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Unprofessional not responding immediately to email?


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Old 18th October 2014, 1:19 PM   #1
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Unprofessional not responding immediately to email?

So, I am in the last part of my doctorate where I have to find a paid internship. I got a pretty nice scholarship from a well known company and when I got it my professors suggested I contacted a student who got the same scholarship a couple of years earlier. They said it would benefit me so that I get to know the culture of the company. I hesitated to email him because I didn't want to bother him but finally I decided to do so as it would be nice to have a friendly face there.

We emailed back and forth maybe three times. In those times I thanked him for his help and willingness to email with me. The tone of this emails was very friendly, he told me about his wife and other personal details. By all intends and purposes this was a peer type of relationship.

In any case on one email I sent I thank him for his help and told him what I would do with the information (request some information from my professor). He emailed back saying there was no need for me to follow up with someone else and pasted the information I had been wondering about.

About this time I was in the process of getting married, starting school, and another residency, so although I saw the email it sort of slipped to email him back to thanking him for the information. However, after all that passed (maybe two months) I emailed him back thanking him for the info and saying it was really helpful. I then asked him another question. He again answered the question as best as he could and said he hoped that was helpful (this was last week, around the end of the week).

Although it was somewhat helpful it didn't really answer my question so I planned to emailed him back after the exams I had this week so I could make sure I had the time to really explain what I meant.

Well I had no chance, as he emailed me again yesterday chastising me for not replying immediately saying that it was unprofessional and off-putting for me to ask for help and not acknowledge that it was given. He then proceeded to pull rank (saying "as a senior member of the company you will join"...even though he is only one or two years ahead of me), and said that it would "behoove me" to be more responsive....I really really hated the tone of that email...

So here are my questions.
1. Is it REALLY unprofessional to not answer an email right away even in a collegial sort of relationship? (as opposed to boss/ superior...which he is not and will not be?).
2. Am I being too touchy for being upset at the tone of this email even though previous emails were more peer like?
3. How would you respond to an email like that?

Thank for any help with this and don't worry, I WILL reply to the answers
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Old 18th October 2014, 1:27 PM   #2
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It would rub me the wrong way if you didn't thank me until 2 months later in an email to ask for more help! He has a point, even though his tone sounds like he is power tripping (which would annoy anyone).

I'd just suck it up, take a slice of the humble pie and respond with how thankful you were/are for his help and apologize for not responding sooner and explain why you didn't. Then drop it, don't mention it again. You don't want to grovel or anything but acknowledge you slipped up, apologize and move forward

and yes even though this is college level, it's your future career so it is unprofessional not to thank someone in a timely manner for their voluntary help.
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Old 18th October 2014, 1:39 PM   #3
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Honey does work more effectively than vinegar or silence. IMO, it all depends what one wants. That said, indoctrination into any particular corporate culture should be done in person. Sending people etiquette nasty-grams is, in itself, unprofessional.

So, from my chair as an old fart who runs a business, both students can still learn a few things, as can we all. It's OK to try things and learn from them. That's how life works.
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Old 18th October 2014, 2:11 PM   #4
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Thank you for the replies.

I agree that I slipped up, most definitely. Although I did not intent to, it did make me look rude and entitled. And in a way I am glad he brought it up, however, god do I hate the tone....

I think that was what irritated me and quite frankly offended me the most. The fact that he called me unprofessional without giving me the benefit of doubt, or, as the tone of the previous email implied, without approaching the subject in a more friendly manner. I would definitely not mind a "hey, heads up, I know you are busy but not responding to email might make you look careless" rather than "it behooves you to be more responsive". It made it sound threatening.

I am struggling to how to respond to him. In drafted an email where I am apologetic and emphasize that I am very grateful for his help. However my husband said it sounds like Im groveling and "too much" but may be appropriate for the level of self importance this guy has.

here is what I wrote

Dear (name)

Please excuse my oversight in responding to your very helpful emails in a timely manner. I can see how this may have offended you and perhaps made you feel I was taking your help for granted. I assure you this is not the case as I am very grateful for all the insights provided. I will take your reminder to heart and will ensure I respond to all my emails without delay.

