Learning Outcomes

Explain how a negative message can be effective.
Write a well-formed business letter.
Write a well-formed negative message.
Negative Communication

In Case 3, you are required to write one negative message AND one short essay.

Your negative message should demonstrate an understanding in the application of the negative message principles from the background reading.
Your short essay should define and explain the negative principles you used from the background reading, how you used them in your essays, and explain the importance and value of the negative message principles you used.
Please pay particular attention to the principles outlined in Chapter 17: Negative News and Crisis Communication within the Business Communication for Success ebook.

Overview

Most employers recoil from having to tell employees that they will be “downsized.” To make a difficult job easier, managers sometimes use euphemisms and jargon to avoid bluntly announcing that someone has been laid off. In fact, cutbacks have generated new words like “rightsizing” and “re-engineering.”

Regardless of the language, an economic tailspin forces organizations to explain to laid-off employees that what’s bad for them is best for the company. At eBay, 1,500 employees lost their jobs in a program of “employee simplification.” At Yahoo, the CEO explained layoffs as a way for the company to “become more fit.”

No matter how you look at it, people are worried about losing their jobs, and those who remain are worried about whether the company will stay in business.

Experts differ on how to reveal possible workforce reductions. Should managers disclose the news indirectly and quietly? Or should they use the direct approach and announce loudly that they are taking forceful action to strengthen the organization in a dour economy? Some say that executives should use bland language to minimize the public relations fallout from mass firings. Vague explanations and even corporate jargon may be appropriate to reduce the negative effect on remaining employees and on recruiting new employees when the economy rebounds. Opaque language and euphemisms may lessen the impact of layoffs.

Scenario:

Your company has decided to lay off 10 percent of its workforce to maintain profitability. Although every department has participated in cost-cutting measures, expenses continue to mount, and sales are not where they should be. Your direct supervisor, Shirley Schmidt, has asked you to draft an email that goes to the staff whose jobs are untouched by the layoffs. The goal is to assure key employees that management is in control of the situation. You need to emphasize that your company maintains a strong strategic vision, and that management is convinced of the firm’s rosy future in the tech industry. Still, layoffs are necessary to make the company more financially stable. Ever mindful of its people, your company is taking all possible measures to assist those who have lost their jobs. These reductions will help make the firm stronger, says Schmidt.

In addressing remaining employees, your message should explain the bad news and strive to preserve employee morale. Decide whether to use the direct or indirect approach. Apply as many concepts as possible from the readings. After you’ve written the letter, write an essay describing how you used the ideas from the readings.

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