Is this an OK email to send to my team lead at work or should I revise it?

I am a project manager at a translation company in the health care industry. In May I delivered a pdf of a brochure we had translated. We do that, and then when the pdf is approved, we send the full typeset package with images and links.

About a month after I delivered the pdf, the client asked for the full package. Somehow I missed the email, I get dozens a day. But then she sent a 2nd email, and I missed that one! I still can’t believe it happened, I usually respond to client emails within 5 minutes. So anyway, this person complained to her manager, who then sent an email asking about the final files.

And so now I am on a Performance Improvement Plan at my job. I don’t think my job is in danger, unlesss I make another stupid mistake in the next 30 days. It’s not like it was at my last job, which I had done for 14 years and then suddenly I was told that I didn’t know what I was doing - they were looking for any excuse to fire me and others that they thought were making too much money so they could hire PMs in Asia and India.

When we had a Microsoft Teams meeting last week, I was told about the PIP and that the client said there had been other problems with jobs I had worked on. I address that in the email I am going to send.

And that gets me back to the title of this thread, am I striking the right balance? The first part of my draft refers to an email I had forwared to the Team Lead late on Friday, with a client compliment, when he asked me to deliver a job for a client that I wasn’t even supposed to be working for, the client who had a complaint, because at 8 pm (I work 1pm - 9 pm) there was no one else available to do so. They didn’t think that far ahead, everyone else quits at 5 pm, and we get may new jobs after that until 8 pm

I want to be very careful. This is the best job I have ever had. I am not a morning person. 1-9 pm is a dream, and the I love the people I am working with. I want to have this job until I retire.

The email draft-

Hi ____

I did not send that email below, and I am not sending the attached pdf, to be argumentative. I fully accept responsibility for the mistake I made in not getting back to _____, as I do for all past mistakes and any that I may make in the future. I don’t like making mistakes. I hate making mistakes. And of course I understand that if a client complains about a project manager, you can’t just say that we’ll look into it, steps have to be taken to reassure the client. But if ____ asks a dozen people about the hundreds of jobs I deliver in a year, they are going to remember the (very few) times when something went wrong more than they will remember the times when things went right.

When we talked last week, I mentioned that I used to have a folder in Outlook for client compliments. I thought it had been deleted, now I remember that I had moved it to the Archives folder, late last year. At that time I just stopped saving these emails. There did not seem to be a point. Getting jobs delivered with tight deadlines, or getting back to the client right away when they had a problem or question, is just part of the job.

But as this Performance Improvement Plan will go into my permanent record, I would like these 27 instances of client compliments to be placed there also.

…ummm, I’m not sure you are hitting the right notes here at all. How mission critical were the things that you got wrong? You aren’t going to win anything here by trying to minimize what it was you got wrong, especially as it seems that you don’t know what these other problems the client has had with the jobs that you worked on?

There was only a vague statement that I was not responsive to client emails. Totally not true. I usually respond within 5 minutes. It wasn’t mission critical, a 3rd email was sent by the client and the files were delivered within 10 minutes. If the client had cc’sd anyone else on our team, even if I missed it, a team member would have seen it. Again, not trying to minimize my mistake, I fucked up. Once, this has never happened before

I have not sent the email yet, that is why I am posting. Part of me tells me to just go along with the PIP and everything will be fine. But no one at the company knows about these many complimentary emails from the client. I am not one to toot my own horn. I would only send this email to counteract the idea that the client is unhappy with me as a PM or that I am not responsive

…then I would be focusing on this, and providing documentary evidence to back this up. It isn’t the clients responsibility to CC anyone else in the team to cover their bases in case you happen to have missed their email. You screwed up: accept that. You say you didn’t screw up the other times, so focus on proving that to your boss. Don’t overthink this. Address the complaint.

Positive feedback doesn’t cancel negative feedback even if its coming from the very same person. You absolutely should be documenting and passing on complimentary emails you’ve been sent. But that’s separate to what you need to deal with here.

I would not send that email, if a response is required, I would just write that I’m sorry that the two emails slipped, that it’s not typical for you and that you will do better. If no response is required, I would just keep my head down and get to work.

I did accept responsibility. In the meeting, and in the email draft. But everyone makes mistakes, hell the Team Lead in the meeting said he sometimes misses emails. I just don’t think a Performance Improvement Plan is justified for one mistake. But ya know what, I am not going to send the email. No matter how well phrased, it will seem like I am disagreeing that I made a mistake

Completely agree with this. Furthermore, I would put a brief lens on how you manage your email to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

…it wasn’t one mistake. You missed an email twice, the client has additional issues.

