Thursday, September 04, 2014

Clarifying Colleague

I have a colleague who asks for clarification about almost every communication between us.  I think I'm being clear, for example, when I send an email to a group saying that I've scheduled two meetings and think most of us can make it to one or the other meeting.

Then the colleague emails asking for clarification about whether these meetings are both required.

Is my communication really unclear, or does the colleague not read my communications with some care?  I doubt myself, but then no one else asks for clarification, so either they understand or can't be bothered.

(This person is really smart, so it's not a lack of smarts.)


  1. It might be a sign of anxiety or something similar -- being able to read the information, but not quite being sure, on some level, that one has read it correctly, and being more than usually afraid of messing up. I see this more in students than in colleagues (with results similar to some of the ones you've described below; it's definitely "aargh" season on that front), but I think it's probably more or less the same phenomenon.

    And then I had a student ask for a bit less detail in instructions yesterday (after I'd sent out an introductory welcome/warning letter that said, among other things, that a hallmark of hybrid courses is detailed written instructions, and the expectation that students will read and follow them. I guess ze didn't get that far -- about para. 3 -- in the welcome/warning letter).

  2. Sounds to me like a reaction formation. Did this person have some searing misunderstanding in the past? Is there some colleague or administrator who routinely waffles this kind of procedural matter? (e.g., "well, I know I SAID that people could come to one meeting or the other, but really it would be best if everyone came to both...") Something seems to have left your colleague in permanent CYA mode.