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My company has large departments, each with a lot of small sections made up of one supervisor and 5-10 employees. Our supervisors aren't all that powerful (for example they can't fire people but they can give out other punishments such as written warnings, etc), but they all have weekly one-on-one meetings with their supervisor (the same person for all of them), who can fire anyone, give raises, etc.

13 days ago, I messaged a supervisor of another department asking for him to write up a document - he is the only person who can produce this document, and it should take him about 30 minutes to an hour of work. I asked him to get it to me within a week, as the project it was being used in was due in two weeks (I included this fact in my email). This is a totally normal request at my company, he probably gets two or three of these a week (including the 1 week part). He replied that he would get to it.

10 days after I originally asked him, I still had not received it and I sent an email asking for an update. The reply was more or less "I'll get to it when I can." I reply back asking for him to please get it to me quickly as my project is due in 4 days, to which he did not reply.

The day before my project is due (today), I emailed him asking for another update as I will need to spend at least 4-5 hours with it before I can submit my project. He sent back the following email (with the document attached):

Next time, don't make your lack of planning my problem. I will be bringing this up with [his supervisor] in our meeting this week.

[Standard company signature]

How could I proceed with this while keeping it professional? I guess I could message his supervisor explaining the situation, but I am unsure about this.

I have enough time remaining today to integrate it into my project, so I won't need to work overtime or anything like that to get it finished. However, it is very inconvenient for me because this project was basically finished a week ago, except for the part he was responsible for. I'm not sure if it's relevant, but I work at a very, very large company (if I said the name, you'd recognize it)

  • Hey Tim, welcome to The Workplace :) I added an answer for you to consider. Another thing, did he sent you the required document after that angry email? The email situation is one thing, but if he hasn't sent the document then that will surely affect you. – DarkCygnus Jun 5 '18 at 1:26
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    He sent it in the same email. – Tim Jun 5 '18 at 1:29
  • I see, at least you got the document and won't suffer from the lack of it. – DarkCygnus Jun 5 '18 at 1:30
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    I would just forward as an attachment to the supervisor. Sorry boss, can't get the doc from X, here's the reason why. – Dan Jun 5 '18 at 16:18
22

How should I proceed with this? Should I message his supervisor explaining the situation?

Seems that you already left a paper trail evidencing the repeated times you asked him to do this, thus this will help you back up your claims in case this person escalates this to your supervisor.

You did good on emailing him (paper trails are always good idea), and also doing it several days before as a contingency measure.

Seems that the one who will be in trouble will be this person, and not you, if he continues with this.

I also suggest you refrain from replying to him any further, as it would not be constructive and only worsen the situation. Just make sure you have all the documents you need so this delay won't affect your responsibilities.


Edit: I think there is a separate issue here, that is the "threat" this other person made to OP.

Regarding the part of replying back to this angry email my advice holds: OP should refrain from replying back. This is not constructive, and could make things worse for OP by pouring gas on the fire. Besides, OP has well documented his several efforts to reach and have this person give the document, so it is highly unlikely that this will fall upon him when it's clearly evident he was being cooperative and polite.

Now, regarding the rude/angry email sent by that other person and the possible threat of "telling his manager". First, we must remember that OP and that person are on different departments, each with their own immediate superior.

This is why I think reaching that other manager (the big boss, both of the angry supervisor and OP's supervisor's) may not be too effective or adequate (as it would be going over angry sup's head).

In any case, OP should inform his own supervisor about what happened, so he can advocate for OP when they meet with big boss. With an up-to-date supervisor to advocate for OP with big boss and a well-documented paper trail where his politeness and anticipation is evidenced OP should not receive any fallout from this.

