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Without asking for the estimates from the developer, I have assigned some task to a developer and written "Please do it by EOD". The developer felt offended. However, I think it's okay as I am doing my job as a lead. I have not ordered him as I did mention "Please".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Feb 4 at 16:49
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Taking a different angle on this: effective communication requires more than just categorizing statements as offensive or inoffensive; it requires considering your audience and finding the ways to communicate to them that they respond best to. Just because two requests are both inoffensive doesn't make them equally effective.

Moreover, different people have different communication preferences and different attitudes and will respond to the same message differently - you can see that from the variety of answers you got to this question. Some people didn't see anything wrong with your original wording, and some did. You can't control that. What you can do is learn ways to express yourself that minimize the likelihood of offending someone.

It seems like you've handled a subordinate becoming offended by asking whether he should have become offended. That doesn't seem productive, given that everyone has different thresholds for when demands or terseness become offensive, and you can't change his thresholds. Even if most people wouldn't have been offended, that doesn't change the fact that he was. Deciding that his feelings aren't legitimate certainly won't improve communications between you. A much more productive question to ask would be how to express yourself in the future to avoid offense being taken unnecessarily.

I'd guess that what he found offensive might be the fact that you didn't indicate what to do if it wasn't able to be completed by the end of his normal working day. If the job is larger than you thought, he may have construed "please do it by EOD" as a request for him to work overtime to complete it. If that's the case, even "please try to do it by EOD" might have been enough, since "try to" indicates that you accept the possibility that he can't. But the surest way to know would be to ask him.

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    Every single time - ever - any programmer has been asked to do something - in the entire history of the universe - it has not been possible to do it by the time asked! You never have to qualify a deadline. – Fattie Feb 2 at 0:03
  • If that's so, it makes it all the more important to clarify what the expected behavior is when the deadline has passed. Work extra hours today, or finish it tomorrow? – godlygeek Feb 2 at 0:06
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I don't think that it's offensive, though I would probably find it at least mildly irritating. The person organizing a team's work has the authority and the responsibility to set deadlines, though in this situation it may have been prudent to ask the developer how soon the task could be completed if it were at a given priority level.

However, a "please" from an immediate superior at work doesn't make it any less of an order than if you hadn't said "please". Could your developer have simply said "no, thanks!" and then not done the task without repercussions? If not, it was an order, no matter how you phrased it, and your phrasing was terse at best.

That you seem to feel differently may be part of the issue. If your team members feel that you are, in general, a bit domineering or dictatorial, they might have developed a general dislike with your communication style and blow individual instances out of proportion. But this is all guesswork and tangential to the question. My own boss is very respectful towards me, and when she has asked me for something by the end of the day (which happens from time to time) I have never been upset about it. I work for her, and that's her prerogative.

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    "when she has asked me for something by the end of the day".. I think that's exactly the point: she asked. Obviously with the intention of you following through with it, but it's still proper to ask when setting deadlines. "Is there any way this could be done by EOD?" gets the urgency across without demanding it. – nardnob Feb 1 at 21:04
  • I don't see much of difference between offensive and mildly irritating. I think offensive is more commonly used in this context. – Deepak Mishra Feb 1 at 21:47
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    @DeepakMishra I see a difference between the terms, as I use and encounter them, with offensive being worse. Mildly irritating just means that I find it somewhat bothersome, while offensive means that it is very irritating, and/or that the action has a moral dimension as well. Of course, I can't speak to what someone else meant when choosing words to use, so I can only rely on usage as I have observed it. – Upper_Case Feb 1 at 22:14
  • @Upper_Case: When I google for the word offensive, it shows me the words such as improper or irritating as the synonyms of it. So did you mean mildly offensive? – Deepak Mishra Feb 2 at 15:09
  • @DeepakMishra Synonyms rarely mean exactly the same thing. Usually there's a difference in connotation, even if not in literal meaning. The effects of this can be even more pronounced when different languages and/or cultures are involved. – a CVn Feb 3 at 19:49
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Could “Please do it by EOD” considered offensive in the emails?

Well, it's evident that this developer found it offensive, so the answer to that is yes.

However, I consider that such phrase should not be material for someone to get offended. Perhaps the abbreviation EOD (end of day?) sounds a bit harsh, where you could just have written "end of the day".

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    Although telling someone to do a development task by EOD without involving them in the estimation process is classic PHB. – Laconic Droid Feb 2 at 0:56
  • It also depends when the request was made and how long the developer had. If this was an 11th hour request I would have found it rude also. – Ramhound Feb 2 at 23:38
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    Up-voted. The request is benign. The developer has the option to reject with a reason. E.g.: "Sorry, I am a bit busy now. However, I could do it until XYZ." But it should not be reason for offense - unless this kind of request arrives on a daily basis. – virolino Feb 4 at 5:38
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Regardless of the word "please", you were ordering your subordinate to change their plans and priorities to complete a task by the end of the day on which you told them about it. That is likely to be inconvenient. Doing it without either discussion or explanation suggests you think the developer's planned activities have little or no importance.

If possible, allow a longer deadline, and work with the developer on deciding when it should be done, taking into account other priorities, meetings, etc.

If that is not possible, tell them why you need it done today: "I need it done today because I will be coming in early tomorrow to prepare a report X needs by 10 a.m.".

  • This QA is filled with the most amazing statements. So for the junior ... "That is likely to be inconvenient." W T F ???????????????? – Fattie Feb 3 at 16:47
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Anything can be offensive all it requires is someone to be offended...not a useful question.

A better question would be: How to word the order in the most diplomatic way...

I would say that the most diplomatic way to word it, is to not make it an order, but rather a statement of fact: I need this done by EOD/COB/7am tomorrow morning, whatever.

