It’s too delicious to pass up. A corporate executive sends a company-wide email that is so insensitive or shocking that you must chuckle. Who approved this?
Social media regularly serves up examples of executive messaging gone wrong:
- The Klarna CEO published the names and emails of individuals offered severance following staff reductions.
- The Howard University Hospital CEO responded to nurses’ requests for raises with a list of budget-saving tips for the home including “Do laundry at night,” “Shop store brands, not name brands,” and “Do home meal prep.”
- The PagerDuty CEO announced workforce cuts, executive promotions, and spending cuts in the same email. Then she added a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The most egregious of this club may be the CEO of Better.com. You may remember him firing 900 employees via Zoom just before the holidays a few years ago. He previously sent an email to employees “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS.”
Certainly, none of these individuals set out to offend employees (well, maybe except the dumb dolphin guy). Despite good intentions, this happens fairly often. The efficiency and speed of online tools sometimes deceive us into thinking that quick communication is the best path. That often leads to unintended consequences.
It is worth the extra time to get the message right.
When crafting employee messaging, especially if the topic is challenging, follow these steps.
1. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Is this the right message? Is it clear and in jargon-free language? Most importantly, is it thoughtful and empathetic? If you were reading this, would you feel it was relevant and respectful?
2. Have someone else review it. Even the best communicators benefit from input. Having someone else evaluate the messaging, and provide feedback to improve it, reduces the chance of misunderstanding. This is where a professional communicator can help.
3. Offer support. When the message has the potential to cause uncertainty, provide some direction on when more information will be available. Don’t forget to say thank you. When employees feel recognized and valued, they’re more likely to trust management. Perhaps even forgive a tone-deaf email.