Lean Communication
Lean Communication

  Microsoft's announcement that it will lay off 18,000 employees is a brilliant example of how not to show people respect in communication. Stephen Elop took 11 paragraphs (!) in his internal email to finally get to the point that, you know, 18,000 people were about to be sacked. Brevity is not only the soul of wit, and plain, direct speech is a key element of respect for people. Less than One Paragraph: This is Donald Trump territory. "You're fired!" hardly constitutes respectful communication.

Eleven Paragraphs: To go this far, you have to bury the lede behind an awful lot of turgid business bloviation. While employees are anxiously looking for information about their jobs, they have to trudge through a bog of business jargon ("financial envelope," "accruing valuing to our strategy," "right-size operations," etc.). If your corporate environment permits emails like this to go out, it's probably ridden with what Bob Emiliani calls "fat behaviors," that create fear, uncertainty, and mistrust. Good luck establishing any sort of continuous improvement culture in that environment.

The alternative to the cruel bluntness of Donald Trump and the clueless circumlocution of Stephen Elop is direct and empathetic communication. State the facts honestly. Be humble. Bring humanity into your conversation. Remember that at the other end of your bloated strategy email is a real human being nervous about losing her job because she doesn't make a seven figure salary, or have millions in stock options, or have the security of a corporate pension.

If you still don't know how to communicate with a little more respect, read Bob Emiliani's work, or talk to Liz Guthridge. And if you want some entertainment, read Kevin Roose's hilarious evisceration of the Microsoft memo here.