Today we will be looking at writing with the correct tone. As a future professional, it is important that you have the ability to convey a message in the right tone. In order to understand this, it is important to understand when tone typically becomes an issue:
• When you feel very passionate about a matter such as pollution or animal welfare. If you are very environmentally aware, naturally when the information is provided that a company is polluting a river and you need to advise on whether the company can be held liable for their actions (and thus have to create a provision), you will feel the need to express your opinion and tell the company how unethical they are especially if it appears as though the company can’t be held legally liable.
• When you strongly disagree with the course of action taken by a director or the company as a whole.
• When you need to convey a negative message such as the restructuring of a company or poor results due to bad decision making.
• When you are being implicated personally and you feel strongly that you are being accused falsely or that something occurred beyond your control.
The key to approaching your writing is to:
• Never make it personal
• Never make accusations or inferences that a person is acting unethically by referring to the person directly
• Write in the third person
• Keep to the facts
• Instead of accusing someone, rather explain the possible implications of the actions taken by an individual
Some examples are provided below where the tones are incorrect and what could have been said to make the message more professional.
Mr. Vosloo you are acting unethically by dumping raw sewage into the Vaal river. You should take responsibility and fix this.
A more professional way with the correct tone: Per the environmental report it appears as though the company has been dumping raw sewage in the Vaal river. This can be seen as unethical and could cause significant reputational damage to the company. It is recommended that the company takes all steps necessary to repair the damage caused and ensure that this never happens again.
Mr. Vosloo your company is performing poorly due to the fact that you are not managing the staff well.
A more professional way with the correct tone: The company has so much potential and although it isn’t performing well at the moment this situation could be turned around if there were more stringent controls in place to ensure that staff work to their full potential.
I refuse to take responsibility for the low output of the factory as I am not responsible for the raw material used during production.
A more professional way with the correct tone: The output of the factory has been below budget. Although this is unfortunate, it is as a result of the raw material used and everything possible has been done to convey the message to management. Until such a time that the raw material provider is changed, it is difficult to foresee that production numbers will improve.
As you can see the same message is conveyed but by being selective and tactful with the wording, the message is professional, won’t create conflict and could even offer constructive advice. It is important not to be defensive, act on your emotions and make accusations. Also, it is helpful, where possible to offer solutions to the problems.
A final thought is that when conveying a negative message, write in the third person but when it is positive you may address a person directly.
For instance: Dear Mr Vosloo you have done an incredible job in developing the company into the institution it is today. That being said I believe that the company requires more rigid controls to ensure employees are working towards the common goal to become the biggest brick supplier in the country.
Until next time, have great week!
Francois and the Atcor team