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    The supervisor might just mentally record thay the OP planned poorly without raising up the issue. In this case the paper trail does nothing. I believe the issue needs to be raised by the OP, preferably before the other supervisor does. – Rad80 Jun 5 '18 at 5:39
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    Paper trail does help. When they start digging into this they will see the email exchange and know what truly happened. Still, OP raising the issue could be an option, but not replying back to this person (which is what was asked, as it wouldn bring anything constructive) – DarkCygnus Jun 5 '18 at 5:43
  • @Rad80: OP needing to alert his manager for OP's project running late is a separate issue. The question is about the interaction with the supervisor who did not do the requested work. That supervisor cannot start arguing that since OP didn't report issues with the supervisor, that the supervisor therefore did nothing wrong. That's like blaming the pizza guy for not delivering the pizza you did not order in the first place. It is baseless and makes no sense. – Flater Jun 5 '18 at 8:32
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    Not replying to this mail is good advice. Letting your reputation be stained above is not. I will be bringing this up with XYZ requires action or it is silent consent. The paper-trail between op and the supervisor will certainly not be shown to XYZ when the supervisor tells the story. – Daniel Jun 5 '18 at 11:14
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    Actually it works very well in the organization I am in. People often back off when they realize they have been put in the wrong. The key is to do it politely with the assumption that they missed something sent earlier due to their busyness. I did not suggest he do it, I suggested he ask his boss how to handle. I brought up the idea because he may want to talk to his boss about how to go forward and having an idea can help that discussion. – HLGEM Jun 5 '18 at 15:28
13

Don't do nothing! - It will be taken as silent consent to what the supervisor said.

Don't mail back, at least not without talking in Person, or this will surely escalate.

First thing is to get in the right mindset. You have to be constructive and solution-oriented. Work under the assumption that your colleague was stressed out and slipped, don´t play the blame-game!

Then you have two options:

  1. Have a direct talk to your colleague. Tell him that you just wanted to ensure that you will work together effectively in the future. Ask him how and when he would like you to to request tasks from him in the future. Ask him if he needs more precise reminders as to deadline etc. The optimum outcome is that your colleague realizes his mistake and that you are so kind not to mention it. You should agree to a procedure. Escalating to the supervisor should be off the table. You can write a neutral follow-up mail to paper trail what was agreed upon.

  2. If he is unreasonable in direct conversation, stop and escalate to your supervisor immediately. Again, maintain a constructive mindset. The question is still how to forward task to him. You supervisor should be able to tell you how the company wants this done. If you discover that you already followed the process, your supervisor should take it further to the other sv and the big-boss.

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    I was writing an answer with basically the same points :) . I'd say that this answer is the most likely to have win/win results, assuming the supervisor in question is not crazy and the culture at this companis favors collaboration. – Puzzled Jun 5 '18 at 11:17
10

Most answers thus far seem to be assuming the supervisor is being malicious. This may not be the case - if he remembers that you first emailed him about this 2 weeks ago, then he'd know you had a paper trail, and know that bringing this up with his boss would likely just backfire. Hanlon's razor can also sometimes be applied to forgetfulness, rather than stupidity.

I agree that you need to do something, but I'd first at least give the guy the opportunity to save face. I'd suggest emailing him back with something like:

Hi X,

Thanks very much for sending me the document. I did originally request this 13 days ago as per the attached email, which I'd come to understand was sufficient notice - is there another procedure I should have followed?

This provides a few advantages:

  • If he genuinely forgot, he gets the opportunity to write an apologetic email - he then doesn't bring it to management, and thinks better of you for thanking him and asking for clarification.
  • If he emails back with a genuine reason why you screwed up, then you get to apologise, understand what you did wrong and potentially offer an explanation.
  • If he replies angrily but still offers no reasonable explanation of what you did wrong, and still says he's taking it to management in the same way, then you can go to your manager and ask what you did wrong. This is immensely preferable to saying something akin to "I did nothing wrong but this guy said he's going to tell on me!", but will likely have the same sort of result. If your manager thinks you've done something wrong, then he'll tell you, if he thinks the other guy is being a jerk, then you can ask him to raise that with his boss in the same way.
8

You need to do something.

The supervisor said he will bring it up. His boss might evaulate that the situation is not serious enough to investigate and just take a mental note that you did a sloppy planning. He might never talk to you about it and you will never be able to show him your paper trail (good job for having it though!).

I see two courses of action here: You can write to that person again, reminding him that you repeteadly asked, way ahead of time, and that if he does not take back the threat to lie about you, you will escalate. The other option is to just raise the issue first.

The second option is way safer but is more hostile. I would take it if you beleive that good relationships are unsalvageable, otherwise try to make him see his error first.

