.” So you check into it. You determine that x truly is the way it’s supposed to be. You take a screenshot and send it back.

Now it gets fun.

Your boss e-mails you back saying something like “okay, x is partially done, but really what you’ve done is y”.

Prepare to rip your hair out as you patiently explain that “according to the work order, the client told the sales team that they wanted x. Sales wrote out the order to contain both x and y. Because it was easier to build, fix, adjust, and change, I combined them to create z. You’re looking at z, which contains x.”

Inevitable boss response: “I’m confused. I’ll just circle back with sales and figure this out.”

Y’know what the best part is of any e-mail rabbit hole? Odds are good you’re e-mailing a person less than 50 feet away. You could have just gotten up and walked to your boss’s office, or vice versa. But you felt that was a waste of time. Unfortunately, your boss has just wasted even more of your time pulling you down the e-mail rabbit hole. And after that, you’re compelled to find a co-worker who has been through this just so you can commisserate, thereby wasting more time.

Healthwise, it’s better to get up from your desk every hour or so. Avoid e-mail rabbit holes by taking a brief walk.


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