Do you ever notice how many people in positions of leadership in the business world can be friendly and casual in person, yet when they email or post a memo to staff they adopt a very formal, cold tone? Isn’t that a bit odd and counter-productive to all the rapport building previously done to win your confidence and loyalty?
For staff it can be akin to dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute you feel comfortable chatting with your boss or manager, and then next, you feel you are being scolded or talked down to through his/her writing. Here are the common traits of this problem:
1 – the manager adopts on reflex a “boss’s tone” without realizing it, often because it’s the way it’s been done at the workplace before (particular office culture)
2 – the manager feels a serious, formal tone sounds ‘professional’
3 – the manager hopes the formal, professional tone encourages staff to take him/her (more) seriously
4 – the memo has long business English words and phrases that sound ‘intelligent’
5 – the memo is filled with instructions, demands and orders, not inquiries, questions or polls
6 – using CAPS unnecessarily
It doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage members of management and team leaders to consider having a consistent message with their staff, customers, tenants, vendors etc. Of course writing still must avoid street slang, but it can certainly get its message across while being positive in tone and engaging, and still maintain professionalism. The key communication tip I’m suggesting is to use a consistent, conversational tone that still deals with the key issue or topic, but does not create distance.
Here are some quick examples of suggested changes:
To all Staff:
Please be advised that you will NO LONGER be able to use the common area for eating lunch. Please eat your food in the designated lunchrooms only.
Just a quick note to ask you to please eat your food in the lunchrooms only, and not in the common area. We want to keep that food-free as much as possible.
Mr. Smith / Team ABC Co.
Dear Valued Customer;
Our records indicate that you have not paid your last invoice. Please remit payment within the next 5 days to avoid late fees and potential legal action, as per the customer agreement.
Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager
Dear Mrs. Smith,
We are reaching out to you as we have not received payment from the last issued invoice. If you have paid it already, please accept our thanks. If you have forgotten about it, please send us the payment as soon as you can. If there is a concern with your invoice please call us immediately so we can work with you to sort it out. We would like to help you avoid any late fees associated with this payment.
Mrs. Doe, ABC Bank Manager
NO food or drink beyond this point!
Please do not bring food or drink beyond this point. Thank you!
It’s not the words that I/you choose as much as it’s the emotional vibe or feeling associated with the note. We can absolutely be a respected manager or boss and still use an approachable, casual and positive tone in our emails and memos. We want to be consistent in person and in writing, and we want to continue to build rapport with our staff and customers. Give it a try – you will be happy you did. In all honesty, wouldn’t you rather work for or with a Dr. Jekyll instead of a Mr. Hyde?