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Contemporary Workplace Communication:  Positive and Neutral Messages

Positive/Neutral Messages: Characteristics

Positive messages share the following traits:

  1. Are routine and straightforward
  2. Help workers conduct everyday business
  3. Make up the bulk of workplace communication
  4. Require solid writing skills


Channels Used for Positive Messages

  • E-mails
  • Memos
  • Letters
  • Social media networks
  • Blogs
  • IM and text messages


Understanding Business Letters

  • Are still the preferred channel for external communication in certain situations
  • Go to suppliers, government agencies, vendors, and customers
  • Encourage feedback
  • Project a favorable image of the organization
  • Promote future business


Understanding Business Letters

  • Provide a permanent record
  • Are confidential and formal
  • Accompany contracts
  • Explain terms
  • Share ideas
  • Negotiate agreements
  • Answer vendor questions
  • Maintain customer relations


Learning Outcome 2

Compose direct messages that make requests, respond to inquiries online and offline, and deliver step-by-step instructions.


Writing Plan for Direct Requests


  • Ask the most important question first or express a polite command (Please answer the following questions).
  • Avoid long explanations preceding the main idea.


  • Explain the request logically and courteously.
  • List questions in numbered or bulleted form.
  • Use open-ended questions (What steps are necessary…) instead of yes-or-no questions (Will she complete her contractual obligation…).
  • Suggest reader benefits, if possible.


  • State specifically, and courteously, what action is to be taken.
  • Mention an end date, if necessary. Provide logical reasoning for the end date.
  • Make it easy for the receiver to respond.


Before Version of a Request E-Mail


To: Caitlin Roberts

From: Patrick Banerjee

Subject: New Policy

This e-mail is to inform you that I continue to receive disturbing reports about the misuse of e-mail by employees. In the course of the past three months, I have heard of facebooking, tweeting, and gaming. Excessive use of e-mail including downloads of videos is sapping our bandwidth and slowing down the entire system.

In view of the foregoing, I am herewith instructing your office that an e-mail policy to the staff is needed. By October 1 a rough draft of a policy should be forthcoming. At the very minimum it should inform each and every employee that e-mail is for business only.

Employees must be told that we reserve the right to monitor all messages. No videos should be in the e-mail system without a valid reason. And we should not be using company Internet access for facebooking, tweeting, and gaming. No way!

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call.


After Version of a Request E-Mail


To: Caitlin Roberts

From: Patrick Banerjee

Subject: Please Draft Employee E-Mail Policy

Please draft a policy outlining appropriate e-mail use to employees.

We need a company e-mail policy because I have received reports of misuse including facebooking, tweeting, gaming, and video downloads. This misuse is sapping our bandwidth and slowing the system. Here are a few points that the policy should cover:

  • E-mail is for business only.
  • Internet access should not be used for facebooking, tweeting, shopping, and gaming.
  • Videos may be downloaded only for valid work-related purposes.
  • E-mail messages may be monitored.

Please submit a draft to me by October 1 because we hope to have a final policy completed by November 5. Call if you have questions.


Writing Plan for Response Messages

Subject Line

  • Summarize the main information from your reply. (A subject line is optional in letters.)
  • Use abbreviated style omitting articles (a, an, the).


  • Start directly by responding to the request with a summary statement.
  • Deliver the information that the reader wants.
  • When announcing good news, do so promptly.


  • Provide additional information and details.
  • Use lists, tables, headings, bold, or italics to add emphasis and improve readability.
  • Try to promote your products and your organization to customers.


  • Add a concluding remark, summary, or offer of further assistance.
  • Avoid cliché endings (If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to call).
  • Be cordial.


Reacting to Customer Comments Online

  • Vocal individuals can start a firestorm of criticism or become powerful brand ambassadors championing certain products they love.
  • Companies must adopt strategies that help them decide when and in what ways to respond.
  • Decision trees and diagrams guide employees in responding to online posts.


Reacting to Customer Comments Online

  • Be positive.
  • Be transparent.
  • Be honest.
  • Be timely.
  • Be helpful.


Writing Plan for Instruction Messages

Subject Line

  • Summarize the content of the message.


  • Expand the subject line by stating the main idea concisely in a full sentence.


  • Present the instructions in orderly steps.
  • Arrange the items vertically with numbers.
  • Begin each step with an action verb using the imperative mood (Sign and return the enclosed document).


  • Request a specific action, summarize the message, or present a closing thought.
  • Include a deadline and a reason, if appropriate.


Instruction Messages

To: Staff Members


Subject: New Procedure for Submitting Travel Expenses

Effective immediately, please follow this procedure for submitting your travel expenses:


  1. Retain detailed itemized receipts for expenses of $25 or more.
  2. Download the new Employee Expense Report form from our intranet.
  3. Prepare the report within 30 days of your trip.
  4. Submit to your manager.


By following this streamlined reporting procedure, you should receive your reimbursement within 60 days of submission.


Karen Warner

Human Resources



Learning Outcome 3

Prepare messages that make direct claims and voice complaints, including online posts.


Writing Plan for a Direct Claim


  • Describe clearly the desired action.
  • State the remedy briefly when it is obvious (Please credit my Visa account).
  • Request an explanation when the remedy is not obvious (Please explain your policy . . .).


  • Explain your claim.
  • Tell why it is justified.
  • Provide details describing the desired action.


  • End pleasantly with a goodwill statement.
  • Include an end date and action request, if appropriate.


Guidelines for Writing Online Reviews and Complaints

  • Establish your credibility.
  • Check posting rules.
  • Provide balanced reviews.
  • Consider the reach and permanence of posts.
  • Embrace transparency.
  • Accept offers for help.
  • Refuse payment for favorable critiques.


Learning Outcome 4

Write adjustment messages that salvage customers’ trust and promote further business.


Three Goals in Adjustment Messages

Definition: When a company receives a claim and decides to respond favorably, the message is called an adjustment.


  1. Rectifying the wrong, if one exists
  2. Regaining the confidence of the customer
  3. Promoting further business


Writing Plan for Adjustment Messages

Subject Line

  • Identify the previous correspondence and refer to the main topic.


  • Grant the request or announce the adjustment immediately.
  • Avoid sounding grudging or reluctant.


  • Provide details about how you are complying with the request.
  • Try to regain the customer’s confidence.
  • Explain how diligently your organization works to avoid disappointing customers.
  • Apologize, if appropriate, but don’t admit negligence.
  • Don’t use negative words (trouble, regret, misunderstanding, fault, error).
  • Avoid blaming customers–even when they may be at fault.
  • Don’t blame individuals or departments within your organization. 
  • Avoid making unrealistic promises; you can’t guarantee that the situation will never recur.


  • Express appreciation that the customer wrote.
  • End positively with a forward-looking thought perhaps suggesting future business relations.
  • Avoid referring to unpleasantness by mentioning again what went wrong.


Learning Outcome 5

Craft special messages that foster goodwill and convey kindness.


The Five Ss of Goodwill Messages

  • Keep it short
  • Be selfless
  • Be specific
  • Be sincere
  • Be spontaneous


Saying Thank You

  • Written notes showing appreciation and expressing thanks are appreciated by their receivers.
  • Thank-you notes are typically short messages written on notepaper.
  • More formal letters of appreciation may be written for kindnesses performed, a job well done, and for hospitality.
  • Businesspeople build goodwill by thanking others gracefully.
  • Send a brief note expressing your appreciation.
  • Tell how good the message made you feel.
  • Accept praise graciously. Don’t make belittling statements. (I’m not really deserving of that).


Using E-Mail for Goodwill Messages

  • Depending on your relationship with the receiver, sending a goodwill message by e-mail is acceptable.
  • An e-mail may precede a phone call or a handwritten message.
  • Handwritten notes are most impressive because they remain and can be savored. E-mail is quickly forgotten.




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