Aftermath of the E-mail

Well, here’s my first remotely angsty post in a long while. There probably won’t be another one for a while, I hope. Rev up your consolation engines, because you won’t have to use them for a while… I try to break the LiveJournal mold that way :o).

This is a story that began here, after I sent an e-mail to Linda McDougal in Dining Services about Essie Mae’s employees smoking indoors, and making the SCCS stinky.

As I said, Marie (the head of Essie Mae’s) talked to me about it, and that’s when I felt pretty bad. As it turns out, I don’t think anyone’s been fired, because I haven’t noticed anyone missing from any of the shifts. After this morning, however, I don’t know what’s going on.

A few days ago, Marie asked me to take a look at her computer, because her e-mail wasn’t working. I wasn’t able to help much, since she’s using Eudora (I’ve never used it) on OS 9 (haven’t used it seriously in 2.5 years). I showed her how to use the webmail, which was a step. I also recommended that she ask ITS to upgrade her machine, since she’s got a nice iLamp. I’d offer to upgrade her, but I don’t think site licenses would allow me to install OS X from my personal copy of Jaguar, even though the total number of licensed copies in existence wouldn’t change. I don’t actually know how that works.

After that, I felt like I had been tested or something. Maybe to see if I was helpful? Or antagonistic? Or something? At any rate, since Marie wasn’t angry, and I wasn’t stumbling through an apology, I figured that everything had blown over. Looks like I was wrong.

This morning, I was at Essie Mae’s getting a quick breakfast, when Marianne, one of the day shift employees, asked me if I was the one who sent the e-mail. I said yes without hesitation, and then she went off on me. She said that she and Leslie (another one of the day shift employees) always go out on the loading dock to smoke. I told her I knew this, and that I hadn’t accused them. She said I had specifically blamed the day shift, and I said that I didn’t know who was responsible, just that is was probably an Essie Mae’s employee. She said I shouldn’t have done anything without more information. That might be true; we were basing this solely on smelling smoke from the Essie Mae’s storeroom. I thought about saying something like “I didn’t want to be spying on people”, but I figured that would just be obnoxious, and trying to make an excuse, so I just apologized again. She said that they had all received some sort of lecture from Linda, and I said that I didn’t intend for anything like this to happen, but it seemed like she was mad enough that nothing I could have said would have ended the conversation well. I added that I thought that Linda McDougal seemed like the person I should e-mail, and I apologized for not talking to her and the other employees directly.

As she walked away, she said the thing that really hurt: “We’re nice to the students, and all they do is walk all over us.” All I could do was apologize again: “I’m sorry if I got you guys in any trouble.” I’ve always thought of Marianne, Leslie, and Joyce, as the nice Tarble ladies, because they’re so conversational. I crack jokes while waiting for my food, find out how they and their families have been, the sort of thing that demonstrates the respect you have for them. I do respect them, but I’m sure that a lot of students don’t give them and the other employees the time of day. The fact that I may have now just lost a friend at Essie Mae’s really saddens me.

How did a simple e-mail request turn into this mess?

Looking back at the e-mail I sent on behalf of the SCCS, here’s the relevant line: “We know that many of the Essie Mae’s employees smoke, and given their presence during the day, and the relatively low student traffic, it seems likely that they are responsible.” I can see now how that could be interpreted as an accusation against the day shift, but I meant “during the day” as “hours when Tarble doesn’t have much student traffic”, which I thought was clear. I guess not.

I will say, I didn’t expect my e-mail to get forwarded directly to Marie, and for all of the employees to see it. I had assumed some level of anonymity, either on the level of “a student”, or “the SCCS”, but apparently Linda didn’t think along those lines. Was this at all a reasonable expectation? Is it worth talking to Linda about?

