asking a tech support person to write better emails, forced to promote my company on Facebook, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Asking a tech support person to write better emails

I’m the supervisor of a small department that (among other things) does internal tech support for our medium-sized (under 100 people) company. I’m finding that the most junior person I supervise, although he has a positive attitude, is picking up the job well, and communicates reasonably well in person, is not a great written communicator. This is an issue with both emails and documentation. It’s hard to identify exactly what’s wrong or how bad it is, though. He usually gets his point across, but it often comes off as awkward or too concise. His emails often lack greetings or punctuation. Maybe it’s good enough, but the rest of the department and I happen to be pretty good writers, and I wish he were too.

Is this the sort of thing that’s worth correcting? Because of the size of the company, he knows everyone he’s emailing, so it’s not like any given email is the only impression he, or the department as a whole, gets to make on people. But it’s still something I don’t like; I think writing well is an important technical skill. If I do say something to him, do you have any suggestions for what to say, or for tools I could point him to for better office writing?

It’s absolutely reasonable to push him to up the quality of his internal written communications — although you’ll need to assess whether that’s realistic for him to do. Some people suck as writers, and it can be hard to change that with the amount of time a manager can invest in someone. If that’s the case, you’d need to decide if it’s really a requirement of the job or not (and if so, screen for it when hiring in the future) or whether you can live with his current writing style.

But I’d start by talking to him about it. You can certainly give clear instructions like, “Please open emails with a greeting and make sure that you’re using correct punctuation,” and you might also show him examples of better written emails so that he can see the difference in tone. I’d frame it as something that will reflect on how he’s perceived in the organization and in some cases will impact whether or not he communicates what he intends to communicate.

2. My manager is making me promote the company on my personal Facebook page

The owner of the firm I work for, who is my immediate supervisor, believes paying for advertising is too expensive. He has therefore mandated that all employees must advertise for the firm and its promotions on our personal Facebook pages. I feel this is offensive and an invasion of my privacy. Can he require this? He has threatened to fire anyone who does not post what he wants on our pages. He specifically sends us links to post and checks to make sure it’s been done.

He can indeed require it. But why not just say that you don’t use Facebook anymore and have closed your account, and then set your privacy settings high enough that he can’t tell that’s not the case? Or you could say that your friends have complained to you about the promotional posts and that they’re doing more harm than good. Or hell, you could set up a second Facebook account solely for this purpose; all your coworkers could as well, and then you could all connect those accounts to each other and be one horrid but enclosed echo chamber of self-promotion for the company.

And employers, this is a bad idea. Stop doing it.

3. My school is requiring so much paperwork that I’m worried my internship offer will be pulled

I am a grad student and I recently received an offer for a summer internship. My university insists that summer internships be approved by my department, and for this approval to take place, I need to collect a few documents from my employer. Additionally, my department also is insisting some additional information be listed in the offer letter, which I am unsure if the company will be willing to do.

I am really worried if the company would retract my job offer for asking too much documentation. I feel I am caught in between my university and my employer. I certainly need my university’s approval to do this Internship.

How do I make my employer understand this? How do I communicate effectively, being persuasive but not too pushy?

Unless it’s seriously onerous, the employer will probably be willing to do it; employers with interns are pretty used to dealing with this kind of thing. They might not rewrite their whole offer letter, but they should certainly be willing to supply an addendum with whatever info you need (assuming they could accurately say whatever you’re requesting).

It’s unlikely that they’ll retract the offer, especially if you frame it as “I’m so sorry for any inconvenience, but here’s what my school is requiring.” And give the requirements to them all at once, not piecemeal.

4. Can I block my employer’s calls on my days off?

What actions can my employer take if I do not have a valid phone number on file and they are unable to reach me on my scheduled days off? I have blocked all incoming calls because due to a snow emergency, they may try to call me in to work.

Well, in theory, they could fire you or require you to be reachable, but in practice that’s not likely to happen. “Oh, sorry, I often keep my phone off” or “I don’t always take my phone with me” is a reasonable response, at least to reasonable employers.

5. Letting interns know whether or not we’re offering them permanent positions

I work for a nonprofit that has a large AmeriCorps and internship program. At the end of their service year, folks can apply for a second year and/or a staff position if one is open. Some of the positions we have are higher in prestige and pay, and obviously becoming a staff member provides more stability. Last year, it seemed we had more of the prestigious positions, and when we interviewed everyone we struggled with the most respectful way to let folks know our decision about what position we wanted to offer them. We ended up going to each person, and letting them know in person. In several cases, folks were disappointed that they didn’t get the “best” position that they had applied for. We need to tell folks quickly because there is a strong esprit de corps among the group and the word will spread quickly, but for some folks, having to go back to work after hearing this news seemed hard on them. Ultimately, some of the “disappointed” people chose to stay on at the less prestigious position and some moved on to other opportunities.

We really do value and care for each of these folks and want to make this the best situation and learning opportunity for them. It also seems hard to have a long period of anticipation during the day – for instance if we called everyone midday and asked them to come in for an appointment at the end of the day. We really feel we need to let folks know face to face too.

(Some things that it might be helpful to know: all the internships and AmeriCorps positions are paid and receive some modest benefits including health insurance, during their year we do offer regular formal feedback sessions on their work, and we have a good culture and so usually many more folks would like to stay and work for us than we have permanent positions available and so we are going to have folks that are disappointed.)

I think the way you’re doing it sounds fine. The measure of success here isn’t “no one ends up disappointed”; that’s not realistic. The measure of success should be “we treated everyone fairly and told them our decisions in a timely way, with feedback when we could provide it.” Some people will be disappointed, and that’s okay; that’s just the nature of hiring.

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. andrew

    i have to disagree on pt 2. sure an employer can require you to do promotions, post ads, update their facebook page as a job duty… but your own private personal page? can companies therefore ask you to paint a banner on your car? put a billboard in your front yard? sure they can ask, but they cant require it. it isnt ethical, professional, appropriate, and if an employer took action against you for it, im fairly sure a decent lawyer and lawsuit could secure an easy settlement.

    1. Dan

      I think you’re wrong about the lawyer. They can require whatever they want, as long as it’s not related to membership in a protected class.

      Damn right that I can require “Dan’s is the Beez Kneez” to be vinyl coated on your car if I so choose.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, all those things are legal for your employer to require. No law prohibits it; there’s no lawsuit to be had here.

      You’re making the very common and very understandable mistake of assuming that if something is unfair or unreasonable, it must also be illegal. It rarely is.

      1. neverjaunty

        Where the lawyer comes in is, when an employee does something awful on their Facebook page/with the vinyl-coated car/on their lawn and it gets attributed to their employer – either by association, or because the employee’s actions fall into a category for which the employer is stuck with legal responsibility.

        Which is how this idiot boss is going to learn the unwisdom of his policy. In the meantime, OP #2, consider looking for a different job. This person sounds like a nightmare.

        1. Colette

          The employer is supplying the text here, but even if they weren’t, the issue is that the employer may get bad publicity from something the employee writes. That’s not illegal. If the company were requiring the employee to post something libellous, the company might be liable, but that’s the only scenario I can think of.

          1. vox de causa

            It’s not the employer-provided text that will be the “awful” thing on Facebook though – it’s if the employee posts or reposts something (or possibly if one of their friends posts something to the employee’s wall) that is offensive, silly, libelous, etc. At that point, even though the employee is acting on their own behalf, they have this history of also being the mouthpiece for their company. Anything the employee does personally, on that same Facebook account, can reflect on their employer, and it’s precisely because the employer has required the employee to make that Facebook account promote the company.

            A lot of companies have strict social media guidelines for their employees’ personal accounts, which boil down to, “Be really careful not to be offensive or illegal on your personal accounts, and btw, you need to be super sure that everyone knows you don’t speak for us.” This company is taking a huge risk by requiring the opposite.

            1. neverjaunty

              Exactly. It’s not illegal for an employee to post racist jokes on their Facebook account, but it sure is bad business. And if an employee runs somebody over in a car plastered with the company’s name, you can bet the ensuing lawsuit is going to name the employer, because there’s a strong suggestion th employee may have been on company time.

            2. Colette

              I agree it could look bad for the company and impact the business – but I don’t see any legal responsibility or any reason for lawyers to be involved.

        2. Traveler

          Yeah, this. Or alternatively, if someone starts getting stalked at work because ex-bf/gf/general fb stalker finds out where they work because boss forced them to reveal that information with advertising.

      2. Jessa

        It may however violate FB’s advertising terms. Not sure, haven’t gone into them in detail, but they do offer company/commercial pages for a reason. A lot of things companies have tried to make their employees do are violations of FB terms (and btw a 2nd page is a violation.) What I want to know is how the boss would know if you did or did not do it. It’s not wise to have your boss as a friend on FB. And a lot of things that bosses tried to force on employees were, or got made quickly a violation of terms (the giving out passwords for instance.) Even if it doesn’t violate them directly, it certainly seems to violate the intent of FB terms (or they wouldn’t have separate types of pages for companies vs private people.)

        1. Mike C.

          Yeah, Facebook isn’t going to be happy that Mr. Crazy Small Business Owner isn’t buying advertising.

          1. Koko

            What’s ridiculous is that he thinks less than 100 people sharing something on social media in any way substitutes for paid advertising that reaches tens or hundreds of thousands of people who hopefully actually care about their content and aren’t just following instructions. The ROI of making his employees do this is next to nothing.

            1. Traveler

              And apparently doesn’t appreciate the block feature on FB because any time friends and family start “advertising” to me, they get blocked, and I’m not hearing it anyways. It’s infinitely easier to silence than those FB ads

              1. ECH

                Yes! I hide people from my newsfeed when I am sick of hearing about their company or service too often as well.

        2. AHP

          I don’t see how advertising for a company you work for violate Facebook’s advertising terms when you’re using a personal page vs a fan page. I share a ton of the stuff my company posts on my personal page because I work in marketing and I want more people to see that content, there isn’t anything wrong with that. Also, with Facebook’s new algorithm, any post that has content like it should be a paid ad, but isn’t paid under paid promotion, is less likely to come up on user’s newsfeeds (I don’t know if this also applies to personal Facebook pages, but it’s definitely there for business/fan pages).

          I agree that you shouldn’t be friends with your boss on Facebook (I won’t even friend co-workers until after we don’t work together anymore). My assumption is that the boss asks that they publish the post under a public setting (yes, you can set individual posts to do this), so all he has to do is look at their page, he doesn’t have to be friends with them.

          I don’t think Facebook cares so much if you’re buying advertising or not since they’re still advertising other groups/pages on your page. They just want you to keep posting so people continue to browse other pages and ads continue to get views (which makes them money). Companies should be willing to pay for advertising simply because it’s the most logical thing to do to get your name out on that social platform (and seriously – it’s not that expensive compared to other alternatives).

          1. Sunflower

            Depending on what the boss is making the employee do, it could be considered spamming. To me, someone who is requiring employees to post on Fb because he doesn’t want to pay for advertising also seems like the type to ask people to send unsolicited messages

            1. AHP

              From what OP #2 said, it doesn’t look like it falls within Facebook’s definition of spam at all since they’re posting the links/text to their own wall and not sending messages/posting to anyone else’s walls. It also doesn’t look like the links would be something with malicious intent (most likely something to drive traffic to the company’s website), which would matter if it would be considered spam while posting to your own wall. If they were sending messages and posting the text/links to other people’s walls, then it would be a closer fit to the definition of spam and could more easily be considered a violation of the terms of use, but I don’t know enough of the details to make a judgement.

