I was needing to move desk at my work from one building to another. Luckily, this happened over the summer holiday, so I had plenty of time to organise it. I thought to myself: "How wonderful if the janitors could do the actual moving when I'm on my summer holiday, as then I will come back and everything will be ready in the other building. That will be so lovely and efficient. I'll come back from my holiday and be able to start work straight away."
I tried really hard to give a very clear explanation of what was to move. I made some phone calls. I wrote an e-mail, entitled "Desk Move", which included a bullet pointed list of things to be moved. I also stuck post-it notes on every item to be moved. I also took an A4 sheet of paper and listed everything to be moved, and selotaped this to the desk. The contents of my e-mail described moving a lot of stuff, but not the actual desk - I don't remember if I explicitly stated "do not move the desk" but I think I did. On the selotaped A4 sheet of paper, along with what was actually moving, I had definitely explicitly stated that the desk itself does not move.
One of my colleagues saw my e-mail, and misunderstood that I wanted the desk to be moved. I said no, the desk wasn't moving, just its contents, and I thought no more about it. I then went off on my lovely holiday, feeling very pleased with myself that I'd been thorough and very clear about the desk move.
A week later, I return to work in the new building, to find the desk that I didn't want moved was up-ended in the middle of the room (taking up the entire free floor space) because it's a very small room with already two desks in it and in which there is no possible room for a third desk. I barely recognise the office, can hardly see my actual desk and there is general chaos, as although I'd asked for these to be moved, I cannot see my phone or my computer or anything else that I'd asked to be moved - they certainly weren't on my desk. I feel totally confused and uncertain of what's gone wrong and have a mini freakout about the weird look of this office that I was totally not expecting, before calming down and dealing with the situation. When I calm down, I discover that my computer, phone and the rest of my stuff is there in a black bin bag, and I go back to the janitors, and say that I'm terribly sorry but there's been a misunderstanding and could they please take back this extra desk? The desk chair that I'd asked to be moved hadn't been moved, but I realised I could use the lifts and my arm power on the stairs and I wheeled this down the street myself, so I didn't bother them with that.
I tell my colleague, in some disbelief, about what an extraordinary occurance had happened.
She says: "Ah, yes, I did tell you about your e-mail before, Debi," and I remembered her having thought that I'd meant for the desk to be moved.
I am feeling safe with this person, so I respond instantly with exactly what I am thinking without editing myself: "Oh yes, I do remember you thinking I meant to move the desk, but I thought I'd been perfectly clear and that you were weird for misunderstanding!"
Luckily, my colleague is very lovely and very understanding of me in particular, and does not take offence! I then go on to ask what was wrong with my e-mail, and she explains that people don't always read the detail in e-mails, but they see the header, and I'd put "desk move" as the header. By that, what I'd meant to do was describe the generic process - I was having a desk move - rather than literally saying that the desk should move. I am a detail-orientated person, and don't always realise that some people will only skim-read my e-mails, which often go on a bit.
I'm feeling astonished to find that I hadn't been as clear as I'd thought, and I do like to learn from these things.
I then ask, in total innocence: "Well, I was having a desk move - what on earth should I have said?"
She replies: "You should have just asked them to move some boxes of stuff, because that is, in fact, what they had to do."
I gawk in some embarrassment for not having thought of that. Oh...right. Got it. Next time I will know to say: "please move some stuff".