Writing well is more than just being good with words. You have to weigh factors like what your message is, what are the likely emotions that it will evoke, and who you’re delivering the message to.
With those thoughts in mind, you compose the message carefully, and choose the right medium to deliver it. This is important for any message, and it’s vital when you’re delivering bad news.
From Fast Company, here’s an almost perfect example of how to do none of those things:
Chelsea Taylor, a 16-year-old clerk at the Cookies Cafe in Leigh, was sent, improbably enough, on an errand to retrieve cookies for the staff of Cookies. She was given a “tenner” (in proper American English, God’s own language, that’s a “Hamilton”) for the purchase of said sweets, only to lose it sometime during the journey. She returned to the Cookies Cafe both cookie-less and penniless.
Young Chelsea Taylor’s boss at the Cookies Cafe was not pleased with this turn of events. How, she wondered, did she manage to open and run a cafe named after a snack she could not manage to procure? Heads would roll for this one! And it was our poor heroine who got the axe–and not in a very pleasant way.
Yes, Chelsea was fired via Facebook. The message is conciliatory, apologetic, and polite, yet its mere medium suggests a lack of personal involvement and a distancing that borders on the insulting. The shortened words, the text-message abbreviations (“u” for “you”), and the aversion to tell Chelsea in person all combine to form an epic brush-off–and Chelsea is not pleased.
Yeah. She was fired via a message on Facebook. Whether or not her boss was right to fire her for the cookie incident is immaterial here. Facebook is absolutely not the right medium for this sort of message.
Here’s something I wrote a while back that might be useful if you have to give someone an unpleasant message: Delivering Bad News.