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I have been in contact with a supplier for a project. We are the client.

Things have been going OK up to a point, then I received a rude and mildly abusive email from one of the people (Bob) I've been in contact with. His manager (Alice) is aware, and will deal with it when Bob is back from a work trip. Hence I wasn't planning to respond to it yet.

However I need to send Bob and Alice an email with some more technical information in it. Should I ignore Bob's last email and just carry on, or try to answer the points raised? Ignoring Bob's email would be rude, trying to answer will just open a can of worms, but I need to send this information over to Bob.

Any advice? (We are all UK based).


EDIT: as many comments have questioned the points raised by Bob I should be clear; they are not about technical features, nor about performance, they are complaining about some of our requests, which are all within the contract we have with this supplier.

  • 20
    I don't know how you've given enough information for this to be answerable (?). – enderland Jul 10 '17 at 15:32
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    Kill'em with kindness. – Laconic Droid Jul 10 '17 at 15:39
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    What's the nature of the points raised in Bob's rude email that you want to address? If they're of a technical nature, the answer might be different than if they're simply saying some rude things that have no constructive response. – Dukeling Jul 10 '17 at 15:47
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This is a fairly simple one I would have thought;

Good Afternoon Alice, Bob,

I hope you're both well.

It's come to my attention that there are some further technical documents you need for the current project, which you'll find attached.

If you have any questions please let me know,

Thanks,

Puffafish

Send the email to both Alice and Bob, with both their emails in the "To" field (ie - don't CC it to one, treat them both with equal importance). Make no reference to the previous email - as far as you're concerned you've dealt with it with his manager, and you no longer need to be involved.

Oh, and probably use your real name at the end too...

81

Reply to both, touch on Bob's email stating that it is your understanding that Alice will be following-up on that. Then go through the additional items you need to share.

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    +1 Either "Alice will follow up" or "Let's talk about this when Alice returns" – David K Jul 10 '17 at 15:44
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    This is absolutely the way to go. Ignoring it feels rude to OP. If Alice is aware and said she's going to deal with it, then that's a clear indication that she does not want OP to keep this issue alive or escalate it, so answering the rude email, even if politely, is not the way to go, IMO. – PoloHoleSet Jul 10 '17 at 15:57
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    @DavidK It's Bob who's returning, isn't it? – muru Jul 11 '17 at 5:46
  • @muru Ah, sorry, you are correct. If I could edit my comment I would! – David K Jul 11 '17 at 11:25
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I Agree with the "Alice will follow up" answer.

I work in quite a large technical industry where everyone has access to email each other directly and things do get taken too far sometimes. Managers eventually need to be involved.

I think it would be OK to include everything in one reply email to both Alice and (rude) Bob. Firstly, tell Bob to go fu... that Alice will follow up with his previous email, and then put all the technical handover after.

This way it shows you have read what you were sent by Bob, dealt with in in a professional manner whilst not letting it get in the way with your job, and that when you're faced with adverse behaviour in the workplace, you can rise above it and be the bigger person.

Puffer 1.... Bob 0.

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    Telling someone "to go fu..." is very far from dealing with it in a professional manner. – pipe Jul 10 '17 at 17:57
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    @pipe & Lightness Races in Orbit I'm pretty sure this was simply a bit of humor. The rest of Sssss's answer contradicts the "joke" and gives fairly sound advice. Let's not string him/her up for that. – Gogeta70 Jul 10 '17 at 18:38
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    I think that you mean that saying you referred the rude email is the business equivalent to an "fu", but that nuance is a bit unclear to some readers. Maybe something like, "Firstly, tell Bob that Alice will follow up with his previous email, which is the business equivalent of an fu, then put the technical handover after." – user60393 Jul 10 '17 at 20:13
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    I suggest striking through the "tell Bob to go fu...." part so it's clearer that you're not suggesting he actually do that. I was going to edit it myself, but it won't let me. – Kat Jul 10 '17 at 20:18
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    The degree to which some people (willfully?) fail to grasp an obvious bit of humor is impressive, and it's sad that it's like that on SO. Get a grip... – kungphu Jul 12 '17 at 8:29
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The professional and mature response to an abusive business associate is to keep your calm and act professionally.

So reply to the email. Answer to the reasonable parts of it and ignore all the rude parts. Do not make the conflict worse by being rude in return or denying cooperation.

In parallel, you might also want to seek some conflict resolution with the help of Alice. You might also want to involve your superior or your customer service people, depending on how important it is to get along with Bob. If his cooperation is critical for the project, you need to be more carefully than when he is just some replaceable service drone. Conflict resolution means to find out why exactly the other person is angry and what can be done to prevent it.

