October 27, 2004

more on email

Of course, after I posted about my email unease the other night, I realized that this is far from clear cut, this issue. As Otto said in his comment, I wouldn't normally consider an email to a business to be a private matter. If I sent a complaint to an airline, of course I'd expect more than one person to read it. If I got Apple Care support via email instead of phone, I wouldn't mind at all if my baffling (former) problem was batted around by a whole floor's worth of cubicle inmates. So what's the difference here?

I'm not sure exactly. I think it's a combination of things. First: I was emailing to this woman's personal account, not a work address. Second: When the supervisor okayed our email correspondence, she apparently also said, "But you have to show me everything." Except neither Worker Woman nor Supervisor Lady said this to me. They only relayed the assent, not the caveat. This feels like cheating to me. I was hoping Ė via email Ė to develop a rapport with this woman. How can she feel at ease with me if she knows ahead of time that everything she writes will be vetted after the fact by her supervisor's sharp eyes? And what would happen if I'd actually gotten comfortable enough with her to say something ever so slightly critical of her boss? It happens in conversation and nobody reports it. This was to be like a conversation. It feels wrong that it was set up to be an overheard conversation. Even if this is in fact the overall implication of email, that anything can be lifted and quoted verbatim at any time, in practice we seldom do. I've had intimate email discussions with friends and frankly, if any of them cc'd the contents to all our mutual acquaintances, that would be the end of that friendship. Some things are implicitly private, and usually both parties understand that at the time. You just know.

But this wasn't a friendship and we weren't sharing confidences, we were talking about my son and how he was faring at school. (Yes, I'm letting the cat out of the who-dat bag here but I donít care anymore. The agency in question is out of my life, just the paperwork remains.) Honestly, I think what bothers me most is that it's part of a larger picture. The way this supervisor works. She must Know All. She must hold the reins of power. Iím not used to that. The specialists I've dealt with before may be discreet in their way, and absolutely professional, but they have always felt free to communicate with me one-on-one, to form real relationships not just with my kid but with me. Not so here.

Last month I asked this Worker Woman's predecessor a question, wanting to know something specific about the other kids in Damian's class. She shrugged and gave me a generic (and useless) answer. A few days later, I talked to Supervisor Lady. Who told me that my question had been relayed to her, along with the real answer. Apparently the worker couldnít respond to a simple (and easy) question from me unless she cleared it with her supervisor first. So the email creepiness is par for the course with this gang. Which is why I felt violated. Which is why I ranted. That overall attitude, that kind of distrust and secrecy, it makes my skin crawl and my temper rise.

Make sense now?

Posted by Tamar at October 27, 2004 10:24 PM

"Make sense now?"


Posted by: Otto Kitsinger at October 28, 2004 12:25 AM

It seems disrespectful on the part of the supervisor, and casts a very ugly light on all of the workers. If the boss can't trust her people enough to let them use their own judgment and discretion and can't be open enough with clients to make this clear to them, it leaves me wondering if it's her or if it's them or why anyone should trust anything that the agency workers do at all.

Posted by: Dreama at October 28, 2004 04:39 PM

I do have to wonder, though - what are the rules for such things? When you're dealing with kids, you're dealing with huge liability concerns, insurance concerns - and I'm sure there's a lot of record keeping and protocol needed to make sure you accidently end up in a huge amount of trouble. This is not to say I'd want to deal with this agency, but still... I'm curious what they HAVE to do.

Posted by: Otto Kitsinger at October 28, 2004 11:57 PM