Who uses a telephone?If you wanted to reach someone urgently, would you rely on email? Increasingly, it seems, you would.

Well, you might not. I certainly wouldn’t in a business situation*– I would pick up the telephone and call. Yet at a professional development event earlier this week, a young millennial (27, she announced to the group she acknowledged as “much older”) said she would send an email rather than call, even for something urgent.

Sending an urgent request by email and expecting an immediate reply flies in the face of some key advice for efficiently dealing with email:

  • Turn mail notification off when you need to focus on work.
  • Don’t check for email often.
  • In fact, only check for mail at certain times during the day.

But our millennial friend increasingly represents the person who may trying to reach both companies and individuals.

Pew Research Center says 90% of Americans have cellphones, which they mostly (81%) use to send text messages. Of the list of uses – email, accessing the web, downloading apps, getting directions, listening to music, etc. – making an actual, you know, PHONE CALL did not even appear. A separate Pew study showed that even among teens, just 13% used their phones to call friends.


Business Insider suggests that millennials are “less practiced, having grown up with email and text and AIM.” Inc. says millennials find calls “unproductive” and text more efficient.

So this may be a wake-up call if, like me, you expect that someone with an urgent request will call rather than email, or perhaps email first but call soon afterward. To deal with the urgent emailer,  you might:

  • Set expectations at the beginning of a business relationship to outline the best way to reach you, particularly for something urgent.
  • Say how often you check email and when (if at specific times).
  • Set up an automatic reply that shows the mail arrived and how quickly you’ll reply.

Still, psychologist and author Ron Friedman says in the Business Insider article, “If you want to be in a leadership position, you’re going to have to get good at live interactions” – including using the phone to make a call. (The article has tips for conquering a “fear” of the phone, for you non-calling millennials.)

*Yes, I use text as the fastest way to reach my millennial sons.

What about you? Do you check email often enough that an urgent message will get through in time? Do you find yourself calling people less often?

Image: “Digitalart” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.