              Overall, it’s just a dumb practice to implement and creates a more hostile work environment, especially when you’re threatening to fire people over it.

              1. steve g

                It IS just a bad practice. They tried it briefly at multihundred million dollar co I worked at. No one looked at it or joined it except family members, not customers. It was kind of embarrassing because it looked cheap, everyone knows fb is free

      3. Beancounter in Texas

        A CPA once told me to stop applying logic to tax law, because the laws aren’t based in logic. Logical thinking and laws apparently cannot exist in the same sphere in general. Not just taxes.

        1. Tax Nerd

          This. I explain tax law to new hires by explaining that it was written by politicians, not accountants or economists or logicians. First, they need to generate some revenue to run things. They also need to allow reasonable expenses, like the cost of the widgets you use to build the wadgets that you sell. They also try to encourage certain behaviors through the tax code (getting a mortgage or donating to charity for individuals), and discourage certain other things (overly lavish meals and entertainment). Overtop all of this, they throw in some pork for campaign donors, and try to close some of the loopholes, but without getting too unpopular. Then they have to consider that people writing the tax laws are pretty darn wealthy, and always mindful of their even wealthier campaign donors. But they also don’t want to upset the little old lady in their district who does her taxes by hand when she isn’t writing letters to the editor.

          What you get is a big hot mess. Lately, we have pols who have pledged to the almight Grover Norquist that they will not raise anybody’s taxes ever, for any reason. They often overlap with those that don’t want to be on record and worsening the deficit, but the Venn diagram isn’t a perfect circle. (When the other side of the aisle was writing the tax code, they seemed to have even less business savvy, generally, but it’s been a while. I don’t mean to pick on just one side.) What we get are goofy things that sunset after a year or two or ten, and you just get all kinds of craziness, and thousands of pages of rules and interpretations.

    3. AnotherAlison

      It wasn’t permanent, but we did in fact require employees to put magnets on their car when we owned a service business franchise. (The franchiser required it of us, and we in turn required it of the employees.)

      1. ConstructionHR

        And my HOA required that I cover up my company’s name on my company truck when it was parked in the driveway.

    4. EmR

      I think it’s also worth noting that in many states, an employer cannot require you to “friend” him or her or to provide your Facebook password as a condition of employment. So Allison’s proposed suggestion should work in those states.

      1. maggie

        That is wonderful info. My last employer basically forced a pilot program of a high performing sales team to start business FB and business LinkedIn accounts, and then required them to share the password with corporate so that they could verify that the sales folks actually updated it according to their project outline. It was stupid, and very quietly scrapped about six weeks later.

        1. Big Tom

          It’s worth noting, though, that the laws in those states apply to personal accounts, not business ones. If a company directs an employee to create a Facebook page for the business and update it and run it as a representative of the business, they can absolutely require that the password be shared with corporate because it’s their own page.
          What the laws say is that, for example, my boss can’t tell me upon hiring me that I have to hand over the password to my personal facebook account.

        2. AW

          Please tell me that you mean that they created one Facebook and one LinkedIn account and not that they wanted their business to have multiple entries on each site. Because if not…OMG.

  2. Graciosa

    Re #2, this is one more benefit of not having a Facebook account!

    Regarding #4, I have mixed emotions about this. I generally think we’re getting too accepting of demands to work – or be available – for too big a portion of our lives. There need to be limits so we have some time away from work to recharge.

    On the other hand, the nature of the job matters, as does living up to your commitments. If LW#4 is trying to make sure no one can reach her in a snow emergency, it matters whether or not she is the one who is supposed to be at the EOC directing the snow plows! It also matters whether or not she knew she would be expected to cover in snow emergencies (for example, when a supervisor has to come in even when other employees stay home).

    But absent one of these situations, I am very much in favor of turning the phone off so you get to be truly off duty whenever you should be.

    1. MK

      I am not sure I agree entirely. If an employer regularly contacts an employee during their time off, it’s unacceptable and the employee should push back. But it’s not really reasonable to never be available when it comes to emergencies, even when it’s not the employee’s job to deal with them; provided the overall treatment was fair (emergencies are truly that, and not someone’s bad planning, the load was distributed equally among employees and it didn’t always fall on one person). I wouldn’t fire anyone for this, but it would affect my view of their interest in their career.

      1. Graciosa

        Fair enough – it’s possible my opinion is being colored by too many demands lately on what ought to be my free time. We’re probably close to being of the same opinion if we agree on the definition of an emergency – or at least what is not an emergency.

        It’s not an emergency if it happens an average of three days a week.

        It’s not an emergency if someone calls another meeting after hours (because it was the only time everyone was “available”) to rehash all decisions made in the last three “emergency” meetings we’ve had on the same topic in the last two days.

        It’s not an emergency if it has been sitting in your email for two weeks, even if you just realized it’s due tomorrow.

        I would probably be more open to after hours calls about real, unanticipated events that posed possible threats to life or limb if I could get people to stop calling after hours when it’s merely convenient.

        I do get your point about being available for real emergencies, but I understand why people turn their phones off.

        1. MK

          Yes, I agree. It’s just that the OP isn’t saying “My boss keeps calling me in to work on my scheduled days off”, but “There is a snow emergency on my scheduled days off and my boss might call me in, but I don’t want to pitch in”. If it’s happening every other week, the employer is unreasonable. If it’s a rare occurrence, it depends; it’s different if you are saying no because you have guests from out of town on a long-planned visit or if you simply feel that your time off is sacrosanct. Not that the employee has no right to take this stance, but they should be prepared for consequences.

          1. Jessa

            My thing is that even in snow emergencies there should be a rota of who takes the call when. It’s one thing when you know going in for instance that if there is a snow emergency all at home personnel will be expected to work because the in house people cannot get to the office. You are told this in advance and like anyone else who listens to the news and checks the closings, know that if the teapot factory is closed, the customer service squad at home will take calls from customers to help what they can and explain why the office doesn’t answer if they can’t. In general on call situations however, you are normally told “okay you’re on for Tuesdays,” or “You’re on this week and Wakeen is on next, etc.”

            Either way, except in an unusual emergency nobody should be on call that hasn’t been warned first. And “Wakeen, Catelyn, Sherlock, and Hermione didn’t answer their phones, and you’re next on rota, or you’re their boss, you need to help,” should be exceedingly rare.

            1. LBK

              The thing is, you might not have that many people available to work at that time to begin with. For shift work you’re typically restricted by availability – so even if it’s an emergency, if Jane and Wakeen are the only two people that can close on Wednesdays, Wakeen is always going to get the call if Jane can’t come in. You don’t have another option.

              Personally, I think if you have a time period listed as an available shift and you aren’t at your max requested hours for the week yet, you shouldn’t ever be surprised or annoyed if you get asked to come in. It’s part of the nature of the job. Althought on the flipside, your manager shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed if you can’t.

              1. MK

                Sure, but if I in practice closing becomes a semi-regular part of Wakeen’s job, that has to be adressed in some way (extra compensation, being relieved from some other boring task, etc.).

  3. Dan

    #1

    ” it often comes off as awkward or too concise”

    I think you have to overlook the “lacks greetings” issue if he knows his clientele. If you feel y9u must insist on something, then a simple “John,” is going to be sufficient. Or “Hi John,” if you really must press. Because, “Hi John, I hope your weekend was really good! Now, on to your problem…” really is awkward for the more direct types.

    But to the part I quoted, part of me feels like you must pick one or the other in terms of preferred style. I’ve worked with guys with extremely dense writing styles; the types that you would most likely find too concise. They’re so dense that missing a single word would screw up the meaning of their writing. For those types, telling them to try and add more “fluff” to their writing is just going to drive them bonkers.

    If their writing is truly too concise, ask them to break it out into enumerated list:

    1. Reboot your computer
    2. Do x
    3. Do y.
    4. What do you see next?

    I’ll give you the grammar thing, however.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think it depends on what “too concise” means in this context. For example, if someone is emailing him a technical question or reporting an issue, responding with nothing more than “yeah” is going to be insufficient for most people.

      1. OP #1

        It’s often one-sentence replies along the lines of “I have done the update”. The rest of us generally reply along the lines of, “Fabio, I’ve taken a look, and the update system wasn’t connected to your computer, so I fixed that up for you. You should be good to go, but of course let us know if there are any future problems. Thanks, Wakeen”

        1. Zahra

          Middle ground proposal: “Hey, I’ve done the update and made sure you get the next ones automatically. Let me know if there’s any problem, Wakeen”

          It keeps the info to the essential (which is your employee’s style) while getting closer to what you want.

            1. Liz

              Even suggesting that he tag a line like “Let me know if you still have problems” on to the end of his email may help soften the directness enough, and will help get his fingers into the pattern of your emails without making him feel that he’s writing an essay each time.

              1. M-C

                You could even satisfy his geek urges by having him add that sentence sneakily into his signature, or programming his keyboard to type it out with one keystroke :-).
                Frankly OP #1 I find your version -too- wordy. Maybe my update wasn’t getting done because you were too busy chatting in the hallway? So adding just a bit to the one sentence would be a better aim for both of you.

                1. JB

                  Well I don’t find it too wordy because I like to know what the problem was. And I hope that comment about chatting in the hallway was a joke because it came across to me as kind of snarky.

                2. Alternative

                  Agree with JB, I didn’t find that wordy at all. It’s polite and professional, and it tells you what the problem was, how it was fixed, and what you should do if it happens again. It gives respect to the person you are writing to.

                  I also found your comment about chatting in the hallway rather rude, with an unfair assumption about OP1. Hope that was just a joke.

              2. NoPantsFridays

                @JB, I agree- it might be slightly wordier than I’d like, but I don’t see it as a problem. I’m not tech support, but I do some database stuff and have fixed problems others have identified. I usually give a brief explanation of what the problem was and what to look for to see if it’s still occurring. I want them to let me know if they’re still seeing the issue, so I’m aware if my solution didn’t take. FWIW, whenever IT emails me, there’s a solid paragraph about the length of this comment describing the issue and what the fix was.

                @M-C, I was thinking to add it into the signature block lol. Good thought.

            2. Formica Dinette

              Lynda.com has some writing tutorials. I haven’t viewed them, so I can’t tell you how useful they might be. However, their tutorials are usually pretty good and subscriptions are inexpensive. Perhaps in addition to providing your employee with examples of what you’d like, you could get him a Lynda subscription. Give him a list of tutorials to take and a few hours a week to work on them and you may see considerable improvement.

              Also, it might be helpful to frame improving his writing skills as not only important to this job, but to his career. Whether he wants to stay in tech support all his life (nothing wrong with that!), move up the ladder, or change fields entirely, the ability to write well will benefit him.

        2. TNTT

          Have you heard comments from others about his style, or is it just your preference? Because to be honest, I would prefer a very short “it’s done” comment from my IT rather than a novel about what was wrong and how it was fixed and all that. It may be less of a problem than you think.

        3. Ask a Manager Post author

          You know, you should be able to give pretty clear and actionable feedback on this just by showing him examples of replies that have the style you want. The difference sounds really clear, so I think you’re likely to be able to fix this pretty easily.

