I am an independent contractor working remotely for Company A. I have worked on and off with this company (or a version of it) since the mid 90's either remotely, at their HQ, and also on occasion at their customer's sites as a part of Company A's team. As a result I personally know and have worked with many of the main people in the group I contract to. In recent years I have been working on projects with Sam, who is sort of PM/Team lead, but I see him more as a colleague than anything else as we both work on separate aspects of the same projects and he doesn't direct or architect my work.
Last week I had need of some basic information about some technology that I haven't directly worked with. So I jumped on the company IM and called up some SMEs that I know in order to get some general information on said technology. (The sort of thing that if I was at HQ I would go around to their cube for a casual chat about it.) Later I had a phone conference with Sam and during it I used my newfound knowledge to point out where we really need direct input from an SME - but did not mention my previous IMs.
Today Sam went and saw one of the same SME's that I'd IM'ed and discussed the project with them (and who apparently related that I had previously chatted with him). Then this afternoon Sam sent me an email about that discussion which ended with this statement:
As a reminder, if you are contacting any team member regarding the projects you are working on with me, I would like to be copied. Else, you are making me look bad!
This was a bit of a shock to me. If I had written an explicit email to an SME asking about specific requirements, then I would have CC'ed Sam. However I considered this IM to be similar to a casual chat around the water cooler.
I am considering a response along the lines of
Sam it would never be my intention to make you look bad, but IMHO in this case I think you are overreacting. All I was doing was chatting via IM with the SMEs in order to get general ideas about how this technology operates and how we need to apply it.
However I am not sure if this is getting to the crux of the matter that prompted Sam's comment, as Sam has previously exhibited desires to be in control of things he doesn't need to be in control of.
So does my proposed response seem reasonable, or is there something that I am totally missing?
After sleeping on it and reading the current answers and comments I realized that I was leaving something out of the picture. First of all I see @Sander's point that my IM with the SME did cross the line of a casual conversation. Point taken.
Also, the environment that I work in is very casual and fluid, and the projects are so horrendously under specified that people are always jumping on IM/phone and asking casual questions. Second point @Justin - it's rather hard to forward a transcript of an IM that morphed into a voice call (as regularly happens when IM'ing as voice is more dense than text).
The bit that is missing is that Sam pulls this similar stuff to this on me all of the time, so I find it a bit off-putting that he is complaining to me about doing it. As an example of what Sam has done in the past:
A few weeks ago I wrote a 60 page technical document describing proposed changes that Sam needed to read in order to understand the scope of the work we are undertaking. Sam had a meeting with another SME without telling me and spent a couple of hours reviewing that document and inserting cryptic single line comments in various places. I only found out after the fact and then had to go back to the SME and go over each comment line by line in order to understand what they were saying. It would have saved me a lot of time if I had known about that meeting ahead of time and been able to participate in it.
Thus in hindsight part of what I am reacting to feeling like I am being held up to standards that Sam himself doesn't adhere to.
After reading Gregory's answer I am now thinking he is onto something with his comments about teamwork in general, and that Sam and I are a slightly dysfunctional team (even though we still deliver the goods) and that my reply needs to take that into account. Thus I think that my reply should now be along the lines of:
Sam, I should have told you that I spoke with the SMEs, but at the time I didn't see the need to do it. In hindsight I can see that I could have put you in a bad position, and for that I apologize. However there have also been times where I have felt left out of the loop by you under similar circumstances (EG reviewing document with SME). Thus I feel we both need to step up in this aspect in order to improve our teamwork.