The memos, they are a-changin’

Say you’re an office manager, and you’ve heard from several employees about a problem with the way people use the break rooms.

You need to write an e-mail that helps resolve the problem. Read the following example. Is it effective?

Subject: Noise level in the break rooms

There has been great concern expressed about the tension between those personnel who use the two break rooms as a quiet place to work and those who go there to converse. This conflict is counterproductive. The most pressing issue at hand is ascertaining the necessity of establishing a quiet break room.

This developing tension has great potential for unsettling the work environment and reducing productivity. It must be addressed without delay. Suggestions deemed suitable should be submitted to the HR manager. This is of concern to us all.

A few decades ago, a formal tone was proper for memos. Today that same tone sounds cold to most ears.

Note how the next example uses a warm and understanding voice to mobilize group spirit. It shows that the writer understands her audience. In the final sentence, she sets a positive expectation that the staff will cooperate.

Subject: Noise level in the break room

How can we satisfy everyone?

Many of you have told me about the growing tension you feel about using the break room. Some of you go there to rest and socialize; others use the room to work quietly.

Your ideas are welcome.

What do you think we can do to satisfy everyone? Should we designate one room as a lounge and the other as a quiet room?

We’re sure you have other ideas.

Since your feelings are important, please take a minute or two to send us your suggestions. If we work together, I’m sure we’ll solve this problem.

Thanks for your cooperation.

— Adapted from Write to the Top, Deborah Dumaine.