It’s hard to imagine life without email, especially in the workplace. We use it to ask for co-workers’ opinions, we use it to ask for our manager’s advice, and, occasionally (or not-so-occasionally, depending on your habits), we use it to ask for deadline extensions.

With that said, there are a few requests that shouldn’t be made this way. Like what? Well, I’m going to tell you so that you don’t make the mistake (that so many people do) of thinking email’s the first place you should turn when you need something.


1. Requests That Need a Super Fast Response

You’ve been there before: Sending your co-worker an email that needs a response ASAP, then wondering why on Earth you haven’t received a reply five, then 10, then 30 minutes later later. But is it really your colleague’s fault for not being glued to his or her inbox every second of the day? Maybe she’s in a meeting. Maybe he’s at lunch. Maybe she’s working on a huge project and has turned her email off.

In this article citing programmer Cyrus Stoller, Muse writer Lily Herman explains that you should only email someone “if you need something done within the next couple of days.” Need a response within an hour or the world ends? Go over to the person’s desk. Not there? Pick up the phone and call. No answer? Send a text. “Email should not be the default means of communication for getting across anything that needs to be known or dealt with in real time,” writes Herman.


2. Requests for a Raise

We know plenty of “sample emails asking for a raise” exist online—we’ve seen them, too. But just because they exist doesn’t mean you should use them, or should spend hours crafting a more-eloquent version of that template. That’s because when it comes to negotiating a salary bump, your tone is just as important as what you say.

And the right tone in an email is tricky. In a message asking for a raise, how do you show that you’re being hopeful but not desperate, or confident but not arrogant? (Hint: You can’t, unless you choose to fill your email with emoticons.)

So, while you can certainly request a meeting with your manager to discuss your career path (a.k.a., your raise) over email, you should make the actual ask in person.


3. Requests to Change Up Your Routine

Sometimes, we have the (awesome) option to choose when and where we work. With that flexibility, however, comes a certain level of responsibility. If you’ve recently realized that you work better at night, or that your preferred work location isn’t in the office but is actually on a coffee shop couch, don’t suddenly change your routine without asking your boss.

But don’t make the ask via email, either. Chances are, your boss would like a thorough explanation of the changes you’re making, and how your new schedule would benefit not just you, but the team at large. An in-person conversation can help you sound more sincere and convince him or her that it’s in everyone’s best interest—and not just an excuse for you to sleep in later.



Just because email’s becoming one of the most (if not the most) popular ways of contacting people doesn’t mean you should use it for everything. Without thinking twice before you click that send button, you could potentially send your work reputation out the door.


Photo of confused man courtesy of Shutterstock.