I’m so sorry you’re facing this dilemma. One feels wronged and a bit helpless.

I agree with the others: don’t send it.

IME the more you labor over a document to make sure it says exactly what you want it to say, the less likely anyone is going to read past the first line. People just don’t read stuff these days. The impression will be that you just don’t want to take your lumps, and whatever nuances you introduce will be lost.

In short, just take your lumps and move on. I am so sorry. This sort of thing makes me nuts. Being misjudged when I know I am overall quite competent-- ugh! Your historical performance history will outlast this incident. Not to mention your maturity and graciousness.

Right, same mistake twice. Still can’t believe it. Aty first I was telling myself that even though there was a message in Outlook with a day and time, well, maybe that is the time stamp but it wasn’t really delivered then, it was lost in the cloud and I didn’t see it when it was delivered. I know that didn’t happen, this is how shocking it was to me. I pride myself on getting back to clients immediately. I’ve got pop up notifications in Outlook, if I see an email from a client I stop whatver I am doing and read it.

Yes, client has additional issues. I don’t believe they are justified. I deliver over a thousand jobs a year. Have any ever been late? Sure, it happens. Translators deliver late, proofreaders deliver late, I write the client and let them know we are running behind. Once, just once in almost 3 years, a file got delivered late and it was my fault. Everyone on the team has had this happen.

But getting back to the OP and when you said I should forward complimentary emails from the client, I should and I’m not sure why I didn’t. But right now is not the right time, it makes me look defensive.

I just thought of something. When we had the Teams meeting, with the Team Lead and another senior PM and the HR rep, after they had told me of a lack of responsiveness to the client, not just for this one job but just in general, I disagreed and said that I always respond right away, and that I used to have a folder of such emails but I deleted it, which I thought I had done. Then remembered that I archived it. Well, I kinda doubt that anyone in the meeting remembers my saying it. But if they do, it sounds like a pathetic excuse - Oh I used to have a folder of complimentary emails from clients, but my dog ate them.

…now you are obsessing. This doesn’t help. Take a breath.

We get it. You’ve told us this already. Telling us again won’t help. Do you have documentary evidence to show that the “other issues” aren’t justified? Find it, document it, submit it.

can’t respond to vague descriptions of late deliveries if I don’t have a description of when and where it happened. Job number, date, anything? I don’t even know what jobs were in question, and I don’t know which jobs had a problem from the client’s perspective, or from the Team Lead’s perspective. Just the one in question, which I admitted my mistake and apologized for, otherwise it was just “the client mentioned some other issues.”

…you stated that the “other issues” was that you were not responsive to client issues.

Now we are talking about “vague descriptions of late deliveries.”

There are clearly bigger issues at play here than simply being unresponsive.

If you want clarity: then ask for clarity. If they are being vague, ask them to stop being vague so you can properly defend yourself. If they are being “vague” because you’ve got a meeting next week to discuss the details then wait for the meeting to discuss the details.

You implied you knew what these other issues were, now you don’t know what those other issues were, you said it was being “unresponsive to emails”, now you are saying its something to do with “late deliveries.”

You need to take a breath. Then you need to seek clarity, then you need to figure out what to do next.

I’m trying to get a sense of context. You screwed up–twice–with one client. I can see why that’s cause for concern. But is this the only client with complaints? How long have you worked there? If you’ve worked there two months, that’s one thing. If you’ve worked there two years and have a 99.5% customer satisfaction rate, that’s something else again.

That said, I wouldn’t send THAT letter, but if you want to redeem yourself to your bosses, you might send something like this:

I accept full responsibility for the mistake I made in Twice not responding to ____ in a timely manner. I set high standards for myself, as evidenced by the 27 clients who’ve expressed a high level of satisfaction with my work, and the fact I missed the mark twice with this client disappoints me.

I’ve taken these steps to ensure I never miss another client email: [list here]. I welcome any guidance on how I can further improve my performance. My work here at _____ has been my dream job, and meeting your high performance standards is important to me. "

@Nelliebly, I agree that your suggested note is preferable to the original, but I would also offer the suggestion that email may not be the best medium for expressing the OP’s sentiments on this. @Mike_Mabes, especially if it was to be directed to a single person (your team lead/manager, whatever) a quick face-to-face meeting to convey the same information may be much more effective and much less likely to be misinterpreted. An email may be read with an unintendedly defensive or hostile tone, or may be perceived in a number of other negative ways – perhaps as just a nuisance when the manager is busy or in a bad mood, or an attempt to create a defensive paper trail – whereas a face-to-face meeting is more likely to express your sincere intentions. Depending very much on the culture of your organization, going out for an informal lunch meeting may be an even better way to do it.