Once again, please accept my apologies for any frustration I might have caused.

Sincerely,

4givr

Is this too much??
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Old 18th October 2014, 2:12 PM   #5
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So he spent a lot of energy and time giving you free information - but he wasn't happy with your response time.

Then he pointed it out.

That's helpful of him.

Apologize without giving excuses and make effort to do things the way he is suggesting.

This is a life lesson.
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Old 18th October 2014, 3:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4givrnt4gtr View Post

So here are my questions.
1. Is it REALLY unprofessional to not answer an email right away even in a collegial sort of relationship? (as opposed to boss/ superior...which he is not and will not be?).
2. Am I being too touchy for being upset at the tone of this email even though previous emails were more peer like?
3. How would you respond to an email like that?

Thank for any help with this and don't worry, I WILL reply to the answers
1. Yes. It sounds like you waited almost a week to say thank you. This man is taking time out of his schedule to find info for you so you dont have to check with another source. He didn't have to do that. Then you wait quite a long time to respond. You send him another email and then its almost a week before he sends you an email because you haven't contacted him. How is he supposed to know your intentions with regard to emailing?

Since I didn't read the email in it's entirety I can't say if he was having a power trip. What I can say is people want their time respected. We are all busy. He has commitments just as you do. If he is taking the time out to help, its appropriate for that to be acknowledged - even if its just an email that says "Thank you so much for getting this information to me. I appreciate your help." Short and sweet is better than not at all. You can ALWAYS follow up later with questions, but thank yous should be done right away.

2. Are you being touchy or are you feeling bad because you know that he has a point?

If this were me, I'd take it as a lesson learned.

3. Dear Mr. So and So,

Thank you for your email. I read what you have to say and you are right, I should have acknowledged the receipt of your email more promptly, I do apologize. I was going through exams this week. Given my slow response to the email you sent on (the one from months ago), I can understand how you could get this impression. Please know that my response time is not an indicator of a lack of appreciation for your help.

Sincerely,



I think from here on out proof is in the pudding. Make sure to take the time to respond within a day or so of his emailing - especially if it is to say thank you.

Just my two cents.
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Old 18th October 2014, 3:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veggirl View Post
It would rub me the wrong way if you didn't thank me until 2 months later in an email to ask for more help! He has a point, even though his tone sounds like he is power tripping (which would annoy anyone).

I'd just suck it up, take a slice of the humble pie and respond with how thankful you were/are for his help and apologize for not responding sooner and explain why you didn't. Then drop it, don't mention it again. You don't want to grovel or anything but acknowledge you slipped up, apologize and move forward

and yes even though this is college level, it's your future career so it is unprofessional not to thank someone in a timely manner for their voluntary help.
This 100%. Just own up to it and write a sincere apology explaining that it slipped your mind, but that you really do appreciate his efforts to help you and that you will try to make an effort to respond more promptly in the future.
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Old 18th October 2014, 7:10 PM   #8
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As far as him not giving you the benefit of the doubt, a LOT of people in your professional life won't. They may deal with up and up people all day but the few times they run across a slacker taking advantage, it sticks with them and unfortunately most people who haven't proven themselves will get painted with that brush. It sucks and it's annoying when you do 100 good things and seem to only get noticed for the 1 mistake...but it's normal.

I think your email to him sounds great.
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Old 18th October 2014, 7:42 PM   #9
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He DID give you the benefit of the doubt, actually, as you did this to him not once but twice (the first time waiting 2 months, after which he said nothing and was still helpful).

Yes, it is unprofessional not to immediately acknowledge professional help given voluntarily by someone. Not sure I like his nasty-gram style, but as others said, I would take it as a life lesson.
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Old 19th October 2014, 12:06 PM   #10
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He definitely has ego issues, probably not a particularly nice man. I would send him a bottle of something with a small thank you note without any particular explanation. I find that kind of thing works with men the same way as flowers work with women.
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