Open Thread

by epi on September 6, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Betsie September 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

Hello everyone,
I began a new job this week that I feel very fortunate to have been offered. The job is temporary as I am to fill in for the permanent employee while he undergoes treatment for a very serious cancer diagnosis at the young age of 41. Everyone in the office has been extremely welcoming, but I’ve been asked to introduce myself via email to the permanent employee to open a line of communication should the need arise. I understand this will be important if I am to do the job to the best of my abilities, but I feel awkward in presenting my sentiments and keep writing something and then immediately deleting it. I have never met this person and this feels like an extremely delicate situation. There was some discussion in the interview about the job becoming permanent- I cringe to think of those circumstances. I want to express that I am doing my best to fill in and that I am confident in, and look forward to his return without it sounding forced. I also don’t want to “bother” him since I know that chemotherapy is not easy and I am sure he is more interested in spending time with his children than emailing with me. Can anyone provide any insight into this sort of situation? Maybe some advice as to how I can craft an email like this?
Thank you.


Elizabeth September 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Betsie, I understand the delicacy of the situation, but you are over-thinking this. You do not need to express any sentiments, nor should you mention AT ALL the possibility of the position becoming permanent. People undergoing chemo are not running on an emotional high for weeks and weeks. There is a lot of down time, a lot of waiting while the medication is being infused, etc. I’m sure this person would welcome the occasional diversion. Your email needs to be short and sweet:

“Dear Fred,
I’m Betsie Smith, the temp who is filling in for you while you’re out. I just wanted to initiate contact and introduce myself. I will try my best to keep things running smoothly while you’re gone, my goal is for you to return to a clean desk and an empty imbox. But if any questions come up that no one else can answer, may I email you for guidance? I promise to keep it short and sweet. I wish you a speedy recovery.


Jerry September 6, 2012 at 10:51 am

Dear [future cancer survivor]:

[Our boss] asked me to send this e-mail to introduce myself since I won’t be able to do so in person. As [our boss] has explained to you, I will be filling in for you temporarily. I want to wish you a very speedy recovery; please let me know if there is anything I can do for you while I am temporarily sitting at your desk.



* * *

The goal is to keep it light and to keep it positive, keep it to less than five sentences, and say nothing negative at all.


Clara September 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Elizabeth and Jerry’s sample letters are fantastic!


Just Laura September 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I agree!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: