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At work, I lead a small team of programmers. I often have to request equipment and services from our I.T. department, and all of those requests have to go directly to the C.I.O., which is an executive-level position (several levels above my own).

Let's say I have a new employee in my team. They need a new PC and an email account. I.T. is required to provide these things, so in a way my "request" is not really a request at all.

The direct approach sounds too authoritative to me:

Please provide a new PC and email account for John Smith

Using a question also feels wrong, because the answer should never be "no":

Would it be possible to provide a new PC and email account for John Smith?

What is the correct way to approach these things?

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Are you sure this question is appropriate for writers.SE and not some management/personal .... site ? – Tomas Sep 23 '11 at 19:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Please provide a new PC and email account for John Smith

This phrasing is fine. You have the right to request these items, and this is a direct, respectful way to make the request.

Would it be possible to provide a new PC and email account for John Smith?

This phrasing says that you aren't sure you have the right to make the request, and reads as if you are cringing in fear as you ask.

If you have any doubts about the right way to ask, check with the CIO. "What is the preferred way for me to request a computer and an email account for new employees?"

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You know, It never occurred to me to just ask him how he would like to be asked. Thanks for the reality check :) – e.James Sep 20 '11 at 1:45
What about "Could you please provide ..."? Isn't that better? – Tomas Sep 23 '11 at 19:16

I think there's a middle ground between subservient and authoritative.

How about:

We have a new member of our department, John Smith, and he'll need a PC and e-mail account. Do you need any information beyond his name, or is this e-mail sufficient to get the gears in motion?

or, if you think that'll make you sound like you don't know the procedure for setting things up, how about being direct about what's needed, but less direct about telling the IT guy that he has to take care of it:

John Smith just started working for our department, and he'll need a PC and e-mail account. It's nice to see the company growing!

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Interesting! Adding a question or a bit of small-talk seems to soften the (perceived) impact of the main sentence. Thank you. – e.James Sep 20 '11 at 1:43

You could soften it by adding a few more fluff words around the direct approach:

John Smith has just joined the company, and I'd like to request a new PC and email account for him.

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How about, "I wonder if you could set up a new super-duper computer for me, so that I can turn my old computer over to our new staff person, John K. Smith?"

More seriously, I suggest phrasing like "Our department requires an email account be set up for new employee John K. Smith, and a workstation installed for his use. He will start work 6 October and we'd like to have the workstation in place on that date."

When you make a requisition, it should be neutral in tone and clearly phrased as a requisition, rather than as a request or a question, to avoid ambiguity that might lead to delays or an inadequate response.

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I assume this CIO is accustomed to receiving such requests. I'd avoid chit chat and get straight to the point.

My new employee, John Smith, needs a PC and email account set up. Please let me know if your department needs additional. Thank you, Tony Baloney

Also, it's someone in his department that will be doing the work. By sending him the request, you're going through the proper gatekeeper. But in all likelihood, he'll forward your request, unedited, to one of his minions.

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This is not a personal request you are making. I feel any polite phrasing would be fine. Explain the situation and what is needed. Normally, most companies have a standard operating procedure for things like this. Check if this is there.

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