Collaboration and Communication: Be Honest about it.

“Thanks for providing a notebook to mr. L. Best regards, H.” Sent by V.

How do you interpret this little message, if you get it in the service desk mailbox where you happen to work? Check all interpretations that apply:

- “Cool,  a thank you note!”.
- “I don’t know mr. L., nor H. nor V. What is this?”
- “Hmmm, let’s see: someone (V.) sends an email on behalf of someone else (H.) with a statement about a notebook for a third person (mr. L.). The message says thanks. Ok, that means we have to start up the procedure to deliver a notebook to mr.L. quickly because V. is the P.A. of H. and that means that the issue has been escalated.”

This is a real life case. The receiver chose option one. The sender wanted the receiver to think along the lines of option three.
What does this have to do with Collaboration? Well, quite a lot I’d say.

What the sender (V.) really wanted to say is:
“Helpdesk guys, make sure that mr. L. receives a notebook as soon as possible. It’s urgent because it has been escalated to a high level (namely that of H.)”.
I don’t know V. any better than the helpdesk people and I’m sure she is a nice person, hence “Thanks for …”.
The receiver had the same idea about V. and has not thought of interpreting the note as a request. Everyone involved feels awkward now and thinks awkwardly about  all other involved. The company has a nice and swift procedure for this kind of requests, all involved want this kind of requests to be handled as smoothly as possible and it didn’t happen…

What could have worked better? It’s a communication issue, isn’t it? In short:  “Please” and “Thank you” are not synonyms.

“Please, provide a notebook to mr. L.. Thank you. Best regards, H”.

Same emotional intent, clearer request and much better effect, I dare to bet.
So, how friendly it may seem to thank someone in advance, it is considered pushy (and therefor disrespectful) by many. When someone, like in the above case, is seen as a nice person, the “thank you” is interpreted as such. If this person was seen as a bully and if people would be afraid of her, then the effect would probably have been that the message would have been seen as a request. It’s ok to be pushy, it’s ok to be nice and friendly, if you are honest about it. Remember: you are responsible for every bit of your communication, for the possible interpretations other people make and thus for the effects. Undesired outcomes with a risk of being blamed kill collaborative capabilities.

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