My first boss told me in no uncertain terms: THESE ARE THE RULES, and they should never be broken if you want to be successful.
- Every phone call should be returned within twenty-four hours. Even those from people you don’t know.
- Every memo should have a response by the next business day. Even if the response is, “I am in receipt of your memo, stay tuned.”
- Each piece of correspondence received should be acknowledged and a response prepared and returned within three business days.
Today, it is rare to make a phone call or to receive one. No one even knows what a memo is anymore, and no one receives written letters unless the letter is from the IRS. The rules have changed and are now, well, a little ambiguous. There are some general guidelines, like:
- An e‑mail needs to be returned the same day. Probably.
- A text should be returned in five minutes. Probably.
- And a phone call? Depending on who it is, maybe someone will get around to it eventually.
Some would say that these guideline response times are too slow. This group would say an e‑mail should be returned within the hour and a text within a minute. This same group would be forgiving on returned phone call times because this is the group that never makes phone calls or would die before posting an automatic out‑of‑office response.
Others would say e‑mails, texts, and calls are the source of all distractions and inefficiencies. This group would choose not to be measured by response time.
The workplace is moving so fast today that “the quicker the response, the better” is always a good rule. Acceptable and exact response times today are a moving target with lots of variables that dictate the right answer.
One thing I do know: to be labeled as unresponsive in today’s workplace is the kiss of laziness and a step toward the exit door.