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Document Inferno: The 9 Circles of Email Routing Hell

Published: April 7, 2017

While email has been meant mainly as a communication tool, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to cram every manner of functionality into it. Unfortunately, this often leads to communication gaffes and tends to suck the productivity out of teams. Whether you’ve suffered through every level or have only had to visit one or two, we’re sure anyone who’s used email to route or work with documents will recognize these common frustrations.

First Circle: Limbo

This is where progress goes to die. You’ve sent that sales proposal or budget request out into the world, yet all you hear back is the heartbeat-like sound of mouse clicking as you refresh your inbox. While it may seem like they fell off the face of the Earth, it could be that they’ve just been sent here for their crime of silence.

Second Circle: Noise

We can all agree that there’s an occasional need for the ‘reply to all’ function in email. Yet we all know that one person whose standard M.O. is to copy anyone remotely involved and their managers each time they send a file for review. Fortunately, the people sent here are subjected to the collective groans and sighs of their victims for eternity.

Third Circle: Perplexity

Unfortunately, most of us reside in this particular circle of email routing hell. Trapped in a perpetual state of follow-up, you spend hours each month sending desperate rounds of emails to ‘touch base’ or ‘check in’ to get the information you’re waiting on. Either that or your inbox is an email wasteland where no amount of searching or digging through email chains can produce the file you need. Left with no alternative, you sheepishly ask someone to resend the file or risk wasting more time.

Fourth Circle: Hindrance

You know the type. The one who always ends up responding, just not when you need them to.  They either have so many emails that they can never seem to get to the one that you need them to review, or they always have to run their responses by someone else to confidently reply. Meanwhile, all productivity grinds to a halt since progress hinges on this single bottleneck.  

Fifth Circle: Overkill

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. But you know the definition of insanity is when someone gives you an answer or sends you back paperwork only to send you seven additional emails within minutes because they found ‘one more change’ they needed to make. These Sultans of Swirl deserve to be banished to this level for wasting everyone else’s time with their lack of attention to detail.

Sixth Circle: Misdirection

When it comes to email routing, there’s a special hell just for collaboration. There’s nothing quite like being the one who has to sort through and consolidate a group’s disparate opinions, conflicting change requests, and random conversations into a single file. Those individuals should be recommended for sainthood, while the rest should be exiled to forever give suggestions without resolution.

Seventh Circle: Excess

This narrow slice of email hell is reserved for the monsters who create files that are too large to email. As if sending forms through email isn’t enough of a time waster, now you have to add the hour or so it’ll take to find a workaround. These folks will learn the true meaning of compression as more of them are crammed into this circle.

Eighth Circle: Deviation

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You’ve just spent the last hour gathering data and entering it into the form a coworker sent. Minutes after you send it back, they whimsically reply, “Oh sorry, I sent the wrong version. Here’s the correct form.” What’s worse is when multiple people are working on a file and someone downloads a file from a previous round to work on. People who commit these file foul-ups will find themselves here, surrounded by dozens of slightly different versions of themselves.

Ninth Circle: Waste

Our final circle of hell is reserved for a select bunch of evil-doers, whose violations are so egregious they bypass all other circles and come straight here. Here you’ll find people who send you a file through email, knowing full well you’ll have to print it and either scan it or (gasp!) fax it back. For crimes against technology, these people will be forced to ride penny-farthings while talking on a rotary phone.