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Tag Archive | manager

When to Write a Memo, Not an Email

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Before emails demanded everyone’s attention, people communicated internally through a medium called the interoffice memorandum—the memo. We typed and printed it, signed or initialed it, and distributed it through interoffice mail to people who read it to make decisions, take action, or have essential information.

 

These days we have replaced memos with rampant emails. We have pushed email too far, expecting it to communicate long, complex, important messages to everyone. Our inboxes are stuffed, and those essential messages are not being read.

It’s time to take the pressure off emails. If you want people to read your important ideas and information, you need to revive the memo. Consider these suggestions:

1. Recognize the best uses of email. Emails win for fast, temporary communications that readers quickly read, act on, and delete. Emails excel at succinct requests and replies, speedy updates, short reminders or check-ins, time-sensitive announcements, and similar short-lived messages. They are perfect for briefly introducing attachments such as memos.

2. Use a memo when you are writing a message built to last. If your communication is a detailed proposal, a significant report, a serious recommendation, a technical explanation, meeting minutes, a new policy, or something else that readers will consult more than once, make it a memo. Your readers will be able to save the document, read it, and find it when they need the information again.

3. Use a memo when formatting matters. If the piece contains bullet points, bold headings, columns, tables, a graph, or even a good balance of white space, a memo will help you retain that formatting. To guarantee your formatting, save the memo as a PDF. If your audience reads emails on their phones, an attachment may be the only way to preserve the formatting you intend.

4. If people will print your communication, use a memo rather than an email. If your message belongs on a bulletin board—for example, in an employee break room—write a memo. If people will discuss your ideas at a meeting, write a memo to make it easy for them to print the document you intended. 

5. To communicate formally, choose a memo. Memos provide a place at the top of the message to insert the company name and logo and the professional titles of senders and receivers. Those inclusions make the message appear more formal. Also, a well-formatted message conveys significance.

6. When you worry that your message is too long as an email, write a memo. Impossibly long emails often result when you try to incorporate important, lasting information in them. But memos work best when people will return to your message for information. (See Point 2.) For instance, if you are communicating the details of the four-stage construction project, use a memo. To convey pros and cons of a major purchasing decision, lay out your research in a memo.

Attach your memo to an email that gives your readers a brief summary of the memo contents. For some readers, that summary will be enough. Those who need the information will read and save the memo.

7. To communicate complex information to people outside your organization (clients, citizens, etc.), consider a memo or a letter. A letter is the traditional format for external correspondence, especially to people you serve, such as customers and patients. But you can choose a memo to write to vendors, consultants, members, clients, professional peers, and others who collaborate with you to get results.

8. To send your memo, simply attach it to a brief email. Or send a printed copy through interoffice mail if that approach makes sense.

I have attached a sample memo to illustrate a standard format.

The memo is no dinosaur. Use it for your significant communications, and your messages will come across as professional, relevant, and of lasting importance.

Follow Syntax Training on Facebook and on Twitter @SyntaxLynn.
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How to Recognize Sensitive Situations

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

Sometimes you can recognize instantly that a message will lead to trouble. When you are angry or upset, you know better than to bang out a hostile email. But some sticky circumstances may not be obvious. Ask yourself these 10 questions to recognize potential problems. If you answer yes to any question, think twice or get advice before communicating in email.

office, communication, how to, learn English1. Could this be someone else’s news to share?

In your excitement about good news, you may want to broadcast the information quickly. Maybe your company has won the contract, grant, or lawsuit. Maybe the amazing candidate has accepted the job offer. But before you email the news, ask yourself whether it is YOUR news or someone else’s to share. Sharing news that is not yours can deflate other people’s pride and excitement. It can even suggest that you were responsible for the accomplishment. On the job, don’t think of yourself as a newscaster, sharing updates whenever they happen. Let the good news come from those who own it.

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2. Do certain people need to learn this news before others? 

People who will be most affected by news should receive it first. For instance, if several internal candidates apply for a position, the applicants should learn which one of them got the job before everyone in the company finds out. If a team will move to another city, the people on the team need the information before the entire company requires it. Informing people in advance shows them respect, and it eliminates the embarrassment of their not knowing before others do. Avoid needless problems by thinking about your various audiences before sending one all-company message.

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3. Could including others on the Cc line hurt someone’s feelings, relationships, or reputation?

It is easy to get in the habit of Ccing the team or replying to all to keep everyone informed. But everyone should NOT be informed when there is any chance that the information will embarrass or harm others. Tasks such as communicating constructive feedback, denying a request, disagreeing—even sending a straightforward reminder to someone who has missed a deadline—can create embarrassment and bad feelings when other people get a copy of the email. In these situations, do not Cc or reply to all. Communicate privately with the individual involved.

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4. Do I have feelings of discomfort about sending this message? Is there a small voice warning me not to do this?

When you have any doubts about sending an email, listen to them. Doubts and feelings of discomfort are huge signs of likely insensitive communication. Maybe the solution is to wait, not communicate, or ask your manager or your human resources representative for help. It is better to delay communicating than to have to heal a strained relationship or apologize for a serious blunder.

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5. Might my manager, my human resources rep, or another professional have advice for me to consider?

You may know that you need to communicate, and there is no small voice telling you not to. Yet other people may be able to help you express yourself more diplomatically or appropriately. When you suspect that your email will fall short and may damage relationships, seek advice from a trusted guide. The advice may be to call or meet in person rather than emailing.

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6. Would a face-to-face or phone conversation manage this situation more effectively? 

Sometimes email does not work because it is just crisp words on a screen, not the voice of a human being in conversation. Situations in which email may be insensitive are communicating bad news, denying a request, apologizing, and giving performance feedback. Email isn’t always wrong in these circumstances, but it can be.

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7. Could the timing of this communication be unfortunate for any reason? 

Sometimes a message is right but the timing is wrong. Maybe the timing affects one individual badly, or maybe a whole group will rebel if they receive such a message now. If an employee has just shared with you that his spouse is ill, for instance, he will not welcome a message saying overtime is required until the project is completed. If a team is preparing for a huge implementation, learning that the leader has given two weeks’ notice may cause an uproar. Such delicate situations don’t require that you hide the news but that you communicate it sensitively—maybe individually, maybe in a group meeting—and allow two-way communication.

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8. Is it possible that I do not have all the information to understand this situation?

Assumptions and Incomplete information damage workplace communication every day. You may think that someone is ignoring your email, when you are using an incorrect address. A delay may suggest to you that your boss has rejected your proposal, when she is really taking time to gain approval for it. Do not send email inspired by assumptions, or you risk creating a problem unnecessarily.

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9. Could this topic be inappropriate for a workplace communication? 

In most workplaces, religion, race, politics, sex, sexual orientation, and physical appearance are off-limits as topics in written messages. Words, cartoons, and other images on these topics will be hurtful to some people, which is the reason workplaces prohibit them. It is not acceptable to send a message on these topics to even one person because of the necessity of keeping the workplace safe and welcoming for everyone.

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10. Could anything about this communication make my company look bad? 

Your unstated purpose in every communication is to present your organization as positively as possible. Imagine your email featured on a six o’clock evening news program. Would it make your company look like a good corporate citizen and employer? Or could it lead to scandal and embarrassment? If anything about the message might present the organization in a negative light, talk to your human resources and legal departments before moving forward.

© Syntax Training. All rights reserved.
 

Tips to Improve Your Business Vocabulary

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

In the business writing classes I lead, people often tell me they want to use the right verbiage to come across professionally. The first tip I offer them is to get rid of words such as verbiage, whose meaning has been muddied and is not what people typically think it is. (Read my blog post “Watch Your Verbiage” to learn the many meanings of verbiage.)

Apply these tips to improve your language:

Read More…

Idiom: backseat driver

Backseat driver = a bossy person who tells others what to do; a person who gives unwanted advice and direction.Usually rich people used to ride in the backseats of chauffeir – driven cars. The backseat passenger gave orders to the driver where to go,what road to take, how fast to drive.

 “I can fix this computer myself, but she always tries to be a backseat driver.”

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It is some kind of micro-management, I’d think.  In either case, I don’t like it 🙂

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