There’s too many men, too many people, making too many problems,
and not much love to go round.
Can’t you see, this is a land of confusion. “Land of Confusion”
I’m still holding on to my part-time jobs. An extra income would help. Besides, I’m not getting enough work from them in the first place. There is a symposium next month and I’ve been helping to liaise with the overseas guests regarding their travel arrangements. Employers often look for candidates with great communication skills. Well, I expect the same from my employers too. The following confusion arises out of the reimbursement arrangements for invited overseas guests who book and purchase their own air-tickets as opposed to those who purchase their tickets through us.
#1: The invitation was sent out to invited guests a few months ago and as soon as they accepted our invitation to participate, I was given a template and asked to send out an email to provide them with information on travel arrangements. We would cover the costs of their airfare and they could either book their ticket through us or by themselves, in which case, the instruction in the email was:
“Please give me the original copy of your ticket and receipt on the first day of the symposium.”
#2: About 2 weeks ago, I was asked to send a follow up email to invited guests, and was given the following instructions:
“For those who are making their own travel arrangements, please ask them to provide you with their itinerary for our information.”
Why do we need to know their itinerary? That is the first thought that came into my mind and when I hear the word “itinerary”, I immediately think of flight schedule so I find it strange that we are asking for their flight schedule when we are not arranging for any airport pick-up. I don’t know what my employer’s intentions are but its not for me to question or so I thought, my task was simply to follow the instructions and sent the follow up email. Besides, it would be useful to know their flight schedule in case of emergencies and delays.
#3: This week, I received another email from the employer:
“If the speakers have sent their invoices / receipts to you, please forward them to XXX. If they have not provided their itineraries / receipts to you, please write to them to follow up. Please keep XXX posted so that she may start liaising with the Finance Office regarding reimbursement of the speakers’ airfare.”
Now I’m confused. According to the original email (#1), they were asked to bring their receipts on the first day of the symposium. I wasn’t told to collect their invoices / receipts before that. What information was she specifically after when she asked for the itinerary in #2? Is it their flight schedule or the costs of their airfare (or both)? Did she write ‘itinerary’ when she actually meant ‘receipt’? Did she want the ‘itinerary’ so we could arrange for reimbursement? Why is this important and what difference would it make? If that was her intention, I’d have specify in my follow-up email (#2) to the guests that what we wanted is a copy of their itinerary AND receipt. Because there is a difference between an itinerary and receipt. And does that mean we no longer need them to bring their receipts on the first day of the symposium, as per our original email (#1)?
#4: I replied to seek clarification and this is what I wrote,
“In our original email, we asked them to bring along the receipts on the first day of the symposium. In the follow up email that was sent recently, we only asked for their itinerary…Could you please confirm that you would also like them to send us the receipt now? In which case, do they still need to bring the receipt on the first day?”
I thought I have framed my question clear enough but apparently, I did not. Her reply baffles me more.
Reply: “Yes, please ask those speakers who are buying their tickets themselves to send in their receipts as well as per our original instructions.”
Am I missing something? Did she miss a punctuation mark? Does she mean:
(A) Please ask those speakers who are buying their tickets themselves to send in their receipts as well[,] as per our original instructions.
(B) Please ask those speakers who are buying their tickets themselves to send in their receipts[,] as well as per our original instructions.
If she meant (A), which is my initial thought, her reply perplexes me because our original instruction is for them to bring (not send) their receipts on the first day, so strictly speaking it is not “as per our original instructions”. But after re-reading, I thought she could have meant (B), in which case, I question the need for them to bring their receipts again on the first day (although university financial procedures don’t always make sense). However, as an organiser, my wish is to convey accurate consistent and clear information. As a guest, I would like to know what are the documents required before the event and on the first day of the event. And I think we failed to convey clear consistent information here, which makes me feel bad. But that’s just me.
What’s my problem with people at work? They can’t give clear instructions and have me guessing their intentions, sometimes I feel they just can’t be bothered to give clear instructions. “It’s no big deal”, others may say. True, I can just send another follow up email, it’s no big deal but I can tell you what’s upsetting for me. It’s the thoughtlessness of others. It is a waste of time. The follow up and clarification emails are like small talk, and I try my best to avoid any kind of small talk. It make me anxious to send an email, I think carefully before hitting the ‘send’ button, I check my words a few times for fear of offending anyone especially in a field where people might expect different/better treatment because of their social status (most are polite and nice but you never know when you are dealing with a nasty one). Organising and coordinating involve the executive functions, and I tried to make up for my weakness here by being organised, structured and clear. It is therefore doubly frustrating when someone gives you conflicting, vague, and thoughtless response in return. I’m trying to do my job the best I can but you are messing up with my executive functions. Maybe others do not get so annoyed (I’m tempted to say neurotypicals in general but I have to be careful with my words, I’m sure there are some exceptions) because they don’t put so much effort in making themselves clear in the first place and even when a misunderstanding occurs, they could easily redirect their focus to deal with the problem.
I used to get really apologetic when misunderstanding like this happens even when I think the responsibility lies on both sides, I would blame myself for not clarifying further and for letting it happen and that I’ve let people down. It has been said that autistics may get overly apologetic and self-critical. When I found out I’m autistic, I start to think if this explains why I’m having all these miscommunication problems at work. But the more I think about it, the more I feel something wrong about it, my autism is not to blame for all the miscommunication failures I’ve had at work. Why shouldn’t they be as apologetic as I am? Why should I be blaming myself? Autistics are supposed to be bad at communication? At least I’m not thoughtless and lazy in my communication. Autistics need clear instructions. What’s wrong in asking for clarity? It’d benefit everyone, not just autistics. Everyone can do their job more efficiently. But perhaps most people are so bogged down in bureaucracy they don’t give a thought to efficiency.
Screw it, as my lovely and wise friend, Laina Eartharcher would say. Yes, screw it. I’m going to stop apologising for the thoughtlessness of others.