Make it a Habit to Carefully Read all Memos and Email
Many people at work don’t write or state explicitly what they truly mean/feel or sometimes they simply don’t know how to ask for what they want. Meanwhile, there are other employees who use memos and emails maliciously against other employees. For instance, some coworkers and managers may use correspondence to engage in behavior such as passing the blame along to subordinates, insinuating alleged performance deficiencies or trying to do something as underhanded as creating retroactive and false documentation to cover their ass for something they did wrong (e.g., they failed to provide you with need to know information at the beginning of a project and now there’s a problem with one of the tasks that requires they engage in a cover-up.)
This type of coworker or manager will write a memo, email message or will prepare other correspondence that contains language they’ve massaged and pulled in every direction. Plainly put, there are a lot of sneaky ways to get a message across without coming right out and saying it. I have been amazed at how powerful some of the suggestions were that people have made in emails and memos. These suggestions can lead to explosive conclusions.
So, I’d suggest you not take anything for granted. Learn to understand when you are being documented, so that you can address this problem sooner rather than later, when things may have gotten well out of hand. Anytime you read correspondence, particularly memos and emails, make sure you’re reading with a healthy dose of paranoia. This is an especially important tip, particularly for those who are already under attack or are working with malicious coworkers.
Here are some suggestions for reading corporate communication:
Examine who has been included on the distribution list. This tip applies to memos and email. It’s very important to figure out whether or not you are being “told on,” in real time, or if you are engaging in a private conversation. Ask yourself this question:
In your best estimation, is everyone included on the list relevant to the subject matter? In other words, have supervisors, managers or executives been included on the list, when they are normally excluded from this type of communication?
Strongly connected to this, are you being documented? In other words, is a negative pattern of behavior being created in written format? Are any “red flag” words included in the documentation? If so, this is potentially a very dangerous piece of correspondence and you should make a decision about when and how to respond.
Red flag words and phrases include:
· “Consistently” or “often” or “frequently” or “repeatedly” or “chronically” or “habitually,” etc. - The point is that you have allegedly demonstrated a PATTERN of making the same mistake or exhibiting the same negative behavior, such as demonstrating a bad poor attitude, arriving to work late, missing deadlines, etc.
· “I’ve noticed…” – For the same reason as above.
· “Many people…” or “Some people…” or “A number of people…” or “Everyone” - The point is to show that there is corroboration for the accusation. It’s not just one person’s point of view that you have a problem--everyone or many people allegedly believe the same thing. People making this statement, generally won’t name names, they’ll just make a blanket statement about so-called mass perceptions about you.
· “I’ve talked to you in the past about…” - The point is not just to criticize you, but to show that you have shown no improvement in some negative behavior that was previously brought to your attention.
· “I’m concerned by…” or “I’m puzzled by…” or “I’m troubled by…” - The point is to show that there is something extremely off-putting or unprofessional about your behavior and that it likely represents a potentially major problem.
· “If you would have…” or “If you had only” or “I thought that you…” - The point is the “you” part of the sentence because the writer is stating that you are solely to blame for something going wrong.
These are just examples of some subtle ways that you can be documented for performance deficiencies at work. If the allegation isn’t true, this represents a potentially devastating problem; in terms of your ability to maintain a positive reputation and any impact the misrepresentations may have your performance evaluations, etc.
Receiving one criticism may not be a big deal, even though it could represent someone’s effort to document you. It’s the form that the criticism takes that makes a written complaint have the potential to be extremely damaging to your reputation. It’s one thing to be told that you have missed a deadline, but it’s another to be told that you “consistently” miss deadlines.
Read between the lines. Get into the habit of dissecting everything someone has written to you. You don’t want to engage in psychoanalysis of every email, however, you really need to look at the overall message someone is including in a message to you or about you. People can be really sneaky, especially when it comes to composing email. As with any type of writing, there’s much that can be communicated without being expressly written. You need to develop the habit of really reading emails, not just skimming them.
Address misrepresentations and character assassination. Unlike some in the workplace who write cryptic and Delta Force style correspondence, there are others who will come right out and make negative statements about those they supervise or work with. When you run across a person like this, regardless of level, it is up to you to:
Clear up any misrepresentations by responding with facts. Don’t get into name-calling or write an emotional response. Just present the facts and list any witnesses who can substantiate what occurred. Additionally, you may also want to refer staff to supporting documentation, such as previous emails, instructions disseminated to the project team or other information in your possession.
Have a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to slander your name and/or falsely assassinate your character.
Don’t be defensive. Instead, address any issues head on, including what may have lead to the individual’s false characterization of you. If you believe that some prior incident may have sparked someone’s false perceptions about you, clear it up. If something you did was taken out of context or misunderstood, explain your intentions and clarify the cause of the confusion.
Labels: tips and strategies