Insider News

How to Manage the Memo Wars

Posted March 27, 2009
In these precarious economic times, job protection is more serious than ever. More and more employees are seeking legal advice on the pros and pitfalls when responding to negative or dunning e-mails and memos from their employers.

The scenarios are pretty standard. Times are tough and management has to press for more performance out of their staff. Or they have to correct what they deem to be lax behavior or the development of some “bad habits”.  Then it hits your desk or your computer screen—the e-mail or memo that makes your heart pound, your head hurt and your stomach turn. You are being criticized and unjustifiably so. The perspiration is visible as your body temperature rises.

What do you do? The worst thing is to do nothing, to let the memo or the e-mail sit and linger on your desk or your computer screen.  The second worst thing to do is to respond immediately, negatively and incorrectly just to give them a response. The “I’ll show them” routine works in the movies but, in real life, it may be a one-way ticket out the door.

The key of course is to come up with a strategy. Here are some guidelines of conduct in this situation.

1. Think about your response.  Think strategically—what you want to say and how you say it are important components to the response. Jot down your ideas, organize your thoughts and determine the best way to convey your impressions regarding the situation.

2. Maintain a positive image.  Tell your supervisors at the outset how much you enjoy your work and the fact that you are a team player. Say it in a positive fashion and then get to the root of the problem.

3. Don’t sound patronizing. Being positive does not mean that you should be dripping with platitudes. If you don’t sound like yourself, you will be accused of being phony.

4. Keep it brief. No one wants excess. Get to the point and say it with firmness.

5. Maintain your integrity. Be yourself but be brutally honest.

6. If possible, get legal advice.  It is less costly to avoid litigation and perhaps a job termination when you have someone show you the way and help you with your job protection. At times, lawyers act as coaches in counseling employees and employers alike in addressing workplace conflict. Something as simple as responding to a difficult e-mail may prove costly if you have misgivings about what you are doing. Take the guesswork out and ask an experienced and credible lawyer for their advice.

7. Track all communications.  Maintain a log of all communications. Who knows, it may be evidence later on if litigation is the only avenue or option left.

The best thing to do is to be open and frank. Communication is the cornerstone to any successful business situation. It is important, therefore, for you to make a genuine effort of being positive and communicative even in the most difficult of times.