In a writing training at a large multinational corporation, I asked, “What are the costs of unclear messages and emails?” I expected answers like, “The wrong work gets done,” and “Operations slow down.” But that’s not what I got. A woman’s hand shot up. “They don’t affect me at all,” she said. She shrugged nonchalantly. “I just ignore them.”
I was stunned. This company has 25,000 employees. If even a fraction of them was routinely ignoring messages that were unclear, what would the consequences to the organization be? At the least, the people who sent the unclear messages would send follow-up emails and messages to the people who had ignored them, adding to email overload and draining productivity.
The Costs Are Enormous
But email overload was not the biggest danger. What if those garbled documents and emails contained important information such as new policies, safety procedures, customer relations directives, and operational instructions? If many people ignored those messages because they did not understand them, the whole organization would be dragged down. The disregarded messages could also expose the company to serious safety and legal consequences.
The flow of communications keeps the energy pulsing throughout every organization. When the system is bogged down with sludgy, mushy messages, the whole network suffers. Then the wrong work gets done, operational bottlenecks pop up, and executive directives die before they are delivered.
Motivating Employees to Get to the Point
What does it take to get employees to get to the point? Some of the solution lies in training: They need to know how to get to the point. But culture counts, too. If top managers send out buzzword-filled memos that no one understands, they set the tone. If managers tolerate murky messages, decoding them as best they can and never giving writers feedback, they are part of the problem. Once employees disengage and say, “I just ignore messages I cannot understand easily,” the potential costs become scary. That’s when it’s time to intervene.
©2017 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved
Read other Better Writing. Better Business blog posts:
The $30 million Revision
Worktalk enables businesses to harness the power of communication. Our training programs help you achieve better business through better writing.