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Managers Need the Right Tools for Effective Communications

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In a recent Linked-In conversation someone shared an alarming example of a leadership email to employees.  Here it is:

“Thank you for the attendance at this morning’s meeting. I want to outline what I went over and how things will be changing moving forward. As I said, this applies to everyone, it is not a request, and there will be consequences if a change is not seen.

The XX hours per day we averaged as a team last week was a positive thing. However, this Monday we returned to the status quo, XX hours per day. This will no longer cut it. There is a pervasive sense of entitlement at our company reflected by the bare minimum hours we work unless incentivized to more. We are in no way an established company with a certain future. The reality is we all work at a start up in one of the most highly competitive industries out there. Our company is not an ongoing entity that will continue indefinitely with or without the hard work of its employees. Doing the bare minimum is no longer acceptable and will not be tolerated.

Effective immediately, the regular working hour is 53 hours. I will be keeping very close track of hours and you will be expected to continue documenting your hours. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to properly fill out your time sheet.

Remember, this is about making our company the wildly successful company that we all know it can be. There is only one way to get there, and it involves a lot of work. Please think of the next two weeks as a trial period. We are all at will employees so if you cannot handle the increased hours, we will find people who will. If you already know that you cannot take on this added responsibility, please do me the courtesy of letting me know now.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me. Thank you.”

A striking example indeed.  It would be hard to be so inept purposefully.  Could any of us craft something so off-the-mark even as a joke?  It has been fun to hear the chorus of voices shocked by the words and presumed intent.  So we all know this won’t work, no matter how passionate the manager/leader.  Passion is always mentioned as one of the key indicators of workplace engagement, but obviously it needs to be channeled in a way that works.

The key problem in this communication is that it leaves employees with a felt experience of being unsafe.  Despite the urgency and clarity of the writer (typically good tools in communication), the larger “frame” of the email is a mix of fear/threat/ultimatum/lack of appreciation/etc.  The longest impression of a communication is always how it makes us feel.  And the way we feel determines how we (employees in this case) behave.

When managers understand this — and leadership needs to make sure they do — these communication bombshells can be eliminated.  We run a day-long “Boot Camp” for managers to help them improve their skills and they love the help.  It turns out most managers are trying to do the right thing, they just weren’t given any skills along with the title.  So my ending question is this… After we all trash this bozo for the email, who should have been responsible for making sure the writer “knew better”?

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