Dear Jane: I Misunderstood an E-Mail—and Missed a Work Session!

by 352admin 28. February 2013 12:16

Dear JaneDear Jane,

I recently was assigned to a big matter for a partner with whom I’ve never worked.  I am the most junior person on the team.  Last Friday, the partner sent an e-mail to the team telling us that he’d “be in at 10 a.m. on Saturday.”  I found out today that everyone but me understood that to mean we had to be at the office by 10 a.m. on Saturday.  What do I do now?


He Should Have Been More Specific


Dear He Should Have Been More Specific,

You just described a fairly routine generational communication gap. You learned the hard way that asking more questions may be necessary with this partner. Better yet, develop a relationship with the next most junior person on the team so that you can ask him/her the questions about both substance and logistics. That should keep you covered on the interpretation of future communications, but you have to do something about not being there on Saturday. My suggestion is to drop by the partner’s office and say:  “I hear the team met at 10 a.m. on Saturday. I did not interpret your e-mail in that way (obviously).  I now understand your expectations and will be there next time.”  You don’t have to apologize but you do need to acknowledge you now understand his way of communicating.

Jane DiRenzo Pigott is the managing director of R3 Group LLC, specializing in working with professional service organizations on leadership and change in connection with diversity and inclusion. Before founding R3 Group, she practiced law for more than two decades at large law firms where she chaired a practice group, served on the executive management and compensation committees, and founded and ran diversity initiatives and affinity groups.

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