How should I respond to confusion about a meeting time?
June 17, 2013 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Early last week, I had a meeting where there were two people from my organization, and three people from an organization we're hoping to work with in the near future. At the end of the meeting, we agreed on a future date/time for our next meeting. The following day, I emailed everyone in attendance, with (our shared impression of) the date/time/location of our next email in the second sentence of the email. Today, it became clear that everyone on their side of the meeting thought it was supposed to happen today, and I thought it was happening tomorrow. How should I respond?

To complicate the situation, we're the smaller, lower status players here and they're a larger organization. We need them a whole lot more than they need us. But I feel like the screwup was not mine here, and a tiny bit of email searching on their part would reveal that I clearly communicated our expectation of what was supposed to happen.

We have of course apologized profusely and promised it will never happen again and done whatever we can to try to salvage the relationship. But should I mention the earlier (unanswered) email that I sent them with clear time specified? Or re-reply to that email to bring it to their attention in a not-super subtle way? I feel like it would be pretty rude to try to shift responsibility over to them in this post-facto way as if to say "NOT MY FAULT." At the same time, I'm a tad worried that by saying nothing and assuming they'll check the email history, I run the risk of them thinking I'm simply unreliable and unable to manage my calendar like an adult, and that they might rather know that it was an honest mistake on both sides that happens in this day and age.

Super curious to hear what people think the etiquette is in this situation. I've found myself in this position a number of times over the years (as a grad student, I would occasionally find myself emailing faculty details and plans, having them forget/misunderstand, and then having to apologize to them for messing up in their eyes) and wish I knew how to deal with this gracefully.
posted by heresiarch to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "We are sorry there was a misunderstanding with the time of our meeting. We sent an email on [date] for confirmation and should have contacted you again to confirm our meeting time. Next time we will schedule our next meeting during our conference and confirm via email or phone."

(This is my opinion, based on scheduling meetings and calls.)

Yes it is your fault - that you didn't confirm. (Not your fault that they didn't read it/respond.) You can point out that you did send an email, but you said the email went unanswered. Now you know next time to get confirmation of your meeting time.

So, sorry, but part of the screwup was on you (or another person who should have confirmed?). I would call them next time to confirm if the email goes unanswered. You can't trust people to remember/show up/schedule meetings properly, you have to get confirmation.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:01 PM on June 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

To complicate the situation, we're the smaller, lower status players here and they're a larger organization. We need them a whole lot more than they need us.

Then no matter who's fault it was, you apologize, reschedule, and move on.
posted by xingcat at 6:04 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The etiquette in this situation in my field is to send an invite (Outlook, Google, iCal, they all work) rather than a standard e-mail. This avoids schedule misunderstandings and time-zone issues while also making it easy for each attendee to see if there are any conflicts and accept/reject the meeting. If you're sending the invite to someone outside of your organization, it's good form to put the meeting time and place in the invite body text in case their e-mail client is weird/old/etc. and doesn't recognize the invite format.
posted by backupjesus at 6:04 PM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I don't agree that it was your fault and that you should have contacted them again for confirmation. I sent out tons of emails about meeting information and depending on the audience I can't always use Outlook. meeting requets I expect that anyone in a professional setting reads their email and that unless they say otherwise, the meeting goes on as specified in the email.

I think you've already apologized for the misunderstanding. Now you just move on. It was just a meeting, right? Not the end of the world. These things happen.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:39 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apologise for the misunderstanding, it's not a big deal. Seconding the suggestion to send the meeting request via an Outlook or iCal meeting request so that it is put in everyone's calendar.
posted by arcticseal at 8:54 PM on June 17, 2013

Simply put, if you wish to acquire them as a customer and you did not have ironclad confirmation for that next meeting, it is your fault. it does not matter if they made every other mistake, from a sales/service perspective, you failed to meet an expectation.

Additionally, there were 3 people with your prospective client that appear to have all thought the same thing. If there people thought it was a different day, then there was obviously a mis-communication there.

Finally, you state you have dealt with this many times in the past, so I think you do want to find something that makes undoubtedly clear of the date and time. If you don't do it already make sure to use the day and date. i.e. Tuesday, June 18th, 2013.

I think all you can do is set meetings using tools that reserve times, like calendar software.
posted by slavlin at 9:03 PM on June 17, 2013

I didn't get the sense that this was a sales thing. Also, for someone who claims to write a lot of emails, I sure had a lot of typos.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:14 PM on June 17, 2013

I've worked in several mega-corps and getting the date and time of a meeting mucked up is par for the course, especially when Outlook decides to send updates to everyone else bar the meeting owner.

Just apologise and reschedule it. No-one is going to think anything less of you.

In fact, you'll probably find some people are secretly thankful because they've either managed to get an hour back of their life to do some work or they were already double-booked at that time.
posted by mr_silver at 1:15 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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