        4. LQ

          I’ll admit 90% of my emails that are responses and fixes will be

          “Done.
          Thanks”

          Or

          “Done. If you need anything else let me know.
          Thanks”

          I feel like yours is a whole lot of words to say “Done.”
          If my boss sat me down and said to do it that’d be fine, but I’d have no clue that “Done” wasn’t enough when I get a specific and direct request. You can’t get upset if you haven’t told him to change this.

          1. puddin

            If my boss asks me to do something like a admin task (expense report, travel request, TPS reports etc.) ‘done’ is all I use.

            But if anyone else asks, I use my words. Sometimes other co-workers do not know me well enough to know that I am just being task oriented and not abrupt when I reply with only a ‘done.’

            1. LQ

              If someone sends me a really lengthy email I’ll try to put more words (that would be “If you need anything else please let me know.”) but in general many of the emails I get are brief and I don’t feel bad being brief in return.

              Again if someone wants me to change that they need to talk to me. Magically complaining about it to other coworkers or being internally frustrated won’t fix it. Talk to the IT person if you really want it to change. Don’t expect them to just know it should be different. Talking! Use your words!

            2. JB

              Exactly. My secretary asks me to take a look at something, I’ll email her with “Done!” when I finish. Anybody else, it’s a little rude. She and I have a close relationship, but with my other coworkers, I don’t know how they’ll read that. When you don’t have body language and tone of voice, overly-concise emails can sound curt.

              1. Koko

                I think this is a case where the exclamation point also softens it by making it seem more like a cheerful exclamation than a status print-out from a computer.

                “Done” = Am I even communicating with a person?”

                “Done!

                Lucinda” = deightful note from Lucinda

          2. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

            I wasn’t getting the impression OP#1 was “upset” – just curious about whether this was worth a discussion at all.

            As for the OP’s actual question, I think it sounds like the issue is more that the employee isn’t picking up on the “company style,” for lack of a better phrase. I’ve worked in organizations where one-word emails were the norm, and so I would send similar one-word emails. Now I work in a different organization where pleasantries and longer emails are the norm, so I do that instead. It sounds like this employee may be junior, so it’d probably help the employee a lot to have a conversation about it, not to make the employee feel bad or inadequate, but just to highlight “hey, this is how we like to email around here, it’d be great if you could match the group’s style.” The employee may not realize that observing and following group norms when joining a new workplace plays a role in career development.

            1. LQ

              Well I guess what I’m saying is the OP shouldn’t assume the IT guy will just change because OP doesn’t like the style if OP doesn’t say something.

              Especially if this person hasn’t been asked to change at all and possibly if this person holds a different role from the rest of the team. If my position was very different from the rest of the team (and I’m an ITish person on a communications team) I wouldn’t assume I needed to do Communications style emails just because some of the team is like that. Which is why I think a conversation is the important piece here.

              I don’t think it’s a problem at all but the OP does and so they need to talk to the IT guy here. The OP isn’t going to stop feeling like the emails aren’t good enough and it is negatively impacting the impression of this guy, but without letting him know. Talking is good here.

              1. OP #1

                Yeah, I don’t want to fall into the trap of being annoyed by his style but not saying anything. I wrote into AAM in hopes of deciding one way or the other. Either I should make a real effort to try to correct the behavior, or I should make a real effort to stop being bothered by it.

                1. LQ

                  Absolutely.

                  This is the key here. Either speak up or let it go. Whichever seems to work best for your situation.

                2. LJL

                  Precisely. In fact, I was in this very situation. I decided to let it go until it got to the point that the employee’s writing was causing people to come to me to ask for clarification. The “use a greeting” is an easy fix. When emails that my employee was sending out required several emails to clarify, we started working in earnest on his writing skills. For potentially troublesome clients, I read over the emails before he sent them out and we worked on getting them to be more clear. For us, that time was well invested as it prevented wasted time in clarifying emails. Best of luck, OP #1! I know that this is a bit awkward, but my customers, my company, my employee, and I all benefitted from this work on writing.

          3. bad at online naming

            Heh. I submit a lot of work to my company’s sysadmins, and by this point I think most of their responses to me are down to 3 words or under. Just checked… I see a lot of “Done.” “All Set.” “Approved.” “Running now.” “Copied to [location].” etc. (There are longer responses for gnarlier problems, of course.)

            Different strokes for different folks and all that. :)

          4. Stranger than Fiction

            We use a lot of “Done.” emails for these sorts of requests here too, but the backup documentation is in our database if anyone needs/wants the details. These days, there’s just too much email in general to make everything a paragraph. (just my humble opinion)

          5. LBK

            This is totally just personal preference, but one-word “Done.” emails grate on me so hard. I at least do a “Done, thanks!” instead when I send them.

            1. Jamie

              What are you thanking them for? I’m more of a FTFY (or FTFY!) girl rather than “done” but I am always curious about extraneous “thanks” I see from other people at work.

              You needed something fixed > you told me about it because it’s my job to fix it > I fixed it > I let you know it was fixed. I’m not seeing where I need to thank you for allowing me to do my job?

              Not really a quibble as much as I’m curious as to why people use thanks to soften emails when it’s not something requiring thanks?

              And ITA with the ! making all the difference. ‘Done’ reads ‘I fixed it so stop complaining you whiny baby’ and ‘Done!” reads “took care of your problem for you and I was happy to help – you have a great day!’

        5. BadPlanning

          On the subject matter, maybe explain that he should provide enough details that if the problem happens again, there’s a key word or two that Fabio can use to reference the problem.

          For example, when Fabio gets an email that says, “I have done the update.” — that probably won’t be much use in a month because all he can say is “Hey, remember a month ago when thing X broke. You did an update? Can you do that again?” Blank stares all around while people try to remember what that update might have been.

          But when the employee does your example, “the update system wasn’t connected to your computer, so I fixed that up for you. ” — then the next time, you are prompted with some information — it might not be relevant to the new problem, and it won’t always precise (was there a user name issue? Or pointed to the wrong server) — but it lets you knew generally what happened last time and some clues about where to start now.

          I guess the short version is tell him to write a few more details in the email to help himself (and recipient) in the future. Then slap on Zahra’s Hey and “let me know if there’s a problem.”

          1. Chinook

            “For example, when Fabio gets an email that says, “I have done the update.” — that probably won’t be much use in a month because all he can say is “Hey, remember a month ago when thing X broke. You did an update? Can you do that again?” Blank stares all around while people try to remember what that update might have been.”

            Is it possible that, instead of having more “fluffy” emails that he could just have clearer subject headings that make it searchable? I do a lot of “done” emails but only when the subject heading tells me what hte initial request was.

          2. Aardvark

            +1!
            This isn’t really a style thing, because most of the additional words in the OP’s example add meaning and value to the email.
            The OP might be able to frame it as using more words to explain the solution builds capacity in the non-IT staff to help them identify and solve problems, which frees up time for IT to do more meaningful and effective work. It can also build relationships–a (short, clear) explanation shows respect for the requester’s intelligence, and a quick greeting shows respect for them as a person.

        6. Us, Too

          If he isn’t naturally wordy, maybe some examples and/or a template would help. Something like this:

          Hi ,

          1 Sentence Summary of the Business Problem or Request.
          1 Sentence Summary of the Action taken.
          1 Sentence Summary of next steps required.

          Is there anything else I can help you with?

          Thanks,

        7. Person of Interest

          OP #1, it is worth saying something to the person. When I was a young professional I would do the same thing your employee is doing. My boss eventually told me that my emails were coming off as terse and unfriendly to people and she asked me to always start emails with a greeting (Hi Jane, or whatever) and end with a closing (Thanks, Wakeen). She said I could work on tone also but to at least do a greeting and closing. I have always remembered that advice and it really does wonders for one’s working relationships, even if it seems silly at first – it did to me but I got used to it, and more adept at improving overall tone over time.

        8. Kiwiwawa

          In my first performance review I was told I was perceived as abrupt and rude due to my email style. I was shocked and upset.

          My manager suggested I cultivate a habit of adding the following extras that would make my internal emails come across better:
          – Greeting (Hi, / Hi Bob, / Hello,)
          – Sign-off (Thanks, Kiwiwawa)

          To me these were completely pointless: you know who the email is to and from, and I you are just across the room from me. The purpose of this email is to convey a specific, brief item of information; there is no need to prettify it.

          My manager helped me see that it was an exercise in cultural adaptation, not functionality – just as in some countries it is unusual to shake hands but in others it would be rude not to.

          These tiny changes made a huge difference in my colleagues’ perceptions of me.

          1. Kiwiwawa

            So in your example above,

            “I have done the update”

            Would become:

            “Hi,
            I have done the update.
            Thanks,
            Kiwiwawa”

            Strange how that is so much more generally acceptable!

        9. Barney Stinson

          What my team does is:
          -identify recurring issues we deal with that have a standard answer/solution
          -craft the appropriate response that contains the solution and general pleasantries; I abhor empty questions about ‘how are you doing,’ but always include a request that they get back to us if they have questions or concerns
          -make that appropriate response a labeled signature in our individual Outlook clients.

          That way, if I get my fourth request today about ‘why can’t I sign into the application?’, I know to open a reply, insert the saved signature (‘can’t sign in’) and hit send.

          I frequently will write the team reply and give it to all of us so we can address these things uniformly.

      2. Bunny

        At my workplace there’s a fairly simple solution.

        All staff use the same email signature templates, which include a standard greeting, a standard sign-off the company logo etc at the bottom. We’re encouraged to design our own email templates based off those for common email scenarios, and to type the body of the email by hand each time where possible. Within reason, changing the standard template to suit our personality or in response to suit your emails with a particular individual is also encouraged.

        In practice, it means that while everyone has their own email “personality”, everyone also includes at least some greeting and closing. For the people who wouldn’t bother to type one normally, it’s simply less effort to leave the standard one in. And psychologically, for me at least, actively deleting a polite greeting feels ruder than just not typing one.

    2. Kathryn

      There is also something to be said for having a general style for customer facing communication coming out of a group. “We all use basic greetings and proper punctuation in our written communications.” Is not an onerous style sheet to require an employee follow, especially for communications going outside of the team.

    3. JB

      “Greeting” doesn’t mean a long paragraph of small talk at the beginning. A greeting is a greeting, it doesn’t have to involve pleasantries. “Hey” is a greeting. “Good morning” is a greeting. As you say, “John” or “Hi, John” is a greeting.

      Your list made me actually laugh out loud, btw.

      1. OP #1

        Right, that’s what I meant by “greeting”. The recipient’s name at the top of the email, perhaps preceeded by “Dear” or “Hi”, though not necessarily.

        1. Chris80

          I’ve always felt like “Dear ___” in an email looks…odd. It’s fine for a letter, but too formal for most work emails between coworkers. Maybe it’s just me, though?

          1. LQ

            When I see “Dear LQ” I always tense up because something bad is coming. Putting that in an email feels super formal and strange.

            1. OP #1

              Fair enough. And now that I think about it, I never use “Dear” in work emails. But I use the recipient’s name as a salutation more often than not, and almost always in response to support requests. I acknowledge that this may be nothing more than personal preference, though.

              1. LQ

                I think having a few actionable things is good. Especially if it is something that could be put into a signature.

                For me a “Thanks” tacked onto every email helps or a “Let me know if there is anything else you need.” in a signature line might make a big difference, especially if you’re specifically trying to make sure that people continue to turn to your team for support.

