20 January 2011

High importance emails can cause rage

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

Yesterday I received 10-15 high importance emails. Of those emails, only one was actually important.

And staring at my inbox, which was inundated with blaring red exclamation points, I had one thought: oh my god, I hate high importance emails.

At one point, I received five emails marked “high importance” within two minutes. I thought my head was going to explode.

For me, high importance emails are only to be used in special situations. High importance means that you MUST read this email right now because your job, life, project or career are all at risk. I want to receive a high importance email when someone is walking down to my desk to murder me and my colleague is letting me know that this is about to happen by marking that email high importance. Heck, even put it that note in the subject line for me. I’ll read it.

High importance means that it is not just a regular email, it’s the meth-induced version of that email.

And when people abuse it and mark every single email high importance, it drives me batty, like it did yesterday. It only takes a few emails marked improperly for me to stop paying attention and go dead inside to them. High importance? Hardly, I’ll read that after I eat my delicious sandwich. Take a number.

So in my momentary, oh-my-god-my-head-will-explode-if-I-get-one-more-high-importance-email-rage, I tweeted my frustration, threatening to scream out loud if I got another from someone screwing with me.

The result? Two emails from colleagues marked high importance asking “how are you today?” Clearly, my friends think they’re funny….not!

But then today, the student became the master and I found myself marking emails high importance more than I should have. Yes, some were actually timely and important, but after checking my sent box and seeing so many marked red, I felt a little ashamed. That’s right people, circle of life!

What about you? Do you know someone who abuses uses this too?


  1. Mike says:

    Good blog, one thing to add is the validity of high priority emails anyway, the sender to me should not get the decision to set priority. The email system we use separates the emails making things worse.. Good emails attract attention on their own.

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  3. Chris says:


    I know this is an old post, but there is a way to disable the red exclamation point.

    Use “Rules and Alerts”. Check “messages when received” with importance set to “high”, then the action is to set the importance to “normal”.

    No more exclamation point. You can even set exceptions to certain senders or conditions or keywords.

  4. M H says:

    Thank you! You just saved me from an almost breakdown at work. I’m favoriting this for future moments when I’ll choose to laugh instead of snap, cry or send emails I’d regret. ;)

  5. Network Admin says:

    I have arrived at the following conclusion: Idiots send a lot of emails with red exclamation marks.
    I have selected all those emails and noticed that stupid people use them all the time because they cannot convince you with the text on the message body or subject.
    I agree with you that a red exclamation email should contain info that will save my life.
    Thank you for letting me vent. If I could disable that option on Exchange I would.

  6. A-Dog says:

    I use this feature all the time – why is this a problem? All my emails are important. People should read them.

  7. Bing says:

    I try to only use high importance when there is a media deadline, and I need the information NOW. I do hate when people don’t respond to those red exclamations though, especially when I need information right away. To make e-mails stand out, I sometimes use ** around the subject and all caps to catch people’s attention. Hopefully it’s not too annoying because it really works!

  8. Allison says:

    high importance emails crack me up! Of course I’m going to read it!

  9. Fortunately, my coworkers don’t abuse the high importance label too much. BUT, I did make an observation about my e-mail yesterday. The Modern Love Machine and I were out of town this weekend, visiting a place where my blackberry had no service. When it regained service yesterday morning after two and a half days off, I had 66 new e-mails. You know how many I actually read before deleting? Three. That means a lot of people are wasting their time.

  10. Tara says:

    Importance is in the eyes of the beholder, or in this case, sender. I’ve been guilty of clicking the red exclamation point to get my team’s attention, but I don’t think it helps any anyway. I have never marked my email as low importance and never received one that said that. I should start trying that, lol.

  11. we do the ! emails a work… i’d say 75% are important and other 25% are semi haha.

  12. We use Lotus Notes at work … I don’t think we can code emails “high” priority.

  13. E.P. says:

    None of my co-workers have figured out the High Importance e-mail thing… yet, but whenever I do receive one, I am generally pissed off because it’s not that important. (Just like you.)

    To those folks, I want to say: “I understand the e-mail needs to be addressed in a timely manner. Most of them need to be. Is yours more important than the rest? Probably not.”

  14. Hazel says:

    I have a co-worker who uses it on EVERY. SINGLE. EMAIL. I don’t know if she has it set on default or something, but there’s no way she knows she’s doing it, right? Someone needs to say something to her but nobody does.

  15. Kate says:

    We use Gmail as opposed to Outlook at work — I’m not even sure I have the high-importance function. Regardless, I don’t know how well that function works anyway. It’s all about perspective — what’s of high importance to someone else isn’t necessarily of high importance to me. If you send me what you consider a really important e-mail and I don’t respond right away, call me on the damn phone or stalk me in my office. It’ll all get squared away and life as we know it will not end.

  16. At my work we’re only supposed to use it if the project has a rush deadline or someone is suffering or in immediate need of help (which happens multiple times every day). Since I telecommute, e-mail is my primary means of communicating with my coworkers, so I try to be very judicious in how often I set something to high priority.

  17. MillenniMedia says:

    I used to hate it too, but then I started looking at the email from the perspective of the person who sent it. True, some people just WAY overuse it, but try looking at it from another angle. See how closely the information they’re requesting relates to their ability to be successful in *their* job. It might seem mundane to you, but it may not be to them (or their boss). Something you consider very important might not seem so to your CEO.

    For example, while you may not see the value in a timely expense report or an exact headcount for a big meeting, the accountant is concerned about closing the month and reconciling the bank so your paycheck doesn’t bounce. The executive admin needs to place an advance order for catered lunch and book the one conference room that holds more than five people. You ignoring these requests may not be a detriment to your job, but it could be to theirs. Instead of stressing about the exclamation points, if they start rolling in on a particularly busy/stressful day just shoot the sender an email and ask if their deadline is flexible.

  18. maki says:

    I didn’t even know that this HIGH IMPORTANCE email even existed! I don’t get it nor use it – I know all my emails I send out are important since I only use emails for my work and discussing some stuff with friends. But crap, am I missing out something here? I want HIGH IMPORTANCE email! lol

  19. I am so with you on this. I hate that little red exclamation point. My first job out of college was sales for that brown company and our admin sent every. single. email with that little red guy. Major annoyance.

  20. Rachel says:


  21. jen says:

    i hate those almost as much as i hate when people will put the entire email in the subject line…

  22. Kez says:

    I only ever use it if there’s a deadline involved and the answer is needed as soon as possible. Although I do tend to do it more when emailing someone who is notorious for ignoring their emails!!

  23. Angela says:

    A fantastic flowchart on when to use high priority labels in emails. :)


  24. Erin says:

    I hardly ever use it because I don’t think most people even bother to notice that that particular email is in any way marked as being different from all the other emails they get. I teach a class on email best practices and my advice is always to put a descriptive subject line instead.

  25. A Super Girl says:

    I rarely use the dreaded red exclamation point. I forget it’s even there. What cracks me up is the low importance flag. Who would mark their e-mail as low importance?!