I do find it rather odd that a single complaint from a single client could cause someone to be placed on a Performance Improvement Program.

I thought the letter I proposed made it clear he’s eager to please, but I do see what you’re saying. In my experience, putting something in writing has some advantages, namely that there’s a paper trail and that others don’t misinterpret tone. Maybe a combination of letter and meeting? Or just dropping it and keeping his nose clean?

Nelliebly andwolfpup, I agree. I have already talked with Team Lead, and HR; I posted here because I want to send something in writing, but wanted suggestions about the tone. I 've been there almost 3 years, no major issues until this one. I get singled out at our monthly meeting with everyone in the company. Month after month I take more projects that anyone in the company, by a substantial margin. That is not why I made this mistake, I have time to do all the things I need to do in a day. That is why I was so surprised that when I made this mistake that resulted in a Performance Improvement Plan.

Again, no one at the company knows about all these emails from clients where I have saved the day for urgent and/or difficult jobs. I don’t know why I was saving them, up until Oct last year, I think I meant to bring them up if I ever decided to apply to be Senior Project Manager, which pays a little more. But I don’t really want that. Every year we have a Performance Review and we have to state our goals. You can’t say, “I don’t have any. I just want things to stay the way they are until I retire.” You have to have a goal, so my goals for this year were to just get better as a PM anyway I can, learn some new technology, and, oh, maybe be Senior Project Manager at some point. Hell, maybe that is why I am on a PIP. Team Lead did say something about that when we all talked, that I had listed that as a goal.

They do not want to fire me, of that I am sure. So I think I will just leave things as they are.

As far as a single complaint from a single client, it is our largest client. 10 different divisions. I worked on 2. If a client files a complaint, about a PM or about a job that we delivered that had problems, an incorrect translation for example, there is a whole process that must be followed. We investigate to find out why the problem occurred, find solutions to prevent it from happening again, and send a report to the client. Honestly, sometimes the solution is BS, we are using human translators and humans make mistakes and you can’t eliminate them. But sometimes you can. A couple of months ago a Team Member had some problems with late deliveries, a plan was put in place, and in our monthy call with the client, of which I am always on, his name was brought up, and the plan to help him described. And he is still with us, and I am sure will be for a long time.

As Aspenglow said, I have taken a breath. I will be fine.

First, good for you not sending the email. It would very likely do much more harm than good.

A few points.

TL;DR No one, in management or HR wants to about explanations which have already been addressed, personal feelings or opinions or requests for additional non-relevant info such as compliments. HR is just concerned with the facts of the action taken and whether it’s compliant with company policies and labor laws. Management is just concerned with recording your actions and preventative actions to preclude it from happening again. You dodged a bullet this time, but glad you did and move on.

While it’s often cathartic to write things outs, never ever (seems like you didn’t) create a draft in your mail program. Too easy to accidentally hit send.

Never use the term augmentative in a email or speech unless you’re stating the other person is being argumentative. The term will almost always put the other person on the defense.

Never acknowledge or address any errors other than what’s on the table. “as I do for all past mistakes and any that I may make in the future.”. If I were reading the email, I’d be inclined to ask, “So what mistakes did you make in that past that I don’t know about, maybe those should be on your record too?” and “So you anticipate making mistakes in the future? I’ll keep a closer eye on your work. Thank you for letting me know!”

Don’t ramble on about her personal feelings. “I don’t like making mistakes. I hate making mistakes”. Reader of the email: “So do I, but that doesn’t address the fact that your hatred of making mistakes doesn’t change what happened one bit.”

Don’t ramble on about what others think about your work or ask for your compliments to placed in your records. Don’t be a beggar. Everyone receives compliments, sometimes just to be polite.

Your job description is probably “At will” or has a similar stipulation that you can be terminated at any time for any reason or the disciplinary chain can be skipped if the infraction is severe enough. You make a mistake, it’s going on your record, accept it as part of your hopefully continued career with your company.

If you have any questions about what’s in your employment record, ask HR as you have the right to know. You may be surprised, both negatively and positively what’s in there.