My institute was looking forward to use a tool provided by an external institute, but unfortunately their license terms are very strict. After talking to my advisor we decided to look for an alternative.

Two days ago I wrote a mail with the rejection to that institute. The tone of my mail was unemotional and appropriate in my opinion. I mainly said that we would have to look for an alternative tool and that it is unfortunate that we could not use the tool due to licensing problem, although there has been a very tight cooperation between the institutes in the past.

Now, my advisor sent me a mail which stated that we would have to talk and the list of communication guidelines of our institute. After reviewing my mail I understand that it could be reckoned as reproachful. Now, I feel really bad, since I am a perfectionist and I don't do such dumb mistakes usually. I am pretty new to the world of business and have a great job. Because of that mail I am very disappointed in myself.

How should I handle this situation best?

EDIT: Thank you all for your advices. I talked to my advisor and I stated the points you told me. He reacted understanding and even pointed out that he should have told me that the relation to the other institute has become worse some time ago and that I should be especially careful when talking ot them. We will figure out a plan of action for further responses now.

  • 3
    Were those guidelines available / pointed out to you before you wrote the email? If not your advisor probably wants to go over them with you. Perhaps there's some crossing of t's and dotting of i's that didn't happen, and by all indications at this point, it's not a big deal. Last but not least: Welcome to the Workplace.
    – rath
    Jan 31 '19 at 11:00
  • 2
    I appreciate you accepted my answer. I'm glad I could help. At the same time - remember I will not feel bad if you will later give the green tick to some other answer. It is possible better answer will appear later :)
    – Mołot
    Jan 31 '19 at 11:26
  • 1
    Yay, glad it all worked out for you :D
    – Mołot
    Jan 31 '19 at 14:24

Now, my advisor sent me a mail which stated that we would have to talk and the list of communication guidelines of our institute.

First, make sure you have read all guidelines you should have. Then, during the talk with your advisor:

  1. State that you have read them when you began working there (if that's true)
  2. State that you reviewed them after his mail, and reconsidered your words from email perceived as reproachful.
  3. Apologize that what you wrote gave impression of reproachful and say it was never your intent, quite contrary, you tried to be factual and emotionless. Apologize that you failed.
  4. He is your advisor. Ask him for advice how you should have written this mail, and how you should apply guidelines in the future. Ask him for advice if you should follow up with this other institute and explain.

It might be your fault, but it wasn't intentional. I wouldn't stress over it too much. A the same time, admitting your mistakes and striving to get better is approach you should show now.


Now that your mail is out, you can´t take it back. All you can do is damage control. Good thing is that you already recognized how your mail could offend. Talk to your advisor, apologize and discuss with him how to proceed with this incident. Follow his lead - if he wants you to set things straight with your contact at the external institute do that - if he prefers to or already handled it himself, just promise not to make that mistake again.

In the future, if you have to write a difficult mail or a mail about something you are emotionally attached to:

  • Write up the draft and then let it sit for some time. Reread for example after lunch and look for things that could come across wrong.

  • Don´t over explain. Sometimes it is better to just say "no2 and keep your thoughts about their licensing model to yourselves.

  • When still in doubt, ask a colleague / supervisor.

  • Use mail strictly for information-exchange. If there is any personal hassles involved, meet or call!

  • 1
    @Bilkokuya: Thanks for the comment. That is what I wanted to imply with bullet point Nr. 3 :)
    – Daniel
    Jan 31 '19 at 13:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .