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Changing Threats to Requests In Emails

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In a previous post on this blog, we reviewed a poorly-worded email message from management. Today, we will show how to rewrite that same text so that it fosters satisfaction and productivity.

The post on productivity growth through threats included the following snippet forwarded to AccelaWork anonymously:

Please look at the attached list and make sure you know what day and time you are scheduled for the [REDACTED] Training. This training will be two hours so please plan the rest of your day accordingly.

Please remember, this is a MANDATORY training.  As was stated in a previous email re: [REDACTED] Training, “staff members are going to be held accountable for not attending meetings, or arriving late.  This will include corrective action plans, written reprimands and if not corrected could result in termination.”

In order to change the tone of this notice, we must do more than just swap out a few words. Instead, we have to change our perspective on the purpose of this message.

email productivity

© Flickr user David Boyle in DC

At its core, the email is really just providing information. But that data comes in two varieties: facts and expectations. The first is simply the training schedule and notice that the training lasts two hours. The latter, however, indicates what the author believes about the people who are reading the message. If we simply strip the expectations, the email becomes much cleaner:

Please look at the attached list to see the day and time you are scheduled for the [REDACTED] Training. Please note that the training will be two hours in length. Thank you!

Of course, we cannot remove expectations entirely. The structure of all work is based upon expectations, which consist of both responsibility and authority. The use (and capitalization) of the word MANDATORY implies that all of the authority in this case lies with management. Language such as “held accountable”, “written reprimands”, and “could result in termination” show that the employees have responsibility for their fate.

Instead, consider a more balanced approach to the second paragraph:

We believe you will find this training to be tremendously beneficial. If you are not able to make your scheduled time due to other commitments, reply to this message so we can take a look at your workload.

Changing the phrasing as shown above uses empowering, supportive language. It reminds employees that training sessions are intended as a benefit, not a burden. Still, it clearly states that employees are expected to attend the training, but also gives them another option: talking to their manager.

If you still feel the need to write emails in threats rather than requests, then there’s probably a problem with your organization. Either you have the wrong people working for you, or you’ve set up a system where workers don’t feel valued and empowered. Either way, it’s time for a change. Take the time to emphasize the reasoning behind your actions. If you’re going to have a training session, take the time to show how it can be beneficial. If you’re having difficulties articulating those benefits, then it’s more than likely true that the training is a waste of time and should be scrapped. If it’s something that’s important for your employees, it shouldn’t be difficult to explain at all. If someone still doesn’t understand why you’re requesting something of them, then it may be time to discuss things outside of email.

At AccelaWork, we constantly work with our clients to help them improve productivity, workflow, and stakeholder satisfaction.  Making improvements to the words we use at the office can tremendously impact success. Learn more about how to write and speak more effectively. Contact our business process improvement consultants today!

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