"You must be sensitive."

A co-worker asked me to fill in for him taking notes at a client meeting. I’ve done this twice for him and never think to hesitate, even though I don’t relish the role at this point in my technical writing career. I figure we’re on a team with the same goal, so it’s just one person helping another.

All went smoothly the first time I filled in for him. I turned in my minutes to him and the client and never heard a word. I guess I just assumed all went well. What was blatantly missing was a “thanks” or something of the sort in any communication – phone or email. But I ignored it, thinking he might have just been too busy to be polite.

This time he needed to pick his wife up from the airport and needed someone to fill in for him. He sent an email with the document he had used in his last meeting. This time, he signed each of his email communication, “Regards, David”.

I replied back saying that I had received the instructions and would be there at the assigned time. And at the end of the email I typed, “Even though there is no “Thank you”, I’ll still say “You’re welcome.”

He replied with the following : I have covered many meetings for technical writers within our organization and didn't feel the need to receive a "thank you" from them. It's part of our job to help cover meetings if there is a conflict, and we get paid well for doing the work. Your comment about the Thank You was 100% unprofessional. I did not deem your response appropriate. I hope you deal better with people in the business world.

Along with a Yahoo card of gratitude and peace and joy and sharing and…so on.

Of course, I responded: It’s really just common courtesy – in both the business and personal world. Technically, I would be taking time to fill in for you, so I’m fairly certain most people would deem it appropriate.

Yet none of this is what bothers me the most. When my boss got wind of the communication, she told me “You must be sensitive.” She carried on: “We’re all not perfect” and “we have to be forgiving of each other” and “we have to work as a team”.

I told her that it was not an issue of being sensitive. “I just have higher expectations of people. I will always demand civility from others.”

She never quite got it, but she did mention that this man called her to tell her to apologize to me (again with the manners?), especially for the card which he said was “over the top”, so I feel that maybe my point was made. I hope this person will say thank you to the next person he asks to help him.

If we continue to accept discourtesy, expect the least, and overlook the lack of common, everyday decency from each other, what will happen?

I hope we never overlook people’s lack of courtesy. If we don’t expect it, people won’t offer it, and I hate to think of the world we’d have to live in.