                I send a lot of 1-2 word emails but the requests for support have gone up a lot because I’m really quick and responsive to problems. Which is sort of the crux of what the need is. If the thing you are concerned about is people coming to your team when they have needs is that best served by more wordy warm email? More descriptions? More salutations? More speed? Snappy easy responses? Being excited about problems? (Yay you broke something! Lets fix it!)
                Any of those might work, or it might be different depending on the person.

                1. JB

                  These kinds of emails take maybe a minute to write at the most. I don’t know why the OP has to choose between getting work done and having less terse emails.

                2. LQ

                  I’m not saying that it won’t get things done (I assume these aren’t things that need minute based turn around). I’m saying make sure you are addressing the real problem. If the real problem is people aren’t coming to the team with requests then make sure that this is a part of why.

                  If things that are short turn around are taking days to get done and there is a flowery wordy email in response it’s not going to make it better. (A terse one wouldn’t either, an apologetic one might…) So make sure the problem is really being address and you aren’t aren’t putting a bandage on an amputation.

                  Writing better emails is great. But if you are spending time focused on that when other things are the problem that’s not good. If this is the biggest problem this staff person has then yeah, address it, directly.

                3. NoPantsFridays

                  That’s a good point LQ. I think adding “Let me know if you have any questions” or similar to the signature might make a big difference to the overall tone and helpfulness without costing the OP’s employee much time.

          2. JB

            I think it depends entirely on who you are emailing. To a peer I’ll probably say Hi. To someone outside of the company, I’d say Dear. And to someone way high up in the hierarchy, I might use Dear as well.

        2. Lisa

          Why not make this visual? Take a handful of his responses, and write what you think is a more complete response. Give him the handout.

          Sit him down, and say that you are going to need to him to use proper salutations, address what was fixed, ending with ‘let me know if you have further issues or questions’ as well as setup a signature with name, title, and contact information. Please do this from this point forward. Its not a long conversation. Its not a touchy subject. Its a new requirement that you are telling him is now the new normal of email communications for the whole team. Then bring it up in a staff meeting, that you want everyone to make sure that outgoing email including all replies are set up with an email signature.

    4. Mints

      I’m usually a very concise writer, and this letter hits close to home.

      First, I don’t always notice if there’s a greeting. But I know that this is something that other people really care about (like saying “Hello” in the morning) so I’ll make an effort for the sake of a friendly office. Using a greeting is super easy to start doing.

      Punctuation is probably not that hard either, especially if he CAN do it, but doesn’t always reread emails. These two are easiest two coach / correct.

      For the concise thing, it depends a lot on what the actual complaint is. If it just reads awkwardly, I don’t think that requires correction. If he comes off as too curt (which can read as rude or condescending) adding platitudes can help. When I write emails that are literally one short sentence in the body, I know it can come off badly, so I’ll usually add an extra sentence in what I think of as virtual smiling “Have a great evening!” “Let me know if you have any questions!” It’s like when I order food at a counter “I’d like a hamburger please :)” vs “I want a hamburger :|” I’m still really concise but I make an effort to be friendly at the same time. This matters at my job because I’m emailing with a lot people I’ll never meet, so I can’t make up for short emails with water cooler chit chat. If the too concise thing in the letter is about brusqueness, adding a little bit can be pretty easy to do and changes the tone of the email.

      1. BW

        “I’d like a hamburger please : )” versus “I want a hamburger : |”

        I love this! Especially the emoticons haha.

      2. Shell

        My writing style changes considerably depending on who I’m talking to and the context. External communication always gets the greeting/body/closing. Internal will get a greeting in the initial email (i.e. the email that starts the email thread) and a casual-ish closing (e.g. “Cheers, Shell”). If I’m writing a reply to a direct question from someone else, such as if someone emails me about “can you tell me the estimated completion time on these eight teapot parts”, I’ll usually skip the greeting and closing and just go with a table/bulleted list of answer directly in response to their question.

        I’m was guilty of providing far too much context than too little at my very first job, so this is the compromise I’ve settled on. Haven’t had any complaints, but perhaps I’ve been grating nerves without knowing about it?

        1. NoPantsFridays

          I feel like I provide too much context, and it’s only sometimes helpful to the recipients. And other times, I must provide too little context, because the recipient will call me or email me again to clarify. Although it is usually the same people who call, so maybe it’s just how they think — they need more information.

      3. JB

        I think that’s a good point that you are emailing people you’ll never meet. You don’t want people avoiding interacting with you because they think you’re rude. You just can’t get tone from words in an email, so some people are going to find you rude and unhelpful if your emails are always one or two words with nothing else. And maybe some people don’t care, but for other people it would make them stand out in their company in a bad way.

        1. Alternative

          Absolutely. There could come a time where a person wants to transfer to another team, or needs your help on a project, and you think “Oh, that’s the person who always sends rude and unhelpful emails. I would rather not work with them.” Having that reputation could hold back that persons career.

          I love the example above, about the difference between “I’d like a hamburger please :)” vs “I want a hamburger :|”

          Being friendly/polite costs you nothing, but it makes all the difference in how the other person perceives your interaction.

      4. Helen

        I don’t know why but reading ““I’d like a hamburger please :)” vs “I want a hamburger :|”” cracked me up! I think it’s because I recently watched a muppet movie and the imagined difference was basically Ernie vs Bert.

        But yes, as someone who has worked in customer support writing emails, those padding sentences make a surprising difference.

        1. LBK

          Oh man. Next time I have to have a writing tone conversation with someone, I’m totally saying they sound like Bert and they need to be more of an Ernie. That is awesome.

  4. Katie the Fed

    #2 – I unfriend people who do this. I just unfriended someone last week who was posting constantly about his company’s latest promotions. And don’t even get me started on the Multi-level Marketing folks. I have a friend who’s selling essential oils that’s on the chopping block. Don’t use my friendship to try to sell me things. I hate it.

    I like the idea of a second account for this purpose.

    1. Dan

      Don’t worry, they would unfriend you for not buying/being a downline. There’s a guy in the neighboring complex who I’ve met “out and about” and who I find worth hanging out with. He wanted to spend some time “talking to me about something.” I told him I wasn’t interested in Amway (that’s what he was going to pitch) and haven’t heard from him since. What a shame (no sarcasm, I swear) but I tried that for a month or two and they basically said that you should kick nonbelievers out on their ass. I ran, he kicked.

      1. Artemesia

        Somehow soap and Jesus have become co-mingled in this organization as well as friends and marks — so that if you don’t buy their soap or join their pyramid, you are not Christian and if you don’t help them make a buck on their inflated merchandise, you are not their friend. I am beginning to think a good part of our country is actually nuts.

        1. Suzanne

          “I am beginning to think a good part of our country is actually nuts.”
          This! I am, sadly, in agreement.

        2. Dynamic Beige

          “soap and Jesus” — Just send them this link and they will leave you alone… maybe http://datejesus.com/

          I think that desperate people do desperate things. When there are massive layoffs and bad economic conditions that have wiped out financial security and steady employment, becoming your own boss and having the dream of being able to take financial control becomes a very compelling idea. That doesn’t mean you have to buy their crap, but they can’t see how if it was being done to them how much they would hate it because they’re so wrapped up in trying to achieve that fantasy.

    2. KarenT

      I do too. I have two friends selling Younique and they’re vying pretty hard for attention on Facebook. I will not buy your shady mascara…

      1. StarHopper

        I’ve seen the mascara before, but maintain that Jamberry ‘parties’ are The Worst. Facebook does not make it easy to leave a group!

        1. Oryx

          Ohgod, the Jamberry parties are the worst. Groups should be opt in, not opt out. I’ve actually left a group then had the host ADD ME BACK IN.

          1. Hlyssande

            There should be an option to both remove yourself from the group and not allow yourself to be added back in. I’ve done that when people put me in jamberry or jewelry party groups.

            Some of the jamberry things are hella cute I have to admit, but I can’t afford $15 or whatever for one set of nails. I’d rather have a handful of polishes for that same price, you know?

            1. kozinskey

              Facebook does allow you to leave a group and prevent yourself from being re-added. I actually had to do that yesterday for a Jamberry party and I’m reaaall close to defriending the person who added me in the first place.

            2. Oryx

              Oh there is, I figured that out after this first time. The point is, if someone leaves a group, it’s hella rude to add them back in.

          2. AVP

            Confession: I willingly stayed in a Jamberry group so I could hate-read it every day and cringe at the people in it (I only vaguely know a few of them). Maybe I should buy something as penance but then I think I’d be going all-in and would never be able to get out.

        2. The Office Admin

          +1,000,000,000,000
          Jamberry parties will be the death of me.
          Stella & Dot too.
          31 Bags?Totes? Whatever that organizing one was.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian

          Ugh, one of my Facebook friends recently started selling jamberry, and there is a constant stream of “get your jam on” posts from her.

          1. Elizabeth West

            A relative’s SO is selling Arbonne–my relative actually sent me a private message with a link. I know he’s trying to help her out but UGH. It kind of made me sad; it’s like, you never message me but now you do and it’s a sales pitch. :(

        4. BananaPants

          The sad thing is that I’d actually like to try Jamberry, both for me and my 4 year old (we have Piggy Paint for her, but the nail wraps wouldn’t require her to sit still while it dries). The problem is that everyone who shills for it is so damned annoying about the FB “parties”.

          A good friend sold Thirty One bags for around a year and did well, but wasn’t at all annoying about it. Hers were the only MLM parties I’ve ever been to where I genuinely didn’t feel pressured to buy.

          1. Paige Turner

            Incoco is a company that sells the same product as Jamberry- I’ve bought items from their site with no issues.

          2. Kyrielle

            If you are at all into geeky things, Espionage Cosmetics also has nail wraps – they just sell them off their web site, no MLM needed. (Googling ‘nail wraps’ will turn up a fair number of options, actually, besides just them…but I’ve found theirs really easy to apply and deal with.)

          3. bridget

            YES. Every once in awhile an MLM product looks interesting, and I’d like to try it (even if it’s a bit overpriced. But instead of being able to pop by Target or order it on Amazon prime, I have to contact a person, wait until the next “party,” have them order from a catalogue, and then find some time where I can either swing by their house or they can swing by mine, and then they will forever and ever bother me for more orders.

            I’m sure these MLM companies make money somehow (from their salespeople, most likely) but GEEZ they make it a pain in the butt for customers to actually give their product a whirl. They can have the best product on the planet and it probably just won’t be worth the effort/irritation for me.

              1. bridget

                ha, I guess I don’t really know whether they order it from an online or paper catalogue, but either way it seems like the least convenient way to purchase something.

          4. ali

            I’ve bought Jamberries without a party. Just go to a consultant’s site (which I’m sure you can find on FB without a party) and buy. And unless your nails are really weird sizes, you can get at least 2 if not 4 manicures off of one $15 sheet. The problem is wasting the sheets until you learn how to properly apply them. I just can’t make it happen so they last on my fingers, so all the sheets I’ve bought will keep my toes pretty all summer long.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to host a sales party in the next month or two. I have never been to one of these parties, mind you, and I have also been telling this particular friend that work has been so insane that I haven’t had a work-free weekend in months, so maaaaaybe I’m not the greatest prospect for this gig. These things make stuff so awkward sometimes, especially when, “It’s not my thing,” is answered with, “Maybe you’ll change your mind!”

