All Quiet in the Library Office

Samantha Minnis —  February 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

We all know communication at work is very important. But sometimes not communicating can be a valid and wise choice.

Recently, I sent an email informing my colleagues about an interaction I’d had with a patron and asking for follow up from some of them. In a sea of the normal follow up emails, there was one one-sentence email from a coworker, putting down the patron.

I was immediately disappointed because I like the person who sent the email and I have a real problem with patron bashing. I understand we need to vent and inform each other, but this was not venting. It actually came across as a gesture of solidarity and support, but at the cost of disrespecting the patron. I quickly re-read the email I had sent to make sure I hadn’t unwittingly put down the patron myself but I had maintained a neutral tone and there was no hint of frustration.

This one sentence email that had probably taken my coworker mere seconds to write gave me more than a moment of pause. Should I stand up for what I believe in and tell her the patron was fine and there was no need to talk ill of her? That’s what a large part of me wanted to do because I didn’t want my silence to be mistaken as approval. However, I struggled with what do say because this coworker is in a supervisory role. I’m also new to my organization and still feeling out the culture. On top of all that, I didn’t want to reject her friendly overture.

Ultimately, I decided to say nothing largely because this was over email. As we have all experienced at this point, getting one’s tone right over email can be difficult and as this person and I don’t know each other well, I didn’t want to risk it. If this person had been standing in front of me, I could have probably dealt with the situation casually and quickly but I didn’t want to risk an email. So I let it go.

What do you think? Are there times where you chose to say nothing? Do you ever regret not saying something? How have you handled similar situations?


Three wise monkeys on Innoshima Island photo by Japanexterna.

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