My friend Trisha Von Lanken, owner of Von Wedding Films, shared her thoughts with me on our most recent posts about using the phone during confrontation (instead of email). Here’s what she shared with me:
In today’s world of sue happy people, I don’t think picking up the phone in an uncomfortable situation is in a business owner’s best interest. I think an trail of emails can create a paper trail of correspondence that can protect both parties involved.
We have had a few occasions arise where we have had to approach someone in regards to their actions. Early on, we did the phone thing. But later on that becomes a he said, she said thing. When the correspondence is written, the he said, she said is no longer an issue, as it is all in black and white and very plain to see where each party stands.
I agree a phone call my be warranted in some situations, but in most cases a paper trail is much easier to track. I will admit that a someone we approached regarding some unethical actions were offended by our desire to correspond about it over several emails, but the email trail clearly proved they took no admittance to their unethical actions.
We like a paper trail of black and white. Not everyone in this world walks in integrity.
Trisha makes a really GREAT point. “Not everyone in this world walks with integrity.” It’s a sad but true fact. A “paper trail” of email is the easiest way (and guaranteed way) to show a trail of unethical or illegal activity, whether it be a breeched contract or a dishonest deal.
My advice: judge the severity of the situation you’re dealing with. If the confrontation is one that albeit uncomfortable but manageable, have a conversation by phone. Like I said yesterday, the phone is the BEST and most professional way to repair a relationship (or prevent a relationship from severing.)
HOWEVER, if you feel that the conversation that you are having by phone could go south very quickly into a “he said, she said” battle, I recommend that you carry the conversation via email. OR – if you know upfront that there is legal issues at stake (trademark infringement, copyright issues, contract disputes, etc), conduct the conversation by email (OR written letter). Having a lawyer draw up a legal letter can be incredibly helpful if you are entering the waters of legal dispute.
I asked Katy Carrier, Legal Expert and Owner of Carrier & Associates about this. Her advice:
Should you find yourself in a situation that may escalate to the point where litigation is necessary, using email is a good idea to help you document your interactions with the other party and generate a “paper trail”. Email is also great tool to confirm an understanding reached by phone between you and the other party; after your phone call, you can send a follow-up email to confirm that everyone is on the same page with respect to the agreed-upon resolution. To futher formalize the agreement, you might consider a formal written contract if the circumstances dictate, especially in the case of a contract termination with clients or the termination of a business deal.
I like her recommendation to use email as a confirmation of any negotiations or understandings you’ve had on a phonecall. For example, if you have a client who is unhappy with the service you’ve provided, I would recommend calling them and being proactive with a resolution. When you have reached a happy place with the client, you can confirm the information via email. “Per our conversation by phone today…” The email now works as record of the phone conversation you’ve had. And VOILA! Paper Trail!
What do you think of this? Have you ever had a bad situation escalate on the phone? Have you been in a situation where you had to create a “paper trail”? Share in a comment below?