      1. Artemesia

        The only thing that worked for me was following the first brush off of ‘it’s not my thing’ to ‘I never do sales parties’ when asked a second time. And I would thn block someone on facebook who kept pushing it.

        1. HR Generalist

          I used to attend for the sake of an evening out/hors d’oeuvres/social time but I stopped when, at the last party, the ordering was done one-on-one and they made us fill out an “info form” at the beginning with our names, phone numbers, etc.

          There was about 10 of us and after the pitch, we formed a line and went privately into the “sales room” with the seller. I tried to pleasantly decline but she said, “No, no! Even if you don’t see anything you like come in and tell me what you might’ve been interested in.” so I stood in the line, entered when it was my turn and said, “It’s not really a good time for me. I thought maybe ___ was interesting but I’m not going to buy anything tonight.” Awkwardness ensued. For the next 3 weeks I received multiple texts saying, “Hi! I’m the seller from the makeup party you attended. You said you were interested in ____, can I answer any questions for you or draw up an order?” (with no response from me) ughhhhhhh….

    4. Lily in NYC

      I was so psyched when the super-handsome guy I dated in HS looked me up a few years ago. I was like: Yeah, I still got it! He tried to sell me Amway. Such a blow to the ego.

    5. BRR

      I’ve only friended one person who did this and I wanted to just let her know friends don’t appreciate when you seem them only as sources of income.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Right after I got married, a FB friend I hadn’t talked to in years sent me this:

        “Katie, I saw you got married. Congratulations. How are you? Now that you’re married you and your husband might be interested in my financial planning services…”

        Um, no.

        1. BRR

          I would have probably relieved. Thank god you’re not asking us when we’re planning on having kids.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Als0, what’s the logic there? When you were single, your finances could be in chaos, but now that you’re married you might want to do something about them?

          1. Katie the Fed

            My guess is he thought the combined income would make it worth his while, since hubby and I both work for the government so he knows we have pretty decent paychecks.

            But I actually am really good at personal finance and making my own decisions, as is my husband. Kthankxbai!

          2. AW

            The logic is almost certainly that since they got married they are probably planning on having kids* which means saving for college (a bigger car, a bigger home, etc.), need to create or update their wills which means estate planning, will have to decide whether to file taxes jointly or separately, will need to decide whether to add each other as co-owners to any property they own, will want to start saving for a house if they’re renting, may need to adjust their retirement planning, etc.

            *Sorry BRR, they kind of were asking the “when are you having kids” question or probably outright assuming they were.

        3. Dynamic Beige

          Someone I worked with got out of the biz, became a financial planner and then sent me an e-mail (which he got from his wife, whom I was working with at the time) asking if I was looking for a financial planner. Fortunately, I had just signed up with someone so I had a polite way to turn him down but the answer real answer was “hell NO do I want people I used to work with having any idea of my financial assets” That is the only time he has ever contacted me. Also, I lent that guy money to take transit home one time and he never repaid me. Yes, I have been known to hold a grudge, why do you ask?

        4. Sunflower

          I have a feeling these guys who are hired are being told to target young families. My friend does this(I keep telling him to get a new job because he’s really annoying his friends) and he’s always asking if I know any young families/newly married couples but never really asks about single ones

          1. Dynamic Beige

            Because now those people have a compelling reason to make a financial plan/get insurance — what would happen to your wife/husband/kids if you died?/Do you know how much a college education costs? When you’re single, you may not have those thoughts/goals in mind. I was looking at getting life insurance a few years ago and one salesman told me that the main reason to get it was so that your dependents are taken care of in the event something happens to you. He then told me that since I have no dependents, I didn’t really need life insurance. You may want some minimum amount of life insurance to cover your funeral costs, or perhaps larger sum to leave to your parents if you think that way, but a lot of young single people simply don’t. Not to mention it’s one more thing to pay for when you may have other things more pressing that you need to cover.

            1. Katie the Fed

              When I was single, I had a will and powers of attorney and all that stuff. My will actually specified care plans for my pets (seriously).

              I also had insurance, a house, retirement savings, etc.

              There’s no need to wait until you get married to get your financial sh*t together :)

              1. Zahra

                I waited until I had substantial stuff (a house, a car) before getting one. It seemed pointless to have a will when all I had was an appartment, a few books and all the stuff you have when you’ve got an appartment (dishes, pots and pans, a TV, etc.).

                1. Dynamic Beige

                  Someone I worked with passed away after a serious illness, they were not very old when this happened. One of the things that happened because of that that was the company brought in someone to speak about, as Katie the Fed puts it — getting your financial sh*t together. One of the things I learned in that meeting was that if you have signed a contract to rent an apartment, you should have a legal will (at least that was the case in our jurisdiction) because it makes it easier for your family members to legally end the lease. Or at least that’s what the person told us.

                  The thing is, this kind of financial literacy is not taught to people unless they either experience it first hand after the fact or they go into it as a career/study it or they have family that discusses these things. If you don’t know something, you just don’t know it. You’re lucky Katie that you knew to do all these things when you did and had the money to do them! This all happened when the Internet wasn’t as robust as it is now, I’d bet there’s all kinds of things online to help people make these kinds of plans.

      2. Natalie Anne Lanoville

        One of the biggest heartbreaks of my young life was when, right after my grandfather died, one of my oldest friends asked to drop by and bring a sorority sister.

        Turned out it was a bid to sell me an over-priced knife set. :(

        She kept telling me how I wasn’t concerned enough about Salmonella and e. Coli, and I kept telling her I was a vegan.

        And my friend didn’t make it to my grampa’s service, and cuz she told her parents the wrong time, they didn’t either.

    6. Miss Chanandler Bong

      Ugh, I have a cousin selling 31 purses, a college friend doing Younique, and a high school friend pushing something called “Plexus,” which is some sort of sketchy looking weight loss potion? No thanks.

      My cousin was the worst, because I couldn’t just unfriend her. Plus we got purses for Christmas for about three years running (nothing I would have bought for myself). Luckily, she had a kid, dropped the purse thing and now I just have 1000000000 pictures of her baby on my Facebook. Which isn’t great, but a lot better than “very important purse shoppers” updates.

      1. Anon-o-Moose

        I’d still take the purses. At least you wouldn’t be subjected to pictures of purses drooling all over themselves.

    7. BananaPants

      I’ve hidden the FB posts of a friend who sells Le-Vel Thrive, which are exceedingly expensive vitamins delivered via skin patch. Apparently the MLM company monitors their shills’ social media accounts to make sure they’re making the requisite number of posts about the product – she is expected to make at least one marketing post daily on her personal FB (Le-Vel sales reps aren’t supposed to set up business FB pages).

      She’s basically stopped posting anything real about her life. Taking the kid to preschool, going grocery shopping, planting the garden – EVERYTHING is tied back to the stupid vitamins. I don’t want to unfriend her, but I don’t want to see her posts anymore.

      1. Aunt Vixen

        I barely recognize the names of any of the things y’all are talking about people shilling on Facebook. Thank god. One or two people I knew in high school occasionally talk about Thirty-One, but it was years before I even knew what that was specifically. The rest are mysterious to me and I’m sort of fine with that.

      2. puddin

        One post per day!? Holy crap on a cracker no one wants to hear about anything (other than the weather) every single day.

      3. Lizzie

        I had been wondering if Thrive was an MLM. (Google wasn’t super helpful.) I also have a friend who is shilling for Le-Vel and it’s totally obnoxious.

    8. Gobrightbrand

      I have so much to say about MLM, so much but I can’t right now. Let’s just say from the inside it’s even nuttier.

    9. Hlyssande

      I have a cousin who sells Rodan + Fields skincare stuff and to be honest I really, desperately want to try their rosacea treatment, but I can’t afford it. I really wish I could.

      She seems to be doing well with it and I’m happy for her. She doesn’t overload her FB with promotional posts either, so it’s much easier to deal with.

      But yeah, all the jamberry or other thing parties.. nope, don’t add me to the group, don’t ask me about it so much! Thanks!

    10. Partly Cloudy

      I have a friend who used to sell Mary Kay and I remember her saying that they’re not *allowed* to use Facebook to promote. Not sure about other social media platforms.

    11. OriginalEmma

      Oof, I hear you on the friends thing. I had a friend hawking MLM when we were both in high school and it was irritating enough for her to call or text me (on our flip phones, lulz) about it. I’d ban her from my FB if I had to deal with her hawking, which she’s thankfully dropped. I do have another friend promoting her “business” which is nothing more than MLM marketing – this I am not surprised with, considering how her father pushed MLM on me the first time we met! It clearly runs in the family.

    12. Muriel Heslop

      Plexus! It’s killing me! I’ve had to block at least 10 people for the non-stop Plexus pitches. Lots of Rodan + Fields but those people post a lot less.

    13. Juli G.

      It Works… if it came out that they were actually some sort of sister-wife cult, it would actually make a lot more sense.

      I’m only still friends on FB with this woman to see how much more the crazy can escalate.

    14. puddin

      If I get one more post about ‘that amazing wrap thing’, I am gonna hurl and unfriend by BFF from HS.

    15. Oryx

      A friend sells Juice Plus which is some kind of vegetable/fruit in capsule form…..thing. Nearly every morning she posts about how her whole family took their pill and it’s great because they get all of their nutrients and blah blah and I”m just like…..why not actually EAT your fruits & veggies?

    16. Pennalynn Lott

      I unfriended someone in my main social group not because she kept trying to sell me essential oils, but because she did something truly horrendous and massively-boundary-invading to another woman in our group. Even though I unfriended her, she continues to send me private messages asking if now would be a good time for me to learn about the oils she’s selling. I have never once responded, yet she keeps sending. I don’t like blocking people* (“Know they enemy” and all that), but I’m getting pretty close to doing just that for this particular whack job.

      * I have blocked exactly one person in my years on FB, and that was a cousin who shot a grackle’s beak off — for fun — and then she posted photos of the bloody, still-alive-but-clearly-in-pain bird and boasted about how fun it was because, “Grackles are just flying rats, y’all.” Blocked on FB, blocked in IRL. Disgusting and psychotic.

  5. A Non

    #1: You’re completely right that writing is an important skill for tech-types. If your employee is not aware of that, he needs to learn it. In my experience from being in that role, first-tier tech support is 80% dealing with people and 20% dealing with computers. You can’t get away with living out the tech nerd stereotypes at the beginning of a tech career, and the rest of your career will be way better if you learn to avoid them.

    Hopefully your employee treats this as the opportunity for learning that it is! I’m afraid I don’t have any particular tools to recommend, but even just “here are some examples of good writing, please read them over and let’s discuss what stands out to you next week” is a good start. Sometimes us nerds (well, really everyone) aren’t great at picking stuff up by osmosis, but will see the point and adopt it happily once we’re made aware of it.

    1. Not Today Satan

      I think that the shortness can also come across as condescending to non-tech-types. For example, my dad has 40 years of experience in his industry and is pretty high level, but he always feels condescended to and insulted by the IT people (even the young, inexperienced ones) just for not knowing a shortcut or something.

