I volunteer for a charity where I help clients complain to the government.

Difficulty and my attempt

A client couriered a complaint to a corporation. Though the courier confirmed delivery, my client also emailed the corporation 4 times to ask if they received it. The corporation replied 4 times only to repeat that the matter was closed, but never confirmed delivery.

Then my client sought a journalist who intervened for her by contacting the corporation, and the corporation's Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) solved the difficulty.


The CCO clarified that she never received the complaint, but that if she had, she could've solved this swimmingly, without the journalist's intervention. So what could've we done better?

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    possibly a duplicate of I send emails and need a response or remote boss doesn't answer emails. Also, I think there's a back story to this, because this seems like a hostile approach. Surely you haven't gone from "I want X" to legalistic addendums like the above in one step? – Móż Nov 9 '15 at 20:18
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    Put it this way... the legalistic footer is not legally binding and has no formal effect, but it will either make someone laugh at your naivety (unlikely) or annoy them (probable). So I think you should edit this into "here's the problem, what can I do". Which risks making it a duplicate of one of the ones I linked to, but it's a much better question than the current "should I do this?"..."no". Or maybe "HELL NO". – Móż Nov 9 '15 at 20:28
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    Can you provide more background on the problem? If you're being asked to do something and you want to ensure that your objection/ concern/ caveat/ whatever is seen and acknowledged, simply indicate that you won't take the action until they sign off on the consequence. Otherwise, I'm hard-pressed to imagine many situations where only one person in the entire universe could acknowledge a concern/ objection/ whatever that you have. – Justin Cave Nov 9 '15 at 20:41
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    If you want to be truly polite the best thing you can do is to explain your situation honestly to the recipient, preferably with a phone call or in-person. The evasiveness is likely because this person is taking offense at something you've done recently. Vague (and fake) legal threats will never get someone on your side in a conflict. – teego1967 Nov 9 '15 at 22:27
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    I'm seeing a lot of difficult words but not a very useful question. If you're at the point where you're trying to legally outsmart or frame an archnemesis, I'd say it's high time you start looking for a different job. – Lilienthal Nov 9 '15 at 23:32

If you don't know why P isn't confirming L, something is really wrong between you two. I know that can happen in a workplace. Perhaps you work for a vendor to the company that P works for, and have no leverage at all.

If you want P to confirm L in writing, but P is not doing so, then you need to find a way to do one of these things:

  1. make P want that too.
  2. establish why P isn't doing it, and clear away that problem so that P can confirm
  3. get yourself free of the need to confirm L in writing

One of those three will get you where you need to be.

Since you haven't told us anything about your relationship, or what L is, it's hard to know how you might do #1. You need to say something to P like:

  • until you confirm L, I can't keep working on your project, even though you are a paying client of mine (or of my employer).
  • if you don't confirm L by Tuesday, I am going to take this as constructive dismissal, stop coming in to work, and proceed with a claim of unfair dismissal.
  • if you don't confirm L by Tuesday, I will not marry you and I will call all the vendors to cancel everything we have booked
  • until you confirm L, I will be unable to move forward on this project at all and will have no billable work to do. I will work on nonbillables as much as I can so that the salary you pay me isn't completely wasted
  • until you confirm L, I will not move to your city and start working for you
  • If L is not confirmed by Tuesday, I will start applying for jobs elsewhere. If I find one before you confirm L, I will take it and give you two weeks notice at that time.
  • My manager agrees that if you do not confirm L by Tuesday, the project will be cancelled and we will be sending an invoice for our time spent so far. There is also a possibility of legal action to recover some of the lost profits as a result of your refusal to enable the project to proceed.

And so on.

You have to find a way to make P want to (or be able to) confirm what you need confirmed, or find a way to remove your need to have it confirmed. Those three things are within the realm of the possible. Putting magic words in an email that "force" P to confirm L is not within the realm of the possible. So either find a way to motivate P, or find a way to live without the confirmation. Those are your only options.

