I may have offended someone at head office, but may not have and don't know whether to follow up with a peace-making e-mail or phone call.

I manage a site-specific department, and through recent conversations and a proposal I have convinced my director that my job requires a data phone, where I currently have a basic cell phone. This is not a big issue for me, but I am often called during off hours and have to rush to the nearest library/internet cafe to respond to the issue.

That being said, I received verbal approval from my director who told me that it comes out of my budget, so I should just get it done. My phone is billed back to head office, so I called the person responsible, someone in finance. Her warm greeting turned noticably cool when I brought up my issue and she replied with the stock "if we give you one, we'll have to give one to every manager" knee-jerk.

In my mind I was very calm and tried to explain it to her that I had approval from my director, which seemed to upset her more. Apparently even directors don't have the authority to make that call. I politley thanked her for the help and ended the conversation.

I'm not sure that the other side of the phone call was particulary offended by our conversation, but it seemed that way to me. Is an apology in order?

jhack's picture

As described, nothing you said could possible have given offense.

If somehow you did offend, then you can apologize:

OTOH, the finance person could simply have been doing her job (which is to say "no" to every request).

Did you ask her what approval would release the P.O. and get you your phone? Find that out, get that approval, and then move forward without malice or gloating.


RobRedmond's picture

Galway, I really like to have people who are as self-examining as you around me at work. You deserve praise for rethinking the experience and starting where every good citizen starts when problem solving: themselves. "How did I cause this?" is the first question a smart person asks, in my opinion.

I agree with John, as usual. I doubt you caused offense.

Apologize? You can. It always makes me feel better to apologize fully to someone when I think I did something. In fact, an apology can be the most diplomatic feedback you can give to someone. Call her up, say you are sorry for whatever behavior you think might have set her off or that you are unsatisfied with, and when she acts surprised, tell her the behavior you observed that led you to the conclusion that she was very upset with you.

fchalif's picture
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Use your judgment as to whether you need to apologize or not. I do recommend that you continue developing a relationship with this person in Finance. maybe call her back, perhaps in the context of an apology, and ask how this can evolve differently in the future, i.e. maybe a different procedure (formal or informal).

Make a point though to visit this person, maybe even lunch, next time you are at headquarters. Develop that relationship.

PS: Great points by Rob and John.

thaGUma's picture

I agree with the others in that you do not appear to have caused offence beyond possibly asking for something outside of the ‘norm’.

As a matter of courtesy keep the finance bod informed. If you have been misled then thank her for putting you straight. If you are correct, it is your budget, your boss can authorise this and the finance bod was wrong – then you have an opportunity to put her right without causing her offence. In both scenarios, you get a chance to build a relationship.


JPMasters's picture

HI Galway

I don't think that you have caused offence, but there might be a couple of lessons to be learnt hear (I draw upon my strategic sourcing consulting to multinationals through AsiaPacJapan).

It may be useful to get up to speed with the company's procurement processes, being in mind that a lot of companies have different processes for general procurement and IT&T (which I don't agree with, but that is another story!). If you are not sure were to start, contacting that person in Finance may be a good way. Not to apologies, but to seek their input in where to go to fully understand the company's policies and procedures.

As a general rule, I think purchases should be formalised through Purchase Requisitions and Purchase Orders, but many companies do not have these well in place. These processes document the authority (financial delegation). In the absence of these it would always be wise to request your director to formalise their agreement in an e-mail (a quick way is to sent them an e-mail outlining the purchase to which they can simply reply something like "Approved" or "Agreed".

In this case I may consider giving your director a head's up, just in case the person in Finance provides feed back to your director, potentially indicating that they also have not followed company procedure. They may not care, but fore armed is fore warned!

Hope this helps,

kind regards

tokyotony's picture

The way I decide if I need to apologize is to simply feel if what I said/did is "eating me" inside. If it is, apologize. You can't go wrong doing so, and I am always amazed at how some people think apologizing means you are admitting to being wrong. Apologizing can go a long way in relationship building unless you use it all the time.

My take on your story is that what you did is no big deal, though. I am sure Finance gets asked for a lot of things--just like parents--and they have to say no. Your request seems legitimate and was collaborated with the director. So, if Finance was offended, then that is their problem.

As someone else said, go back to the director and give him a heads up in case they try to a make a case about it (which, I hope, they will have better things to do with their time!).

galway's picture

Thanks for all of the constructive replies.

I sent a heads-up e-mail to my director because I was concerned that he would get heat for approving something that he is not responsible for. By listening around, it's become apparent to me that data phones have become a hot-button issue in that many managers feel that they need them and finance is tired of saying no. As a result, I chalked up my conversation with finance to frustration aimed not directly at me, but to a larger group, so I did not follow up with an apology but am making a concious effort to develop that relationship.