I was once fired via email.
On my first day of college after transferring to Pacific University here in Oregon, I decided I needed a new computer. So I went down to the campus store and found a woman struggling mightily with managing the store. She was all alone and the orders were just pouring in. I thought here is a situation where my business abilities and organizational skills could help, so I volunteered.
Over the next couple of weeks, everything calmed down and between the two of us, everyone got their computers and the phones got answered. Over time, the store started looking like a financial success for the University and I got to pitch the Finance Provost (CFO) the financials of the “company” and show why it should get further funding.
Success! We did and it got me work study and got us an additional full-time employee.
Well, everything went well for a while and then I started to sense a disconnect between me and the woman I worked for. While we had been friendly before, she now barely talked to me.
And that’s when the email came in that, because of the extra money and this new employee, my services were no longer needed.
While I was upset, it taught me a very valuable lesson. When I really want to communicate with someone I better do it face to face, even when it would seem email is easier. See: email isn’t communication. It’s me telling someone else and then them telling me something back. Communication is about feeding off each other to come to a mutual understanding.
So when I read this post over at 37Signals this morning, it reminded me of this story. As Osmo Wiio points out, in any communication there are multiple ways to interpret it. This only gets worse when you can’t see the communicator at the same time.