  • Very nicely put. The situation definitely needs some "talk". +1 for - if you don't confirm L by Tuesday, I will not marry you – whereisSQL Nov 10 '15 at 21:46

No, this doesn't hold water, an email is not a contract or legally binding in that way. You can't just stipulate something like that or people could send spam email saying if you look at this email sideways you have to buy 2 of our products.

If someone doesn't want to reply in the way you think appropriate to an email, you're out of luck. You'll have to try another avenue.

  • This is incorrect, at least as far as the UK are concerned. Unscrupulous recruitment agents often send out emails with T&Cs at the bottom of the email with candidate CVs attached which will automatically claim acceptance of terms and stipulate payment if in future the candidate whose CV is attached is hired by the company. Recruiters have successfully sued companies in this case and imposed unreasonable/damaging terms on them without receiving a response to the email. The only defense in this case is a formal response which legally denies the contract implicit in the email. – toadflakz Nov 10 '15 at 9:30
  • @JoeStrazzere from what I understand toadflakz is saying, I can scour MIT's webpages for CVs of promising candidates, spam major companies like Google (in the UK, I guess), and then if the company does NOT reply back to me, stating they do not accept accept my conditions, if they ever hire any of these MIT people, then they have to pay me! Still absurd, of course. – Chan-Ho Suh Nov 10 '15 at 13:56
  • @JoeStrazzere: Personal experience from working at a small UK company that was stung by this itself. I'm trying to find a legal resource (again I'm not a lawyer, just a software developer) but failing for a singular definition - the closest I've come to it is that if you google "UK unsolicited CVs" you will find a large number of company statements refusing to pay agency fees from unsolicited CVs and a google group discussion where the term "unilateral contract" is thrown out meaning "They propose terms, and someone else accepts by performance rather than agreement." – toadflakz Nov 10 '15 at 14:42
  • @JoeStrazzere: My comment was specifically in response to the current answer's "an email is not a contract" as my comment has shown that in the UK it can be, so perhaps Kilisi's answer needs further clarification? Or OP perhaps needs to clarify the jurisdiction? But I agree that unless the receiver acts, the "unilateral contract" principle might not apply. Also the guiding principle seems to be that the contract is accepted if they do send you money (performance as acceptance of terms) so feel free to spam and sue anyone who does respond with cash! ;) – toadflakz Nov 10 '15 at 16:02
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    if anyone comments further or even reads this comment, you must buy me a packet of chewing gum and adopt a puppy. – Kilisi Nov 10 '15 at 20:32

Working in audit at my company, I have faced several instances of the type you describe above - colleagues being reluctant to accept responsibility or be accountable for an end result. I have found that appealing to their self interest and reminding them of a common goal greatly helps, in my case, enforcing the sound functioning of company IT processes.

By accepting accountability for a particular weakness found, such as data integrity issues or systematic failure to follow programming change control per company policy, my colleagues are taking the first step to remedy the issue and in the the process, making their work easier. Having independent assurance that data is complete, accurate and timely increases the reliability of one's work relying on such data. Hence, by cooperating, they are helping themselves by making their work more trustworthy and more easily accepted.

To further gain their confirmation / acceptance, I state simply that I am saying what I am saying, not because of bias or a personal grudge, but rather to fulfill my professional responsibility and due care as an auditor.


The question implies that the problem is P. However, the problem may be with L, otherwise why would P drag their feet. Perhaps the language of L is such that accepting L could be interpreted too broadly for P's comfort level or interests, causing them issues for reasons outside of their control.

So I would begin addressing this issue by reviewing L. Take the perspective of an objective 3rd party and try to put yourself in P's shoes.

Does anything in L contribute to plausible resistance to acknowledging it? Resolving the issue with L rather than P would help ensure such situation does not repeat. Otherwise there is no guarantee that it won't keep coming up and causing same exact issue. Good luck!

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