Yesterday I was on a call with a client when I was reminded of a lesson I had learned early on at my last job. It was a little more than a decade ago, I got to my desk around 8am and checked my email. There was an URGENT email from a client, we'll call him Ted, about a problem on his website. Not knowing what was causing the issue, I immediately dove in and started researching the problem. 90 minutes later, I hadn't solved the issue yet. This is when my boss walked in to my office and asked what I was doing. I told him about the issue with Ted's site and let him know that I was working on it. He then asked, “Does Ted know?” I wasn't sure exactly how to respond, but I knew mine was going to be the wrong answer anyway.
My boss explained that he had just got off the phone with Ted. Ted had just returned back from lunch and still hadn't heard from anybody at our office about the issue. Ted was not happy which lead directly to my boss not being happy either.
Did I mention that Ted lives and works on the East coast? With our offices being 3 hours behind Ted, that fact was not working in my favor here.
This was a weird spot for me. I was caught a bit off guard. I had come in to work, saw a problem and immediately started working on it. In my mind, I'm the hero in the story. I explained myself by saying, “But I don't know what the issue is, so I don't have anything to report to the client yet.”
My boss then went on to explain, “If you didn't let the client know you are working on it, in his mind, you aren't working on it.”
In the moment I didn't fully grasp it. Even now, I'm sure I don't always heed that lesson. But the kind words from my client yesterday let me know that in this case, that lesson helped smooth out a potentially touchy situation.
Keep your eyes open for the opportunity to send a 30 second email that can save you from getting chewed out by your boss, or your client.