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    This is all very well, but the OP is their customer, not their unpaid lifestyle coach. The more nuclear option for the OP would be just to find a different supplier, and let Alice and Bob stew in their own juice! – alephzero Jul 10 '17 at 16:27
  • Right, it's not an associate! It's a supplier! I made the same mistake in reading the question. – Fattie Jul 11 '17 at 13:31
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Beware, you are facing serious dangers!

It is not about your personal anger (which is reasonable), there is a contact between two companies, both are important to your bosses and you can't see all of the circumstances!

For example, it is possible that your company mis-uses currently an old company relation on a way, that it causes trouble to the employer of your supplier company with it your are in contact! But this Bob doesn't know who are you inside your company, but he is angry to the company.

But there are a nearly infinite possibilities here. You don't know all details, but you know that you won't interfere with them.

Your primary goal is to avoid anything what could worsen the relation between your employer and the supplier!

And, of course, to protect your ass.

And, to show your bosses that you are wanting to solve the problems and relations.

If the bosses start to investigate, who insulted who, you have to make sure that nobody will find that also you made an offense.

Furthermore, Bob surely committed now a mistake. Particularly in the UK, where the customs are very polite. But you can see here also in the SE, full with people from anglo-saxon culture, that you can politely, indirectly f*off nearly everybody into the hell (and get the same back), but in the moment that you use any bad word, you will be the only badass in the whole picture on the spot.

So, what you should do:

  1. Simply ignore any insulting part of Bob's mail.
  2. React to the constructive part on your best.
  3. Not only try to defend yourself, try to really make Bob more friendly.
  4. If he repeats the offense, it will more clear that he is the bad man.
  5. If he doesn't repeat, then a later investigation will find that you solved an intra-company problem.

If the event doesn't repeat, it is a good thing to not mentioning the case upwardly. Maybe only as a nuance, and only verbally. ("Heyy, this Bob wasn't very happy, he wrote something that we are again late with the payment, but finally we could agree that the pallets will be delivered to the Liverpool garage until next Wednesday").

In general, a cooperative person hesites to transmit negative communication, tries to avoid it, while he is eager to transmit positive things.

And you want to be a cooperative person, with high social skills.

Particularly if you want to be useful for your employer in the communication and organizing tasks with partner companies.


Your goal shouldn't be to let exterminate Bob by Alice, your goal should be to take care to the good contact between the companies. And you want to show that you can solve communication clashes alone with good results.

Btw, if Bob doesn't do this repeatedly, then you should really look over it. Everybody can have a bad day, it is not a reason to conspire against him.

0

I would not ignore the rude parts, neither assume that Alice is on my side. Actually, Alice may look like it, but would actually be the one who suggested the tone or pushed the topic in the discussion through Bob.
My manager often do that, then steps in and play good cop if it were to go overboard.

So I would address both the technical questions (the latest) and the non technical questions (your request about what?) after.
Maybe they want to see where you stand, if your request may evolve. If the requests are legitimately problematic for them (in my industry, sometimes, samples requirements for analysis may be too harsh to meet, so we have to use other less demanding methods or design other collection protocols), you may want to discuss that with your own manager, alone and then with both Alice and Bob. It shows good will, and they will treat you with respect for that (because you have to think that if you push Bob aside, if he were to stay in charge of your file and it is probable, he won't make any effort for you, and if there is some problem, he will discard it as "there was a problem independent of my good will, we're stuck for now", and you will have to bear with it.)
Maybe Bob is angry about the requests because like in a lot of contractors companies, the managers said it was possible before asking, and he the specialist is now stuck with this.
So maybe you should work with him to find the best solution, I guess that will end better for both of you than rolling over him. People have memory, and somehow if Alice were to change position and Bob was to go up, if you punched him in the face but he now has a service you need, you will be in bad shape.
So, they will decide who does the follow up, not you. Very important client can do that, but that's because usually things went very overboard. Tell them what they need, try to solve the problem so they won't stab you if they can, and forget this.
You don't really need to care. This is business, yeah, but sometimes it is not all neat and polite. That would be boring, and we are all human.
Only if he showed blatant disrespectful and insulting behavior towards you, you should have to thing about putting him in place, but if it was minor and more on a complaining tone like "you are asking for impossible things, this is not serious" (the first part in my view would be 'acceptable', the second part is judgemental and unprofessional), I would only take it into account to see what is the real problem. Somehow, it is a feedback, you can't ignore it.

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