But note that the most diplomatic way may not be the most effective way to ensure that the task is completed. You will have to decide on a case by case basis what is most appropriate and what contributes the most to both your long term and short term goals.

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As lead, it's implied to be an order, and while not offensive, it might come across as an arbitrary deadline.

But I don't think you were rude or offensive here. You could have worded it better, yes, but part of it sounds like an overly sensitive developer. Not your problem.

You could always phrase it as

Please, see if you can finish this by COB and let me know the status next morning.

Which might be a tad bit more diplomatic, but no, you were not being offensive.

Responding to him saying you were offensive by saying

Fine, let me rephrase it. Please do it by COB, Jerk!

Now THAT would have been offensive... but the way you did it, nah.

  • Why do I need to word it better if it's not offensive? – Deepak Mishra Feb 1 at 21:53
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    You do not need to. As this answer says a number of times "you were not being offensive". – Fattie Feb 3 at 16:46
  • @DeepakMishra Ir wasn't. Your coworker was being deliberately offended. – Retired Codger Feb 3 at 22:00
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Why die on this hill? Why not:

"[Person's name], I'm really sorry if I said something wrong... Ultimately, my goal here is success for our team, both individually and as a whole. I'm very happy that you have felt comfortable enough to bring up my communication issues; that being said I'm willing to do whatever it takes so we can both work together effectively."

From there, I'd cordially try and schedule some time to iron out the communication issues. This could be something really simple that is an easy fix for you.

Oh, and you're lucky that the person is telling you directly that you have communication issues... That doens't happen very often.

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You could just change it to "please do this today".

What's the difference?

I have a to-do list that will keep me busy for the next few months, and to some degree I do thinks in the order I prefer, mostly by doing related things together, but also by doing little tasks to keep the number of unfinished tasks down, and by prioritizing tasks where the ratio between work needed and improvement for the user is particularly good. And sometimes people need something done quickly, and then I push it to the top of my list. No problem. That's what you get if you say "please do this today".

"Do it by EOD" - well, are you so bad at typing that you can't write "by the end of the day"? But the real problem is that you make a demand independent of how long this task will take me. Obviously you expect me to work overtime (unpaid, naturally) if I can't finish it before the end of my paid working day. I find that quite disrespectful.

  • Gnash, I believe there was no implication of " ............ even if that means staying after work hours." – Fattie Feb 2 at 0:02
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    I believe exactly that was implied. – gnasher729 Feb 2 at 12:16
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    The unpaid overtime wasn’t implied. Requiring OT, possibly, but we don’t know the task or when in the day it was assigned, perhaps it was a minute after he started for the day, perhaps it was as he walked out the door to head home. I don’t think giving the OP the benefit of the doubt for timeliness and capability is a stretch. It was certainly demanding and an order, I think putting more than that into is a stretch. – jmoreno Feb 2 at 19:33
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Here's the definitive overall solution to this astounding QA:

  1. Of course it was not even slightly offensive

  2. Many of the comments and answers here suggest that juniors shouldn't be inconvenienced. This is absurd.

  3. Many of the comments and answers here suggest that juniors shouldn't be told to do something if they happen to be doing something else. This is absurd.

  4. Many of the comments and answers here suggest that juniors, or indeed any employee, should be given rationales as to why they need to do something. This is absurd.

  5. Many of the comments and answers here suggest that juniors should be asked for a detailed discussion on how long the junior thinks something will take, before having to ever do any work. Again, this is absurd.

  6. Many of the comments and answers here suggest that juniors should not be exposed to short, concise sentences. "Do by EOD" is very short and has an abbreviation. (Note that every single suggestion on this page about how to be "nicer" ......... is simply a longer sentence which says the same thing.) Once again, this is absurd.

To cut through the bullshit, the OP is a team lead who is evidently from SE Asia and/or not a native English speaker. Using no-nonsense abbreviations and truncated words is very "Indian English". Just as Asian developers, US developers, and French developers have their own specific communication patterns. (US developers are unbelievably long-winded, French folks are astoundingly curt, and so on.)

It's likely that the junior in question got comically offended because it's one of those "foreign" speech patterns: if that is the case, the offense is doubly-absurd.

"Could “Please do it by EOD” considered offensive in the emails?"

The answer is, of course not.

I just got an email that had the seven characters "do This" (capitalization as such) and a pdf attached! Here's another one that just has a spec attached, and nobody even bothered typing "do this" :)

Good grief!

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    Downvoted because wrong. German saying: "Der Ton macht die Musik". What OP said did offend, so it was offensive. Most likely not intended, otherwise he wouldn't have asked here. – gnasher729 Feb 3 at 17:46
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    I made an account here just to upvote this. I find the notion that because somebody gets offended by something, it is somehow intrinsically offensive absurd. Maybe a better wording for the question should have been "Should this person be offended", and the answer is no. As with every request from clients/higher up-s, if he has any reason not to do it, he should explain why professionally and be done with it. At my job we get requests to do something by EOD daily, and if people took time to be offended no one would actually work – KGS Feb 3 at 19:13
  • @KGS Doesn't matter that you find it absurd, but that's what happened. And the wording was offensive. – gnasher729 Feb 3 at 21:15
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    I was saying that it does not matter that "that's what happened". This is just a standard request with a deadline. Employees should be expected to act as rational adults, and if there is anything that prevents them from meeting said deadline they should give their reasons and aim to push it back. If they have other tasks they should ask their lead (most likely the same guy who sets the deadline) to prioritize what should be done first. In any case it should be a rational discussion and not an emotional one. – KGS Feb 3 at 21:30

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