      1. OP #1

        Right, that’s part of my concern. Even when most of the requests are for things we legitimately need to do (as opposed to things that we need to educate the user to do), I still want to make sure we don’t come off as condescending. I want people to be eager rather than hesitant to contact us the next time there’s a problem.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          My apologies if this has already been asked, but are you getting feedback from others that he is coming off as condescending & people are hesitant to contact you, or is this something that you feel is happening with no empirical evidence? If it’s the former, absolutely address it; if it’s the latter, maybe just let it go (except for the punctuation/capitalization thing).

          1. OP #1

            This is my own thing; I haven’t heard from anyone else. I might informally poll a few people to see what their impression of our communication has been recently. But honestly, for reasons discussed elsewhere in comments, I’m now inclined to think that some small efforts to improve his writing are worth it even if I’m the only one who’s consciously bothered by it. There are definitely potential benefits to a consistent style, erring on the side of friendly over curt, etc.

          2. Observer

            I’m with Allison when she says that this is the kind of thing that is well withing a manager’s purview. If she’s already getting complaints, odds are that things are quite bad already.

            OP, if you are fairly sure that this is the way he is coming off, you definitely need to address it. If you are not sure whether that’s what is happening vs your personal preference, I’d look at getting some feedback in a low key kind of way.

            But I would still address the issue of grammar and punctuation.

      2. LQ

        I feel condescended to when someone sends me a lengthy email with too much explanation and not enough action or answer. I just recently had an IT person send an email explaining something in detail and I was very frustrated by it because I felt it was obvious I knew what I wanted since I’d asked very specifically for the thing. And the key was that the action taken was buried inside all the unnecessary words. The tone of it because of the length and burying the lede felt really condescending.

        (I’m saying this primarily because I don’t think there is one thing that always feels condescending to people so saying, all short emails are condescending to users isn’t really accurate.)

        1. NoPantsFridays

          Yeah, our IT folks tend to over-explain sometimes, and I’ve gotten some lengthy explanations of something straightforward…written by someone who had to try 3 times to uninstall a program. I could have done it myself in 5 minutes if I had admin rights.

  6. Brett

    #2 This is a violation of the Facebook TOS. Facebook requires business promotion to be done via pages, not personal accounts. They can, and do, delete your personal accounts without warning for using it for business promotion. (If they can, they convert your account into a business page rather than delete, but in the specific case mentioned in the letter, they would probably just delete the whole block of accounts being used for promotion.)

    1. L McD

      I do a ton of promotion on a personal profile, so do all of my colleagues, and I’ve never heard of this being an issue. (We’re authors and it’s expected, people friend us to hear about when our books come out and go on sale and such.) I checked the TOS and it basically just says “no spam,” which might be an issue here depending on volume and *where* they’re posting, but I’ve heard of a lot of B.S. Facebook account lockdowns, and it was never just because of too much promotion. Sending too many friend requests, posting to too many groups, and sending too many messages in a row, yes. That seems to go down as “spammy behavior” in the algos. So I guess it depends on what they’re expected to do, exactly. Just posting to their own timelines should be fine.

      That said, OP’s boss is being ridiculous and businesses have *got* to stop doing that crap. I’m still irritated about the old client who asked me to join a bunch of Facebook groups for promotional purposes on my personal account, one of which being a group with a name like “it blew my mind when I learned that the first letter in the Disney logo was a D!” Because apparently a bunch of people see it as a cursive G, because that makes a whole lot of sense. Gisney! It was a stupidly petty thing to get irritated about, but definitely a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. I ALWAYS KNEW IT WAS A D.

      1. Lore

        I work for a publisher and it’s definitely becoming a problem for authors, enough that we’ve sent out guidelines in our monthly author newsletter. There’s a certain amount you can do, but for example giveaways of books or galleys seem to trigger their “no business” filter.

      2. Brett

        Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Section 4 Registration and Account Security, Subsection 4:
        “You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.”
        If you use the account primarily for personal gain, you can be suspended outright, but if you are only violating the second clause they will generally (but not always) convert your account into a page.

      3. Pontoon Pirate

        When I was little, I thought the “y” at the end of Disney was a really messy “p.” Disnep!

        Technically, you’re not supposed to create a second page. My guess is, however, that if you create one and link it to your work email, there’s not much impact to you even if FB does bring down the hammer. It’s pretty odious to require employees to promote businesses from their personal Facebook pages and the boss certainly won’t get the reach he or she is anticipating once everyone blocks the posts.

          1. Pontoon Pirate

            I think you can’t have two personal pages. In my organization we have multiple facebook pages and we encourage admins to create second personal accounts so the business page isn’t linked to them personally. We can only recommend because it’s against FB’s TOS to create two personal pages …
            … as of right now. With Facebook, who the heck knows what policy is going to exist at any given moment.

      4. blackcat

        I think it has to do with whether or not someone “reports” your page to FB for violating the TOS, not how prolific you are at promoting things on your page.

        1. Ethyl

          I was wondering if the employees could all report each other then tell the boss “whoops, looks like FB closed all our accounts, maybe this is THE WORST IDEA EVER YOU NINNY.”

    1. DarjeelingAtNoon

      This was my thought as well. The employees could post the promotion with custom settings allowing only the boss to see it. If you really wanted to make a point allow another friend to also see so they can openly post their dislike of promotions on facebook.

      1. Artemesia

        Love the idea — have half a dozen friends post things like ‘stop posting these commercials or I am going to unfriend you’ on the restricted custom set group.

        I have a relative who is into dog rescue and fills the page with constant whines about pups needing rescue — once or twice a week? cool. half a dozen a day? come on. but I haven’t hidden her because I am interested in her kids and her life beyond rescue. It is a worthy activity — but spamming us about it is annoying.

        1. hbc

          Are they forwards/reposts from other organizations? It may take a while, but you can hide the source of the posts individually. I have friends where I’ve probably blocked 99% of their posts indirectly but still get the personal stuff.

          1. Artemesia

            I am going to try to figure out how to do that. I think it is lovely that she fosters dogs and is pushing this stuff all the time, but dozens of the dang posts a week — not cool.

            1. Judy

              Next to the post, on the line with the person’s name, there’s a gray down arrow. Click on that and it should have options like:

              Hide all by Jane
              Hide all by ABC Rescue

              You can use this also to stop the candy crush and farmville posts on your feed.

    2. Kate

      I was going to say this too. I would make all other posts private, set the ads to only you boss (and public if you feel okay with that) and unfriend him.

      Unfortunately Facebook made it so you cannot be completely unsearchable a while ago. You could change your name but if he has the link he will still find you unless you block him I guess.

      1. Snoskred

        I had my Facebook locked down – or so I thought. :)

        Turns out if you have your workplace set as a place you work, they can see all your posts in the timeline for their page even if they are not your friend on FB.

        If it were me, I would create a brand new account that only has my first name and middle name and I would not add that workplace on that account. Then I would delete the old account. If the boss noticed and wanted to know why, I would say Facebook deleted my account and I emailed them to ask why but nobody got back to me so I’m just done with Facebook.

        Bearing in mind, if the boss wants me to spam the world and I no longer can do that, it might be a dealbreaker for him. Then again, his insisting I spam my friends and family with his business, really would be a bit of a dealbreaker for me. :)

        1. Cruella DaBoss

          This is why my work place is not on my FB page at all. Nor is anyone I work with. Not even my good friends here at work. Family only.

          1. Hlyssande

            Yeah, I don’t have myself linked to my company at all and I never mention it by name online. Ever.

          2. Hlyssande

            Except holy crap, googling myself and the company name does bring back information including my position. From zoominfo.com and spoke.com. This is distressing as I’ve never ever linked my actual name with the company anywhere online, so I have no idea where that information came from.

            Ergh.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              The weird thing is that I’m self employed, I have no website but my company’s name shows up in Facebook as a “friend”, even though I’ve never done anything on my Facebook page to add it or mention it (I *hate* Facebook), so does my high school and the first college I graduated from. I think that they must scoop that information from LinkedIn or something.

              1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

                It’s probably your email address. If the email address you used to set up your FB account is in any way connected to your company, that’s how FB is making the link. (Learned this when a person from my past I DO NOT want to friend – or ever even see again – came up on the “people you may know” page and freaked me out completely for a day or two. I swear, the tagline for that site should be “Facebook – reuniting stalker and victims since 2004!”)

                1. Dynamic Beige

                  Nope, my e-mail address is mybusinessname@internetserviceprovider.com It could be an e-mail from anyone, yet the icon beside it in the list is the paper with a briefcase and when I click on that list, it has “Colleagues at mybusinessname” at the top in the title. I guess it is a link, but it’s a very tenuous one at best. Then again, it never ceases to amaze and frighten me what information is constantly being crawled about everyone on the internet.

          1. Snoskred

            Only the fact that the owner of this one company kept mentioning things I’d posted on my Facebook, and I did not have them friended, nor did I have any co-workers or people at work friended. None of my friends were friends with the owner either.

            I was absolutely baffled as to how the owner could see anything I was posting. I tried all the things and read tutorials and looked at my page via the see your page as public option. Nothing was there. This was freaking me out quite a bit.

            Then I thought more about it and thought I would try removing them as my workplace. Once I did that, the owner mentioning of things posted on my Facebook stopped completely and she actually asked me if I was still using Facebook and would I friend her. I told her I had stopped using it.

            This owner was one of those people who found it difficult to make small talk so she often used things she had seen on FB as fodder for conversations. But when you do not have that person as a friend and you think you have your FB locked down, that came across as slightly creepy and spooky to me.

        2. Theo

          I poked around on my Facebook for ages trying to see if this was true–would your posts set to only friends show up? Or specific groups? Or just your public ones? For now I’ve unlinked my job, but I’d like to know exactly what’s up here. (Not that my job would likely notice, or care.) The only thing I see on their timeline is their own posts, and I can’t click “view as” even when I like their fanpage or list myself as an employee.

    3. Agreed

      I was going to recommend the same thing for #2. Posts can be tailored so only your boss and maybe just a few coworkers see them. Then everyone who matters in this process will get to see the post but not your friends.

      At a previous job, we considered doing something similar but admittedly devious. We had a really bad manager who could be easily influenced by management articles that she read on the Internet. And as you probably know, there are a lot of bad ones out there. So we considered only posting really good ones (likes ones from AAM) and making it so only she would see them.

      There was a great piece a while back about a guy who drove his roommate crazy by placing very targeted Facebook ads. (How he did it is worth a read for anyone who uses social media even a little professionally: http://mysocialsherpa.com/the-ultimate-retaliation-pranking-my-roommate-with-targeted-facebook-ads/ ) We thought about even chipping in a few bucks so we could be sure she was reading them.

  7. multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum

    #3: I’m currently in the midst of interviewing and hiring summer interns at my day job (a large IT firm). I can’t speak for the industry at large, but I don’t think I / we are atypical: if we selected you, then we want you, and we’ll do what we need to do to appease your school. In fact, I dealt with something like this last year, and it basically went a) student put me in contact with the people at the school, and b) we worked it out. If you think about it, it’s not really in the school’s best interest to make themselves a huge PITA over this kind of thing.

    Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but within my group / division, we put a lot of work into finding the right person to fill the position. If you accepted the job, we’re not going to let go of you without a fight.

    1. Artemesia

      If they are getting academic credit for an internship, there should be an agreement between the school and the internship site that is pretty specific. It isn’t just paperwork. (well not if it is being done competently) It should be clear a set of goals for the student and agreement with the institution about the learning as well as the work that will take place.

