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Being Evasive: When Leadership Email Writing Goes Wrong

2 min read

Sometimes finding the right words to relay sensitive information can be difficult. Back in our September blog, we showed you how was able to overcome a difficult situation by crafting a sincere and effective apology letter.

What if you received an e-mail from your boss declaring that you, along with all other employees, were no longer allowed to work remotely? That was the reality for hundreds of Yahoo employees recently after they received an e-mail informing them of the required shift from home to office.

In the upcoming release of chapter two of our new eBook, Write Like a Leader: Top Strategies for Success, we reveal the key steps in becoming a clear and effective communicator. Check out the e-mail from Yahoo’s head of Human Resources below to see how she measures up:


Does the HR manager follow these three steps for success?

1. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes

It’s clear from the e-mail that the HR manager fails to understand where her readers are coming from. In turn, she neglects their most pressing concerns. For instance,

  • will Yahoo provide childcare services?

  • what if the commute to the office is too far?

When explaining Yahoo’s policy change, the HR manager fails to tailor her message to fit all of her audience’s needs and questions.

Tip: When delivering highly sensitive news, focus on your readers’ needs. Before you begin writing, consider how you would feel if you received the message.

2. Read the message aloud

Rather than be open with readers, the HR manager hides behind phrases that feel like hollow cheerleading:

  • “I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.”

  • “We’ve already made remarkable progress.”

  • “The best is yet to come.”

No matter how enthusiastic the HR manager may seem, she fails to be sympathetic, further alienating herself from the audience.

Tip: When you read your message aloud, it becomes easier to differentiate between what sounds genuine or fake. There’s no need to tiptoe around an issue. If there’s negative news to share, then share it in a clear and direct manner. As a leader, it’s your duty to motivate your team.

3. Clearly communicate enough information

The HR manager provides vague information about the unanticipated transition, leaving the audience feeling confused and helpless. Instead of justifying her reason for the sudden change, she explains it in more elusive terms, pointing to

  • “positive momentum”

  • “the spirit of collaboration”

  • “remarkable progress.”

Tip: Always be sure to get the most important questions answered: the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Unanswered questions or unclear requests can make your readers stressed and confused. Yahoo’s HR manager should have analyzed her message from the readers’ perspective to better respond to their needs.

By following these simple strategies, you’ll greatly enhance your ability to communicate clearly and effectively with your reports. Chapter two of our new eBook, Write Like a Leader: Top Strategies for Success, will take a deeper dive into writing directly to take your leadership writing to the next level. A free copy of chapter two will be available soon. Please check our website for updates.

Download chapter one now to get on the mailing list for chapter two and all future chapter releases!


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