Thursday, October 10, 2013

Notes on Writing Negative Messages

Creating Negative Messages

A.  Choose the right approach for the situation.
-        Consider using the direct approach when the audience is aware of the possibility of negative news, when the reader is not emotionally involved in the message, when you know that the reader would prefer the bad news first, when you know that firmness is necessary, and when you want to discourage a response.
-        Consider using the indirect approach when the news is likely to come as a shock or surprise, when the news is likely t come as a shock or surprise, when your audience has a high emotional investment in the outcome, and when you want to maintain a good relationship with the audience.

Your request doesn’t make any sense.
The damage won’t be fixed in a week.
Although it wasn’t our fault, there will be an unavoidable delay in your order.
You are clearly dissatisfied.
I was shocked to learn that you’re unhappy.
Unfortunately, we haven’t received it.

The enclosed statement is wrong.
Please clarify your request.
The item will be repaired next week.
We will process your order as soon as we receive an aluminum shipment from our supplier, which we expect to happen within 10 days.
I recognize that the product did not live your expectation.
Thank you for sharing your concern about your shopping experience.
The item hasn’t arrived yet.
Please verify the enclosed statement.

B.  For the indirect approach, open with an effective buffer.
-        Establish common ground with audience.
-        Validate the request, if you are responding to a request.
-        Don’t trivialize the reader’s concerns.
-        Don’t mislead the reader into thinking the coming news might be positive.

C.  Provide reasons and additional information.
-        Explain why the news is negative.
-        Adjust the amount of detail to fit the situation and the audience.
-        Avoid explanations when the reasons are confidential, excessively complicated, or irrelevant to the reader.
-        If appropriate, state how you plan to correct or respond to the negative news.
-        Seek the advice of company lawyers if you are unsure what to say.

D.  Clearly state the bad news.
-        State the bad news as positively as possible, using tactful wording.
-        To help protect readers’ feelings, de-emphasize the bad news by minimizing the space devoted to it, subordinating it, or embedding it.
-        If your response might challenge in the future if circumstances change, explain the conditions to the reader.
-       Emphasize what you can do or have done rather than what you can’t or won’t do.

E.  Close on a positive note.
-        Express best wishes without being falsely positive.
-        Suggest actions readers might take, if appropriate, and provide them with necessary information.
-        Encourage further communication only if you’re willing to discuss the situation further.
-        Keep positive outlook on the future.

Handling Bad News about Transactions
-        Reset the customer’s expectations regarding the transaction.
-        Explain what happened and why, if appropriate.
-        Explain how you’ll resolve the situation.
-        Repair any damage done to the business relationship, perhaps offering future discounts, free merchandise or other considerations.
-        Offer a professional, businesslike expression of apology if your organization made a mistake.

Refusing Claims
-        Use the indirect approach because the reader is expecting or hoping for a positive response.
-        Indicate your full understanding of the nature of the compliant.
-        Explain why you are refusing the request, without hiding behind company policy.
-        Provide an accurate, factual account of the transaction.
-        Emphasize ways things should have been handled rather than dwelling on the reader’s intelligence.
-        Avoid any appearance of defamation.
-        Avoid expressing personal opinions.
-        End with a positive, friendly, helpful close.
-        Make any suggested action easy for readers to comply with.

Letter Refuting a Claim

Dear Mr. Lindmeier:
Thank you for your letter about the battery release switch JVC digital camera. Village Electronics believes, as you do, that electronic equipment should be built to last. That’s why we stand behind our products with a 90-day warranty.
Even though your JVC camera is a year old and therefore out of warranty, we can still help. Please package your camera carefully and ship it to our store in Hannover. Include your complete name, address, phone number, and a brief description of the malfunction, along with a check for $35 for an initial examination. After assessing the unit, we will give you a written estimate of the needed parts and labor. Then just let us know whether you want us to make the repairs—either by phone or by filling out the prepaid card we’ll send you with the estimate.  
If you choose to repair the unit, the $35 will be applied toward your bill, the balance of which is payable by check or credit card. JVC also has service centers available in your area. If you prefer to take the unit to one of them, please see the enclosed list.
Thanks again for inquiring about our service. I’ve also enclosed a catalog of our latest cameras and accessories, in which you’ll find information about JVC’s “Trade –Up Special.” If you’re ready to move up to one of the newest cameras, JVC will over a generous trade-in allowance on your current model.
Walter Brodie
Customer Service Manager
Buffers the bad news by emphasizing a point the reader and writer both agree on
Puts a company’s policy in a favorable light
States bad news indirectly, tactfully leaving the repair decision to the customer
Helps sooth e the reader with a positive alternative
Closes by blending sales promotion with an acknowledgment of the customer’s interest