Now that I think more about the conversation, I’m confused. Marie said that one of the employees had confessed, so I don’t understand why they all would have gotten in trouble. It’s seeming to me now that there was some sort of anti-smoking witch hunt going on. This is interesting, because in Linda’s original response to me, she said “As a non-smoker I feel for you and this seems to be an issue throughout campus.” Is it possible that she used my e-mail as an excuse to launch her own anti-smoking (or perhaps even anti-smoker) vendetta?

Note that I’m just theorizing here, trying to analyze the situation. I’m trying to figure out what to do next, and I don’t want to let my emotions (particularly a little anger) mess this up any worse than it already is.

Here is my planned course of action: (1) Talk to Leslie, Joyce, and perhaps Marianne, who are the three Essie Mae’s employees that I know the best. I want to find out if the first two are mad at me, and try to win Marianne back, as it were. (2) Talk to Linda about how this has blown way out of proportion. I may mention the issue of anonymity, but I think that makes it sound like I wanted to keep this whole thing secretive and under the table. I did consider talking to the employees, or Marie, directly, but I figured that Linda seemed to be the appropriate contact for this sort of thing. I guess I was wrong.

I guess I just didn’t think hard enough before sending that e-mail. However, even if I had, I don’t think I would have foreseen these consequences. I want to cry, and I don’t know if it’s sadness, anger, guilt, or some linear combination of all three.

I don’t really need hugs or pats on the head (since I am going to get a haircut shortly, and my mom’s visiting this weekend), but I welcome any advice you might have on the matter.

Hotel California” from Hotel California by The Eagles


7 responses to “Aftermath of the E-mail”

  1. I didn’t expect my e-mail to get forwarded directly to Marie, and for all of the employees to see it. I had assumed some level of anonymity, either on the level of “a student”, or “the SCCS”, but apparently Linda didn’t think along those lines. Was this at all a reasonable expectation?

    I think it was a reasonable expectation, yes. As DS Liaison, she should — IMO — be rewriting and retelling things that are told to her, rather than passing such things along directly.

    But I think you’re right that addressing that issue isn’t most important right now, and your idea of talking to Leslie, Joyce, and Marianne is sound.

    I’m of mixed mind as to whether it’s better to go through official channels or try talking to people individually when confronted with a situation like your initial one. (I probably would have done just what you did, though.) Jed has posted about similar issues several times in his journal with very thoughtful musings on the benefits and troubles of hierarchies and on the awkward emotions someone in your position goes through during these events. You might read this (and its followup) about the emotional fallout of inadvertently getting someone fired, and this (much later post) about hierarchies and interacting with (or circumventing) them.

  2. Sometimes, people take letters (even e-mailed ones) much more seriously than talking. What about sending another email to Linda McDougal with the request that she share it with whoever she shared the original email. Explain that you did not intend to exacerbate student-staff tensions, nor did you want to kick off an anti-smoking crusade with your name on the banner. Etc.

  3. Can I pat you on the head anyway? :-/

    I’m probably not the best person to get advice from, since after living in Europe, the smell of smoke doesn’t bother me. In general, though, talking directly to the people involved is usually a good idea.

  4. I was thinking about talking to some of the people this afternoon after class, but I got butterflies in my stomach :o(.

  5. *sits by you reassuringly*

  6. Don’t worry about it cutie! I think you’re stressing yourself about it too much.

    Just apologize and make up! It will be okay!

    <3 Katy

  7. Maybe I’m just a stuck-up elitist classist jerk (I should really stop prefacing everything with something like that or I’ll start to actually think of myself that way), but I have a hard time feeling like you did anything wrong. It sounds to me more like the Essie Mae’s staff gets a lot of hassles all the time and aren’t in the mood for much more, even when, in your case, the hassle was a perfectly legit one that, were the rest of their day trouble-free, they’d have no reason to complain about. So don’t beat yourself up too much over it.

    That said, I do wish you the best of luck in clearing things up; it says a lot about you that you’re willing to try to make up with these people, and proves that you’re not in the same class of abusive privileged Swatties that the rest of us are.

Nurd Up!