In a previous job, I worked for a manager who was terrific in almost all the ways you’d want a leader to be terrific — she was smart, straightforward, consistent, ambitious for great work. But she did have a small email tic that would occasionally give me pause. If I had to be out of the office, I would send her a note the night before. Her response was always the same: “Fine.”
That simple word, so clear in conversation, becomes more complicated in an email, in which there is no context or signal of tone. Did she mean fine as in, “Sure, no problem”? Or was it more of a, “Well (sigh), okay”? I’m fairly confident it was the former, but I was never 100 percent certain.
I’ve been thinking about those small moments of uncertain communication lately, as the COVID-19 crisis has prompted countless companies to shut their