Email Message Providing Bad News about Company Operations

Hello everyone,
Thank you for your continuing efforts to make Sybervantage a leader in video game development. Recent reports indicate that we captured a 10% increase in market share over the second quarter of last year. That increase is directly attributable to your energy and enthusiasm.
Now we’re facing a situation that will put up to the test. As you know, we have been working to develop concept games based on Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes characters. We currently have eight games in various stages of development. However, we’ve just learned that Warner has turned down our requests for licensing agreements. Money wasn’t an issue; we offered them top dollar. I believed that Warner saw the tremendous potential and simply decided to develop its own character-based games.
On August 29, we will hold day-long meetings here in Orlando to discuss our options. We’d like all of you to be present. Our purpose will be to decide whether we want to pursue another licensing agreement or to develop games based on our own characters. Meeting will take place at the Ramada Renaissance by the airport, form 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Lunch will be provided.
We have an opportunity to reshape Sybervantage for the future. Our company has enormous potential, and I’m looking forward to the synergy we can create.
See you there,
Frank Leslie
Opens on a complimentary note and buffers the bad news with some good news about sales
Moves readers form good news to bad news with an effective transition
Presents the bad news along with the possible explanations
Involves readers form good news to bad news with an effective transition
Closes by being positive, looking toward of the future, and encouraging the audience

Writing Negative Employment Messages

A.  Refusing requests for employee references and recommendation letters
-        Don’t feel obligated to write a recommendation letter if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.
-        Take a diplomatic approach to minimize hurt feelings.
-        Compliment the reader’s accomplishments
-        Suggest alternatives, if available.

B.  Rejecting job applicants
-        If possible, respond to all applicants, even if you use only a form message to acknowledge receipt.
-       If you use the direct approach, take care to avoid being blunt or cold.
-        If you use the indirect approach, don’t mislead the reader in your buffer or delay the bad news for more than a sentence or two.
-        Clearly state why the applicant was rejected.
-        Suggest alternatives if possible.

Email Message Rejecting a Job Applicant

Dear Ms. Decicco:
Thank you for considering Bradley Jackson as the place to launch your career in accounting.
In light of the reporting complexities now imposed on the accounting profession by Sarbanes-Oxley and other recent legislation, the executive team has decided it would be wise to bolster our skill base with someone who has extensive industry experience.We have therefore filled the position with a more experienced candidate.
Your resume and credentials show you to be a deserving for entry-level positions. Your candidate academic record and previous work experience certainly indicate your willingness to work hard. Those of us who had the opportunity to talk with you believe that your ability to communicate well certainly help you achieve an excellent position in a recognized accounting firm.
In the meantime, we would like to keep  you information on file for six months, in case position requiring less experience opens up in the near future.
Buffers the upcoming bad news with a sincere thanks for being considered
Further sets the stage for negative news by thoughtfully explaining the context in which the decision was made
Presents the bad news as a logical consequence of the decision-making process
Moderates the bad news with news with honest, specific encouragement
Closes in a respectful, positive manner

C. Giving negative performance reviews
-        Maintain an objective and unbiased tone.
-        Use nonjudgmental language.  
-        Make sure negative feedback is documented and shared with the employee.
-        Don’t avoid confrontations by withholding negative feedback.
-        Ask the employee for a commitment to improve.
D. Terminating employment
-        State your reasons accurately and make sure they are objectively verifiable.
-        Avoid statements that might expose your company to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
-        Consult company lawyers to clarify all terms of the separation.
-        End the relationship on terms as positive as possible.

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