You may think that it is impossible to learn anything about someone’s personality by just looking at their inbox – well actually you would probably be surprised.
When you are sat in the office do you ever look around and see other people’s inboxes? Some people have no unread emails, others have 2 or 3 whilst many of us have page after page of unread emails and this is probably actually a fair reflection on our personalities.
Of course our professions do play a factor but it is still an interesting issue and is indeed something that has been investigated by experts in both psychology and technology.
It would appear that the vast majority of us fit into one of three very distinct categories that psychologists have chosen to call:
- The Filer/Deleter
- The Saver
- The Ignorer
Just reading those categories has no doubt raised a few eyebrows and probably a few smiles and you probably know which category that you fit into straight away. It is very interesting reading what these experts have said about these types of people.
As the title suggests, this is the type of person who believes that everything has its proper place and should be filed in that place accordingly. A filer/delete checks their email frequently. They read every email and either file it in the specific folder or delete it. The number of emails in this person’s inbox is usually zero and if it were to reach double figures that person would probably become quite anxious.
A leading psychologist called Larry Rosen Ph.D., himself a self confessed filer/delete believes that ultimately this type of email management comes from a “desire for control”. These types of people need to have their whole house in order and that includes their email. They would not be comfortable going to work and leaving their home a mess or things left unfinished and indeed their email behavior reflects this. Rosen went on “They need an external way to have control over the world,” and this certainly fulfills their need for everything to be in order.
The saver is someone who tends to hoard things. They will read an email an act upon but rarely delete it. They may have a few unread emails in their inbox but generally this is kept to a minimum. Another psychologist, Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D. believes that there are a number of reasons for this type of behavior. She believes that these are often the same types of people who have to-do lists that are far too long – basically you have every intention of doing them but it is highly unlikely that you ever will. Saving an email makes you think that you will address it – eventually!
Another possible reason for keeping the email could be fear! Fear that eventually you may need some of the information contained in the email. Fear that someone may refer to it in future. Fear of someone finding out that you have deleted their email. Some people are affected more by fear than others and a saver can be ruled by fear.
Ron Friedman, Ph.D. goes on to talk about the final category – The Ignorer. There are a number of reasons why people choose it ignore emails. It may be that they are simply too busy, not interested or more positively that certain emails do not need monitoring as they do not assist productivity – emails about lunch breaks at a month end would be a perfect example.
Friedman believes that ignorers may actually be the most organized and productive people in your workforce. It can reflect that you can prioritize and you can determine what work needs your immediate attention and what does not. These people should not be thought of as disorganized but in fact quite the opposite.