Good, clear writing is a game changer when it comes to staff motivation and yet so many employees are bombarded with emails and other missives that cause unnecessary confusion.
Clear writing in the workplace: the antidote to apathy
Staff can often waste valuable time trying to understand corporate messages. In most cases they think it’s just them who doesn’t get it so they remain quiet.
But staying quiet creates bewilderment which, if allowed to continue, can affect staff enthusiasm.
Clear writing is a part of good management. You can’t have one without the other. How can people be enthusiastic about anything if they don’t understand it?
They can pretend to understand, but how does that inspire motivation? They think they might know what something means but are afraid of appearing ignorant if they ask.
They hope it might become clear in time but it rarely does. And once it’s gone on for too long, it gets worse. If they ask now, they think they’ll look even sillier.
Information is pumped out every second to satisfy today’s digital age.
Emails intended for one person will often copy in 20 others, most of whom hit ‘reply to all’ with one-word answers.
Everyone becomes indoctrinated by jargon-infested nonsense and no one even recognises it as such.
The hapless new staff member with professional fervour and unfamiliarity with corporate waffle, squints at the screen reading lengthy email trails of gibberish in a frantic effort to understand.
They don’t know it yet but they’ve started the slow descent into quiet despair.
In today’s always on corporate culture, people work long after normal office hours.
Scientists talk about a time when we’ll have computer chips implanted into our brains to enable us to process vast amounts of information in seconds.
That day isn’t here yet and our brains are not wired to cope with the consequences of the 24-hour workplace. Keeping it simple is the kindest thing you can do for your workforce.
Simplifying or dumbing down?
Shouldn’t anything that simplifies communication between humans be a priority?
It doesn’t mean dumbing down. There’s enough of that on social media.
It means cutting out the silly, made-up, business-speak used so frequently in the workplace.
How many times have you had to read something twice or several times to figure out its meaning? What a waste of brain energy.
Consider this: it’s the afternoon of the new employee’s second day. The following email is sent from the Head of Corporate Affairs:
We are launching a strategic review to scope collaborative productivity opportunities. The output of our analysis of the potential collaborative productivity deliverables show they work as end-to-end solutions.
We are at the stage of needing to hear the narrative to inform the collective headline workstreams, an opportunity that also enables business critical dependency. If we can bottom out a resolution it will have the added benefit of assisting the firm in articulating all delivery options.
We would like to hear from individuals with a proficiency in the footprint’s digital maturity to support with scoping and horizon scanning implementations so we achieve maximum pull in articulating in the matrix deliverable.
Sach Drivelle – Head of Corporate Affairs
This letter is a fabricated example created from a list of phrases used in an email sent to a group of NHS staff by their manager:
- End-to-end solutions
- Bottom out
- Hear the narrative
- Headline collaborative work streams
- Potential collaborative productivity deliverables
- Scope collaborative productivity opportunities
- Digital maturity
- Critical dependency
- Articulating delivery options
- Can articulate in the paper the deliverable.
When the person who sent the email was asked to clarify the phrases, she was genuinely puzzled.
Colleagues had never questioned the language before. Instead they’d simply spawned more of it.
And so what anyway? If she and her team understood it, what was the problem?
The point is, why risk alienating that new staff member who’s clueless about your particular department’s style and jargon?
Why make it even more tiring and stressful than is necessary? Isn’t life complicated enough already?
Our brains are deciphering way Too Much Information, so much so that it even has its own acronym: TMI.
The write-as-you-speak rule that I wrote about here doesn’t apply in this case, because most people who write in jargon, speak it too.
Plain English is always the winner. Simplify. Cut the waffle. Get your message understood.