Lessons in Professionalism: Emails

by Claire McGregor

I was recently told that every interaction that occurs in lab is a professional interaction and should be treated that way. I wasn’t totally certain what that meant, but my good friend Phil seemed to have it down. So when he asked me to demonstrate some techniques for him in my lab, I figured that while he was taking notes on me, I’d secretly take notes on him.

First, Phil greeted me not with the usual, “Hey, Claire!” but with a quiet, “Excuse me.” He was dressed like he worked in an office, albeit a casual one, though this quickly changed as he draped himself in PPE. He stood very straight, laughed politely at my jokes, but offered none of his own. While I was showing him my skills, he took notes, asked direct questions, and did not gum up the atmosphere with any personal questions or anecdotes. At the end of the encounter, he asked about meeting another time, and finished with “I’ll be in touch” before striding out of the room. “Just text me or something!” I called after him.

Phil had been serious about being in touch. A few hours later, I received an email. Before you read this, I’d like to remind you that Phil and I are actually good friends—we hang out on weekends, he hosts parties for watching certain TV shows, and we shared a tent at camping before retreat. So I have to chalk it up to his incredible skill for professionalism that he was able to send this email with a straight face:

ClaireEmail1

I read this and I knew two things.

1. Phil had mastered professionalism in the lab, to the extent that I was nervous we might not longer be friends so much as colleagues and

2. I was ready to try my hand at this whole professionalism thing.

After copying and pasting Phil’s signature to be my own, I responded with this email:

ClaireEmail2

Phil, not to be outdone in formality or professionalism, followed up with this email:

ClaireEmail3

ClaireEmail4

Nailed it.

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