17 May 2013

Words mean things, work edition

A colleague of mine ("Bob") had a form he needed me to sign. Except we don't work in the same building. He works in Building A. I used to work in Building B, but I recently moved to Building C (which isn't owned by our company).

Bob emailed me on a Wednesday and asked me if I was in Building B. I said no, I moved to Building C. However, I told him, if you "send it through the [intra-company] mail, I would stop by Building B and sign it for him. He said that he would do that.

On the next Monday afternoon (after I had already left work), I received an email from the mail room in Building B that I had mail. On Tuesday morning, Bob asked me why I hadn't signed his form yet. I told him that I had only just been notified that the mail arrived, and that I intended to sign it later that day. Bob thought this was unacceptable. Why did I wait to be notified about the mail delivery when he personally dropped it off last Wednesday? This was a time sensitive form (something else he neglected to mention).

Of course, Bob had agreed to "send it through the mail." To me, this meant he dropped off the form via intra-company mail at Building A and it would take a day or two to get to Building B. Under those circumstances, I wouldn't expect the form to be there on Wednesday. But to Bob, dropping it off in person at Building B mail room was just the same as sending it through the mail. And when he dropped it off, he told the mail room attendant that I would be expecting the form, so the mail room attendant didn't email me until Monday (when I hadn't picked up the form in several days).

Words mean things. A simple phrase like "send it through the mail" can mean two different things to different people. In this case, it resulted in a delay of several days. Fortunately, everything was cleared up on Tuesday after several back-and-forth emails. But don't take it for granted that a simple phrase means the same thing to everyone else that it does to you.
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