An old friend reminded me yesterday of a particularly annoying habit that seems to have become pervasive: following up on emails. I’m not talking about the kind of follow-up that provides additional information or seeks an answer after a prolonged period of unresponsiveness. I’m talking about the guy who pokes his head in your door seconds after you hear your computer chime, saying, “Hey, did you get my email?”

Or the woman who calls and says, “I just sent you an email. Let me know when you get it.”

Or the co-worker who stops by the minute you return from a meeting and, while your hand is still hovering over your mouse, says, “Hey, I know you probably haven’t seen it yet, but I just sent you an email about [fill in the blank] and here’s what it says. What do you think?”

As my friend put it, “Unless the server is down for an extended period of time, I got your email!

Sure, servers can fail or spam filters can suck out the unlucky few, but chances are that if you know me well enough to ask about your email, we’ve probably exchanged electronic messages in the past so 1) we’ve proven the server works and 2) you’re probably in my address book so you can stop worrying about the spam filter. Trust the technology and give me a chance to respond.

If you’re going to follow-up with a phone call or a visit to my office anyway, then don’t waste your time with the email in the first place. Unless you’re my mother. Then you can do what you want.

P.S. If you come to me asking because you really need a response and can’t wait, try phrasing it that way. Hey, I know you’ve been busy, but I’m up against a deadline and really need an answer on this one. Will you take a peek at my email and let me know what you think?