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    I mostly agree with you, except that such things do not fit written communication. I´ts to hard to get the right tone and to easy to unnecessarily agitate your recipient. Do it in person if you want to stay constructive or escalate to your superior... – Daniel Jun 5 '18 at 12:03
  • I like @Daniel's answer even more than mine! I think I should not incorporate all that he says in mine though, cause that would be too close to plagiarism. – Rad80 Jun 5 '18 at 14:04
3

The worst thing you can do is do nothing.

The first thing you should do is escalate this to your own boss. Your boss absolutely needs to know from you that a complaint has been threatened and he needs the emails you sent as ammunition. Let him deal with the person and/or his boss.

You boss may also suggest some other actions. Do as he suggests. Typically I have responded to stuff like this with copies of the previous emails and a statement that I did plan in advance and perhaps you missed seeing these (a saving face gesture). This reminds him that in a confrontation, he will lose and most people back off at that point. But that is what is typically done in my corporate culture, it may not be a good idea in yours which is why you ask your boss for advice and provide him the evidence for him to escalate on his own.

  • I got pulled into a CFOs office once due to a similar situation. I told the CFO to check for an e-mail I forwarded him earlier that day, and to look at the dates on the reply chain. I had sent out reminders weekly for 6 months, with commitments from every manager. He then proceeded to show me e-mails he received that morning from the same managers that implied, "I didn't know about this" or "I didn't realize it was due this past weekend." – Nathan Goings Jun 6 '18 at 15:10
0

The person is already threatening to escalate, based on an untrue version of events, and handled this unprofessionally, overall.

I would do the following, all in the same email response -

  • First of all, make it a response, so his email is part of yours, and thank him for sending you the document you needed for your project.

  • I'd ask if he could clarify what he meant by "lack of planning" - then detail (attaching previous emails at the bottom, as necessary) the initial notification, thirteen days before the deadline, then the follow-up ten days before the deadline, and the fact that he acknowledged the request, ten days before.

  • Ask what an appropriate time window is for such a request, so you can accomodate his need for more than thirteen days lead time.

  • CC your supervisor, and his supervisor.

They will probably step in and clarify how the process should work and what everyone's responsibilities are, probably not to the benefit of you co-worker's reputation, but it seems like he chose to go there. Just let you boss know you decided to bring them into the loop because it seemed like the emails were heading in the wrong direction, professionally, and you didn't want it to devolve into a huge, dramatic waste of time for everyone.

An alternative, if you don't want to be seen as someone who "stirs the pot" would be to get the same details, as listed above, and instead send it just to your boss, asking how he'd like you to handle this.

0

Answering late because I actually wouldn't do anything in this situation. I'd ignore all the blustering and just send a reply 'Thanks'.

I see no need to escalate until it actually becomes necessary. I don't let other people's rudeness impact on my own morale or professionalism.

It's a one word reply which basically tells him you don't care about his crap which implies that you're confident you have done nothing wrong and it's not worth even having a dialogue about. He may or may not rethink his outburst, but you have a paper trail where you are not retaliating or admitting any sort of mistake and it looks like the only problems are on his end.

-2

I think what you could have handled differently is indeed the planning: you assumed the task was 30 minutes to an hour and, without considering his agenda, dropped it with a close deadline.

Now, from the fact you call him "supervisor", I guess his agenda is pretty busy, so you could have taken that into account and place the request earlier, giving him the time to fit the task in his agenda.

That's also what he says between the lines of his mail.

It can also be that the task was indeed 30 minutes to 1 hour, but the fact that you gave him a close deadline made he feel belittled. Again, giving him more time would have allowed him to act his role of busy guy (this is more office politics, though)

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    13 days isn't usually considered a close deadline for what is expected to be a short task commonly requested between departments. – arp Jun 5 '18 at 5:20
  • @arp, OP states " I asked him to get it to me within a week" – L.Dutch Jun 5 '18 at 5:32
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    This might've been a fair answer if the original answer wasn't "I'll get to it" which indicates that the receiver is okay with the deadline. – Erik Jun 5 '18 at 5:42
  • @Erik, the answer was "I'll get to it when I can", which I understand as "when it fits in my agenda". – L.Dutch Jun 5 '18 at 5:44
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    I don't agree that two weeks is some sort of a rush situation, even for a busy schedule, given the total amount of time required. If the timeframe was unreasonable, then there should have, at least, been a response to that effect. Since there was none, I'm going to assume that was not the issue. – PoloHoleSet Jun 5 '18 at 16:15

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