      1. Judy

        Back in the dark ages when I was in school, I didn’t get academic credit for internships, but if we registered it, and filled out the paperwork, we were able to pay ~$150, and be registered as a full time student during the term we were working full time. (This was STEM.) It was to help you to easily be able to be assured to stay under your parent’s insurance.

        They also offered a certificate through the university stating how many internships you had.

    2. Muriel Heslop

      I hire several paid interns every summer, and I have no problems completing and/or submitting paperwork. If we have hired you, we want you, and part of what we want our interns to learn is professionalism. It’s professional to meet standards and guidelines for people with whom we do business; in our case that is the universities whose help we seek in hiring students. For our interns to receive credit, they need certain requirements met. We know that and we are happy to comply. I hope this is standard procedure everywhere but it certainly is for us.

    3. Anonathon

      Agreed. I’ve also had to do some pretty darn annoying paperwork for interns in the past, and what you are describing doesn’t even sound that onerous.

      1. abby

        Another one who takes on many interns throughout the year and is not bothered in the least by paperwork requirements from the school. In fact, we insist on a certain level of formality, primarily to protect the interns. You see, our worker’s compensation carrier will not cover an intern who gets in a workplace injury without certain documentation, including a formal agreement with the school and a description of the academic credit or other benefit the student receives.

    1. Maxwell Edison

      Ha! One of many things I do not miss about my old job was the way managers would IM you and not say things like “Hi, Maxwell. Do you have a moment?” but instead bark out, “U there?” or “Come over and talk to me.”

      1. Nashira

        My boss does this, then gets grumbly to me when IT is brief with her. Sometimes the urge to facepalm is almost uncontrollable. (I still love my boss tho.)

  8. Snoskred

    With #1, I personally would not touch this with a 10 foot pole.. *especially* if you cannot specifically identify what is wrong. If you do insist, I would recommend treading very lightly.

    It is one thing to go to someone and provide very specific feedback – eg – hey, X is an issue for me so from now on can you make sure you X,Y,Z.

    If you can’t be exact and specific and provide concrete examples of things that need to be fixed and how these things can be fixed, how can someone make changes?

    If the lack of a greeting annoys you, maybe tackle that, but make sure to use your I feel – eg – when you send me an email without a Hi (name), I feel like this email may have been accidentally sent to me. It would be great if you are sending an email directly to a person if you can name them specifically with a greeting, and if it is a group email, then you name the people cc’d on it eg Hi Mary, Sue and Linda.

    We had a tech guy who wasn’t “good” with emails and then someone decided to “take him under their wing”. All of a sudden the guy went from laidback and happy to help us with issues to uptight, angry, and if not angry, passive aggressive.

    Previous to the “helper” he would send out emails every so often which would say “Hey all, the server space is getting full, can you take a moment to go through and delete old emails? After the helper, we would get these perfectly worded and punctuated emails which straight up demanded people delete emails from their inboxes and he would – very carefully worded mind you – threaten everyone that if they did not delete the emails, he would do it for them..

    I probably have one of these angry emails stashed away somewhere – they became so bad we ended up making complaints to management about them.

    We all ended up deeply wishing that this person had been left alone. We could have happily lived with the concise instructions without the fluff. :)

    1. Marzipan

      I was going to say much the same thing (maybe minus the 10-foot pole part). If you can’t actually describe what it is you want him to do, his chances of achieving it are… not high. Nor, come to that, can you assess whether or not he’s achieved it. So, something like ‘Please include a greeting at the beginning of your emails’ – fine. A general ‘just be better!’ – not fine. Make it SMART (she says, cringing a little, but hey, it’s true) and he can reasonably be expected to do it – but you’re going to have to do the work of figuring out what’s needed before you all him to do it.

    2. Saurs

      There’s really no reason to assume IT folk can’t handle feedback with grace or that they are apt to react with veiled threats and tantrums when management or a colleague make perfectly reasonable suggestions regarding their communication-style. This notion that people who work in technical support are all idiot savants who don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t be expected to learn professional decorum is insulting to everyone, I feel.

        1. KerryOwl

          Sure, but you commented on a question about an IT guy with an anecdote about another IT guy. You can see how one might assume your advice was specific to IT guys.

      1. Observer

        This has nothing to do with “IT” folks. Most people just do not do well with vague, non-actionable, non-assessable requests.

        The OP seems to have two sets of issues. One is concrete and specific – lack of punctuation, basic greeting etc. IE there are some clear issues with the mechanics. That can, and should, be addressed. I would be surprised if that got any real pushback (as long as it didn’t get into grammar police territory.)

        The other set is just a will-o-the-wisp. She doesn’t like it, but can’t seem to say why or how this can be changed or improved. It’s not even clear if she knows what successful change in this regard would be. That’s the kind of thing that generally doesn’t end well. Figure out the specifics and then you can re-address the issue.

        1. OP #1

          Very helpful, thanks. I also don’t want to do this piecemeal. So I should probably figure out some specific guidelines I want followed, perhaps beyond just greetings and punctuation, and then present them all to him (and I guess to the rest of the department too).

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m confused about why several people have the impression that the OP doesn’t know exactly what change she wants! She posted a great example of the problem with the emails upthread, and what she wants to see instead. It’s pretty concrete and actionable!

          1. Observer

            Well, the OP did mention that she couldn’t put her finger on what the problem is. On the other hand, that’s why I said two sets. Some issues are quite clear, but others really are too nebulous.

            Also, some of the OP’s responses (which do clarify some of the less clear issues) were posted after some of the responses you are referring. It’s not that obvious unless you look at time stamps, but I know that some of the comments up thread were not there yet when I posted the comment you are responding to.

          2. Snoskred

            ” It’s hard to identify exactly what’s wrong or how bad it is, though.” <– in the first paragraph, 4th sentence.

            That is where I got it from and I am assuming everyone else did too. :)

    3. JB

      If the OP is the manager, they don’t need to use “when you/I feel” language. There’s no reason to go that route. There are tactful ways to say “I need you to do X,” and if the employee turns into an angry employee, then that’s a good sign they need to be let go.

      1. Just Another Techie

        Yeah. There’s just no room for “when you/I feel” language at work, and honestly, it comes off as either weak or passive aggressive or both. Save that for marriage counseling and just be clear and direct about requirements in the office.

  9. hbc

    OP1: Can you sample a couple of people and ask how he comes across to them? I would definitely bring it up if he was outwards-facing (and have needed to in a similar situation, unfortunately), but if he’s conveying the information and everyone knows that him being curt is not the same as him being a jerk, then this is just about your pet peeve. (Which I understand, believe me.) It also might depend on what your field is–you don’t even have to ask if his lack of punctuation bothers people if your company produces grammar textbooks. But maybe they’ll say, “I’d rather have ‘did u try reboot, if not then do it’ than read a page and a half of someone trying to disguise that same question so as not to offend me.”

    1. Zahra

      There are two things I’d make non-negotiable: basic punctuation and basic grammar.

      Basic Punctuation: Capitals at the beginning of a sentence and using periods and commas. Colons, semi-colons, em dashes, etc. can get a pass.

      Basic grammar: No text speak. I would tolerate your/you’re, there/their, etc. (even if I hate that people don’t get it).

      And then a basic “Hello” at the beginning of a conversation with someone, I wouldn’t say hello at each reply. I’d recommend he add a standard and basic closing line in the signature: “Regards”, “Sincerely”, etc.

      1. SevenSixOne

        at oldjob i had a mgr who always wrote like this

        each statement was its own line

        no capitals punctuation or complete sentences n plenty of txt spk + abrevs

        it would take u sev mins 2 dcipher a 3 line email

        i thought her writin style made her seem hella stupid n it was v diff 2 take her authority srsly

        1. Partly Cloudy

          Ugh! How awful.

          I’ve had two managers who wrote like second graders (poor spelling, syntax, etc.) and even that was better than teenage text-speak.

          1. SevenSixOne

            This manager was ~40, college educated, and had worked for the company for 5+ years, so she was definitely mature/educated/experienced enough to know better!

        2. C Average

          Arggggh. I work with people like this. How do you achieve director-level status at a Fortune 500 company when you appear to be incapable of constructing a coherent sentence? It’s maddening.

          1. Merry and Bright

            Yes!
            Or gain a university doctorate?
            Or earn a living teaching English?
            Or run a government department?

            I’ve seen all of these things enough times to despair. But enough. To quote the British Prime Minister (parodying a TV insurance ad): “Calm down, dear”.

            (That’s to me, not you.)

        3. Judy

          plz follow this:

          Bob – handles
          Jane – spouts
          Wakeen – lids

          Was once supposed to be translated to mean “On each change order under the following subjects, the named subject matter expert should be an approver.” Sorry for not understanding this.

        4. Elizabeth West

          I see comments like that all the time on web pages. I figure people are reading them on their phones and in their brains, they’re in text mode so that’s how they comment. But if you put your name on something (many sites require you to comment through Facebook), it should probably be better than what you just typed.

          I’ve actually asked people in a reply, “I’m sorry; what were you trying to say?” or something similar.

        5. esra

          The ceo……. of the place…… I’m working for now……… just separates sentences randomly……. with many periods…………….

          1. Traveler

            I’m an ellipse addict. I’m reforming, and I make sure to never do it at work, but it’s hard.

          2. potato battery

            My father is also Ellipse Man. I thought it was just in personal emails at first, but I’ve seen a couple of professional emails and he does it there, too. I think it’s a reflection of the way he thinks. It doesn’t bother me, but I can see how it might be annoying.

      2. JMegan

        That is an excellent guideline! Straightforward and achievable. If everyone could accept those as the minimum standard for business emails, I think the world would be a better place.

      3. Chinook

        I disagree about the use of commas being non-negotiable. There really are two types of commas – the non-negotiable and the negotiable ones known as the Oxford comma. When you have a list of three or more items, I insist on commas for all but the last item in the list and am merely overjoyed at finding one of my people when they use one before the last item.

        But I have to agree with Zahra – there are certain items I need to be used consistently in order for an email to be understandable (otherwise I have to chain down the inner beast known as “former english teacher with red pen.”)

      4. Loose Seal

        But the point of his writing emails is, I assume, to communicate information quickly. If he doesn’t already know how to properly use commas, do you want him to take time to look it up in a style manual or get someone to proofread each email? If he needed to give the recipient a list and he wasn’t clear on comma use, it would take no time at all to write that list in bullets or numbers and it would likely be clearer to read.

        I think that commas that separate clauses are probably not necessary for this employee to learn for the purposes of email writing if he doesn’t already have a grasp on using them. Anyone can immediately put into action capitalizing the first word of each sentence and ending with a period or question mark. The rest might be more than is needed.

        (I just finished a graduate school class where most of the students were schoolteachers working toward a Master’s degree and we had to post our drafts of our final paper online for critiques from the class. Some of the writing — from teachers! at the graduate level!! — was so poor I almost would rather have poked my own eyeballs out than to read it. People didn’t know proper nouns should be capitalized, nouns/pronouns and verbs should agree, and sentences in scholastic writing are complete sentences where you can’t just randomly stop without making sure you have a noun and a verb! So even though people that comment here are generally very good writers, I have little faith that the population in general writes well.)

    2. Evergreen

      Yes! Agreed! Communication styles are so personal that it can be hard to differentiate between ‘well, that’s not how I’d put it’ vs someone who’s offending/upsetting or failing to get the message across.

