If a customer or coworker asks you a question about a controversial subject, don’t offer your opinion. Instead say “I don’t have an opinion about that.” Then change the subject to something more work appropriate.
Without clear guidance, employees can embarrass your organization, break the law or leak confidential information through an email. Train new employees on these guidelines:
- How formal their writing should be. You may have separate guidelines for internal messages and those going to customers, vendors or other outsiders. Offer examples of acceptable salutations and sign-offs.
- Which words to use. Explain which words to include when communicating about certain aspects of your business and which words they should never type.
- How to handle confidential information. Provide examples of what should never be included in a message.
Remind all employees about your organizations’ email policies and the consequences for breaking those rules.
— Adapted from “Email Gaffes: Four Ways to Stop Messages Coming Back to Haunt You,” Monica Seeley, TechRepublic, www.techrepublic.com.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liewcf.
When writing email, avoid using casual expressions that threaten to undermine your professionalism. Examples:
- Replace “Will you guys help me out?” with “Will you help me?”
- Rather than say “The folks from marketing are here,” say “The people from marketing are here.”
- Expressions such as “Oh man” come across as juvenile.
- Substitute informal salutations, such as “Hey” and “Yo” with “Hi” and “Hello.”
- Use exclamation points sparingly to avoid appearing too emotional and immature. Never use more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
— Adapted from “Three Tips for Writing E-mail in Today’s Casual Workplace,” Barbara Pachter, Pachter’s Pointers, http://www.bar-barapachtersblog.com.
Direct communication is prized in the workplace. People who can speak their minds with confidence and compassion are likely to come out ahead. Consider these workplace scenarios:
- A co-worker is trying to win the boss’s favor by being a “yes man.” Don’t say “Why don’t you try having an opinion of your own for once?” Say: “I am not sure if you are aware of this, but I wanted to let you know that people are beginning to talk about the way you interact with the boss. You might want to reconsider your approach.”
- An employee’s work consistently disappoints. Don’t say “You make more mistakes than everyone else combined—what’s your problem?” Say: “I know that you are trying hard, and I appreciate your effort. However, I want to give you some direct feedback that I think will allow you to improve the quality of your work so it meets expectations.”
- Your boss is micromanaging you. Don’t say “Why are you watching every move I make?” Say: “I have noticed that you are watching me closely lately. How can I do a better job of giving you the results you want so that you feel confident in my abilities?”
Bottom line: Deliver a clear, neutral message that will not cause the person to react defensively. Your goal is to engage the person in a productive discussion.
— Adapted from “How to Be Direct Without Being a Jerk,” Steve Tobak, The Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com.