'Michael,' she said, 'turns out you're only an asshole in e-mail....'

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/10/21 02:59 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/10/20/5566762.aspx

It started just recently.

Like within the last six months.

In three different business units of Microsoft, all separate from my own.

In each case, a fairly young (well, compared to me) program manager charged with dealing with a particular globalization/internationalization issue was told to contact me for more information on some aspect of the issue they had to work through.

In all three cases, they were not told very much about me. They were told about the whole "crotchety old man" thing that is apparently part of my reputation these days, and that this came from largely from my backcompat concerns and the fact that I knew my stuff in the area.

None of them were told my age (perhaps those making the recommendation did not know it), but all three were shocked when they met me. Twice.

The first time that I looked so young, and the second time that I was as old as I was (which, since I've had a birthday in the interim was younger than I am now).

I should mention the last part of the reputation, the part that inspired the title -- that they should look out as I could be a real asshole (I think one was told jerk).

Now all of them were pleasantly surprised that I ended up being very helpful, and each separately admitted that they were expecting me to be much worse than I was, in some cases due to having witnessed e-mail exchanges where let's just say I did not always show the tolerance and patience that I would rather be well known for, all things being equal.

The most amusing of the quotes was the title of this post -- "Well, you're only an asshole in e-mail".

It gave me pause, let me tell you.

At the time I asked her "Do you mean in a good way?"

Later I asked Cindy, whose response was "i thought you were quite helpful over email actually" though as a bit of a disclaimer she has only ever been on one email thread I was on and in that one the problem was dispatched quickly and without much contention.

Maybe that points to the underlying cause of the "asshole" email behavior -- when people aren't listening or getting it or wanting them to, etc. Although I try not to, I could certainly do better there.

As far as I know, anyone who comes to me with genuine desire to understand the nature of an issue will get a ton of help from me, whereas I get curt and impatient with people who don't show much interest in the problem or the language issues behind it, and by and large I won't be an asshole to them....

Kind of fascinating to consider the forces that lead to one response versus another, huh? :-)


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Tony Toews, MS Access MVP on 21 Oct 2007 11:39 PM:

Or, occasionally, in the newsgroups in years past.   Although I'd say "testy" would be more appropriate.  <smile>

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