Friday, December 08, 2006

Was That You on the Six O'clock News?

Students of business writing are forever amazed by the number of otherwise intelligent professionals who keep putting their heads on the block by writing things that are either accusatory, inflammatory, incendiary, explosive, volatile, or all of the above. If you find yourself writing, "Destroy this after you read it," or "Don't let anybody else read this"....Do it yourself. Destroy it then and there. Do NOT send it. Never incriminate yourself or anyone else in writing. It will come back to haunt you every time. You may think, "Aw, it's worth the risk." Don't bet on it.

Bye Bye Birdie

Think of your emails, memos, letters, etc., as though they were birds. Once you let them go, where they go nobody knows. They could end up on the loading dock or, Heaven forbid, in the front office -- or maybe on the evening news, as your larger than life foul-up gets an embarrassing close-up from a network camera.

Office politics and personal relationships can undermine your purpose, no matter how justified or promising it may be. Such forces can rarely be detected ahead of time, but to charge headlong without at least trying to assess your situation is like skipping nonchalantly through a mine field.

* Are you sending an appropriate message to an appropriate audience at an appropriate time?

* Will your purpose ignite any smoldering issues between you, management, supervision, peers, subordinates, customers?

* Will you be aggravating any existing personality or ego clashes among friends, enemies, supporters, neutrals?

* Is your objective consistent with your organization's culture or "climate"?

* Is anything at stake? Recent or pending promotioins? Favors due, debts owed? Pride, image, recognition on the line? Sacred cows in jeopardy? Territorial, charter, responsibility disputes?

* Is the air foul on this subject? If something goes sour, could you defend your position?

* What is your credibility with this audience? Should you first get preliminary approvals, opinions, advice, support?

* Are there any pressures or priorities that could block your purpose? Do any laws, policies, regulations apply?

* What objections or resistance could your objective create? Are you putting anyone, including your boss, on the spot?

* Are you reacting emotionally? Emotions subside, but the printed word remains.

Remember: Once you let go of what you've written, it could end up anywhere. Finally, to thine own self be true....and keep an up-to-date resume handy.


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