Keep in mind that all of this communication is happening in e-mail, which means they can read and re-read it at their leisure, if needed.
E-mail conversations I have actually had many, many times at work:
Me: I need things A, B, and C. Don’t do X.Them: Okay.Me: How are things, A, B, and C coming along?Them: Oh, I thought we were waiting for X. We’ll get right on that.Me: How are those things coming along?Them: *delivers things D, E, and F*Me: …Me: I needed things A, B, and C.Them: Oh, right. We’re on it.Them: *finally delivers things A, B, and C*
Me: Here’s my understand of our status. *gives list* And here’s a question. *asks question*Them: Yeah, that sounds right. *asks question*Me: *answers their question*Me: *waits*Them: *silent*Me: *repeats question from first message*
Me: Here are instructions on how to do the thing.Them: *does the thing, skipping three steps*Me: Hey, so you skipped steps 2, 4, and 7. Those are necessary.Them: Oh, sorry about that.Me: *waits*Me: Have you done the thing with steps 2, 4, and 7?Them: Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you wanted it re-done.
Them: I need thing X.Me: Here it is.Them: Thanks.Them: *two weeks later* Hey, we need thing X.Me: …Me: Here it is. Them: Thanks.Them: *two weeks later* Hey, we need thing X.Me: …Me: …Me: Here it is.Them: Thanks. *uses the thing*
I don’t understand it, I really don’t. I keep going back and re-reading my messages to see if they’re confusing somehow, but they aren’t. They are totally clear.
It’s infuriating, to the point that I had to call my dad, who has ~50 years of high level business experience, and ask him what to do about this shit. He said that he tends to be like me, but that the best manager he knows gets things done right the first time by his people because he micromanages the shit out of them. Like, every day asking where they’re at, have they done step A, do they remember that step B comes next, etc. I’m working on developing both this skill and a tolerance for using it.
So if you ever wonder why someone you work with is (a) micromanaging the shit out of you and (b) treating you like you can’t read, it’s because some of the people they work with just can’t be trusted to understand things the first time. Or the second time. Or sometimes the third time…
Ways I write emails when I need things:
Bullet point everything. EVERYTHING. Two-thirds of my emails are a series of introductory sentences with clear, short bullet points. So for your first email, it’d be:
I need the following:
I do NOT need the following:
Judicious use of formatting. When I need a more complex list of things, or I want to ask a question, I make sure that I bold what I need. I also break up every possible separate thought into small paragraphs. So your second email would be:
Here’s the current status of the project: things A, B and C are done. D is scheduled to be done next week.
Before D can be completed, I need to know the following: why is the sky blue?
Copying and pasting – and calling attention to it. People get embarrassed pretty easily. When you point out that they’ve missed something, or that they already had something, no matter how gently, they realize they don’t like getting called out. So, for the last email:
As provided in the email sent 8/15 (third down on this email thread): here is X, again: [copy and paste from original email].
Very very explicit directions and deadlines. People assume they do not have to do work, even if you report an error. If you tell them they did something wrong, they will assume you are saying you will correct the issue. So, for your second to last email:
What you have provided me is incomplete. You did not provide the following:
Step 2 Step 4 Step 7
Those must be completed. Please complete this process again, following the instructions provided to you in the previous email:
[obvious copy and paste of the instructions]
Please notify me when you have completed this process with all steps. This must be completed by [date] for my work to be completed on time.
I hope this helps!
Oh my god. Teach me your ways
Good advice. Also:
I have learned that even when emailing highly educated people, ONE THING PER EMAIL.
If I have two questions, I use 2 emails. Three things for them to do - three emails.
I think since so many people are looking at email on their phones, if they do one thing they think they are done.
That last point. One of the people I support relies on her iPhone heavily. Many of my e-mails are so truncated on the screen, she can’t see more than the first line or so, plus, she has a really, really bad habit of not scrolling down the fucking page. One point per e-mail and screw any attachments. In her office is fine, but if I get an e-mail that’s sent from her iPhone, KISS.
I am going to reblog this and keep it and print it out to keep at work