      Also, if you do need to take your team member aside, it would be helpful to use the group’s feedback to illustrate, as in ‘when you said this, it was misinterpreted as this. Could you write this other thing instead next time’ (assuming you can preserve anonymity of the commenter here)

  10. weasel007

    #2 – Several issues: A) Facebook no longer allows you to entirely hide your profile. So, unless you block your manager entirely, and you know they aren’t logging into another account, you are out of luck telling him that you don’t have an account any more unless you change your name and don’t have any mutual friends. B-Several years ago there was a big stink about interviewers making users give their pw to the hiring company and they scanned your page. I seem to remember that being said not allowed per TOS. C-An easy solution for this is to create a friend group. Add your boss to this group only. Post the broadcasts to this group only. Only he will see them. Problem solved. He won’t know no one else can see them.

    1. BRR

      Ooh that’s a good idea. And it’s gotten ridiculous trying to keep your fb account private. I need like one more couple to get engaged and then I might delete it.

      I think while FB said it violates their terms of service companies ignored this.

  11. Buu

    An alternative for #2 is to create a Facebook list that is only for coworkers, then any promo posts go there where no one else can see. Still a stupid requirement though!

  12. Elkay

    #5 – Have you considered letting people know towards the end of the day and then just letting them leave for the day (if they choose)?

    1. OP#5

      Interesting thought..there are some pragmatic reasons that might be hard to do, but perhaps we could offer that or time things better. Last year we did it in the morning because of my co-workers schedule and so perhaps the afternoon would be better. What’s worse – anticipation of a meeting for several hours or hearing things in not the best place but right away?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Honestly, I think you are over-thinking it. Everyone has different preferences on this stuff, and they’re not going to be less disappointed at a certain time of day than others. Hearing that you didn’t get a job or a promotion is a normal part of business life. Schedule it as soon as you can, but time of day shouldn’t be a controlling factor that you worry too much about.

  13. jag

    “But why not just say that you don’t use Facebook anymore and have closed your account”

    Because if it’s not true, you’re lying.

      1. Leah

        Because there are much better ways to handle it; there have been some great suggestions here. It’s not worth the risk of getting caught.

    1. MK

      I confess I would not feel bad about lying to an employer who threatens to fire me for not advertising the firm for free in my personal life.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      I wouldn’t think twice about telling an employer that my account was closed if I was going to be forced in to using it to promote their business

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t have a problem with essentially telling an employer “this option is not available” when they’re way over-stepping appropriate boundaries like this.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        I would also put my foot down on this, even if it meant I lost the job. I have a memorable, unique name. As in, there are eight people with the same surname in the United States. I am cautious about what I put out for the world to see on the internet, and have made my Facebook profile private for that very reason and I try to limit commenting on or ‘liking’ public pages. (That shows up too.) It isn’t that I have something to hide, but because my real name is so easy to pinpoint, anything that I put out there can be judged by a potential employer. Whoever sees everything about me will have an opinion, a preference and possibly a hidden (or not!) bias to my posts. I aim to protect myself.

        If I agree to post promotional materials on my personal wall, it opens the door to letting the employer mandate security settings, perhaps requiring the whole profile to be public, and thus, available to web crawlers.

  14. NickelandDime

    #2: So without knowing what types of things people post on their Facebook page, managers are asking people to promote their companies on their personal pages? This is a REALLY bad idea. Why not just have a business Facebook page and promote there, have employees like the page and ask them to share things when they feel like it? This is only if you feel you have to ask employees to do this. I don’t ask employees to share company things on their private social media accounts, but many do anyway.

    1. jag

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ASK employees to promote material on social media as long as the manager makes it very clear it is optional and people are not being judged on whether or not they do it. If your company/organization makes a good product or service, encourage people to share it.

      I work in a nonprofit organization and are very happy if people on our staff help us get the word out. But we make it clear it is not required.

  15. BRR

    #4 I had a previous employer and the manager would call people on their day off to work but it was to try and get coverage. Nobody was answered because they didn’t want to be forced to work. Eventually at a meeting he asked us if we could please answer the phone and just say you can’t come in.

    I 99% of the time fall into work should leave people alone but I think there are valid points to having an employee’s number. Can you just tell your employer you’re busy? I would always say “Sorry but I have plans for today already and can’t make it in.”

    1. Matt

      As far as “please answer the phone” is concerned, IMHO even this alone is a rather intrusive demand on people’s days off … it means that they’ll technically wouldn’t be able to do anything or go anywhere where using a phone would not be possible (hiking in areas without cell coverage, driving a car, swimming, going to a cinema / concert / church, you get the point).

  16. Natalie

    #1, is anything negative actually happening because of this guy’s email style? Its not clear from your letter if there’s any reason to change his writing other than your personal preference? If it’s just that, I’d let it go. Being a little terse or concise in email doesn’t actually make him a bad writer, he’s just not writing emails the way you and your coworkers would.

    1. OP #1

      Not usually anything concrete and negative, no, but I do think this stuff can matter. Impressions, you know.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        I like the suggestions of creating templates or style guides and providing concrete examples. Otherwise, the email feedback may be received as subjective and overly picky, rather than as constructive criticism to meet a defined standard. Defining the standard is key before addressing the changes you desire.

        I am sincerely hoping that this guy is not George:
        https://www.chroniclesofgeorge.com/tickets1.htm

      2. Andrea

        My boss frames conversations on this as “standardizing communication” which shifts it to a team problem instead of an individual problem. At least for me it makes it easier to conform because it feels like less of a value judgement on communication style and more of a business/team need.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          The potential downside to this is when others are performing acceptably and know that, and find themselves bound by policies that affect only a select few. That can 1) prevent the person who needs the feedback from knowing about potential individual performance issues and 2) cause resentment in those who had no part of the initial problem.

          IMO, this is done by leaders who prefer to avoid conflict and like to pass that buck to others.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The OP wrote this upthread: “I still want to make sure we don’t come off as condescending. I want people to be eager rather than hesitant to contact us the next time there’s a problem.”

      That’s an excellent way to look at your department’s communications, and a really legitimate thing to work on people with.

      1. LQ

        But it is important to make sure that you are actually addressing the issue. If you take 3 days to respond to every problem no amount of beautifully written emails are going to fix it if the person you’re responding to thinks it should take 3 minutes.

        The OP seems very bright and I assume knows this but it is worth pointing out in general. Making sure you understand why someone would hesitate will let you address it. And letting the IT guy in this case know that’s why you want the emails to have a specific tone and how to get there.

  17. Xarcady

    #4 I was imagining a scenario in which snow prevents many employees from getting to work, and the manager knows the OP lives close to the office/store and/or has 4 wheel drive. So the OP becomes the first person called whenever there is a snow emergency.

    I speak from experience. It was possible for me to walk the 2 miles from home to store, so every time there was a “snow emergency” and people started calling out because they were afraid to drive in the snow, my boss would call me and tell me to get in and open up the store. I was in grad school and worked nights and weekends, but I’d get these “emergency calls” on weekdays, because my boss knew I wasn’t in class every day.

    While I didn’t mind the extra pay, it got old very quickly, trudging to work in the snow, opening the store and staffing it alone. Few customers would come in, because of the snow, so I’d get a never-ending stream of phone calls from the boss, snug in his warm house, about stock to put out or what area to straighten up or telling me to process the damaged returns, etc.–all stuff that on a normal day would be done in bits and pieces by the entire staff.

    So I’d work a full day at regular pay, doing all the grunt work of the entire store, and the rest of the crew would get a day off and come in to a neat, clean, restocked store.

    Yeah, it made me grumpy. And I just stopped taking the boss’s calls. My excuse was that I was outside shoveling the snow and didn’t hear the phone ring.

  18. alma

    For #1, would it be workable to provide e-mail templates he could use? My job is like 90% communicating over e-mail, so I feel pretty comfortable with that medium, but I still rely on my templates for certain issues that come up regularly.

  19. Steve H

    #1 I was always under the impression that being concise was a good thing. Especially if he “usually gets his point across.”

    No excuse for not using punctuation, though.

    1. Windchime

      Being concise can be good, but if a person is too concise then it can come across as curt.

      Recently, our team was gathered at huddle and our boss wanted the on-call person to send him a detailed email, outlining a problem that had been developing over the past four days. At the end of the day, the on-call person sent an email that literally said, “[X] task is done.” So yeah…..just a little bit curt!

    2. EmilyG

      I’m not sure “usually” getting your point “across” is a good standard, though. My father (retired IT) sometimes sends emails so telegraphic that it takes me until several hours later and a second read to figure out what he’s talking about. He assumes the context is obvious when it isn’t to me. I would think that in emails, you want to _always_ make your point _clear_, and full, punctuated sentences with a little context really helps with that.

  20. justcourt

    #2, I haven’t checked to see if other commenters have suggested this, but I think there’s a way to set a FB post so that it can only be seen by certain people. Maybe you can make it so only your boss, the company FB page, and your co-workers can see the post.

    That said, I think he’s absolutely ridiculous to intrude in your personal life and on your personal FB page.

  21. Tasha

    #1: Lack of greeting, is this really a problem? I thought one of the beauties of email is that you’ve addressed a person BY NAME in the “to” box; I don’t care if I don’t get a greeting. I sometimes use one, sometimes don’t on my sent emails. I would address the punctuation issue only.

    1. kozinskey

      I think it’s important to include a salutation. I might send an email to just my boss, or my boss + another coworker, or the entire office, so I find it important to clarify from the start who’s in on the conversation. There are definitely a lot of people who don’t check the “To” line (which is probably how all those embarrassing “Reply All” fiascos you hear about happen).

    2. Persephone Mulberry

      Hee. There have to be 100+ comments earlier this week about the necessity or not of greetings in email. That said, there did seem to be some division along company culture lines, and if the expectation at OP1’s company is that they are to be used, then Coworker should be given the heads up that he should follow suit.

      1. Observer

        The issue of company culture is a very good point. I think that the OP should keep that in mind when creating a style guide. You need to be more specific about those things because that information is no so readily available to people. For instance, you really don’t need to go into specifics of “Please use standard spelling and punctuation in your emails.” You can even get way with “While emails can be informal and colloquial usage is acceptable, please use standard grammar and full sentences.” Some people may need some specific coaching of course, but this is a reasonable starting point that most people will either understand or can find information on.

        On the other hand “Please write in a manner that makes people comfortable approaching you for help” sounds good. But, it’s far from obvious that not using a greeting is likely to make people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at this company. Some other types of items that I think are somewhat culture specific are closings and terseness of replies.

    3. cindysf

      As someone who works in IT (and regularly e-mails non-IT folk), it honestly looks rude … but we also don’t barge into other people’s offices and just start chatting. Even just a “Hey so-and-so” is enough.

    4. Jubilance

      It’s rude to not use a greeting, IMO. I wouldn’t walk up to someone or call them and just launch into what I would say, and email is the same.

      1. jag

        I do it all the time. I look out for interrupting people – sometimes with a “Do you have a moment?” But I absolutely do not use a greeting in every in-person communication.

        You really don’t walk over to someone’s desk and when they look at you would think it rude to tell them “I’ll have the report to you in a couple hours” or “Has the letter from X arrived?” without a greeting? Really?

  22. illini02

    #1 I’d kind of let this go myself. It seems that is is more of a pet peeve than a performance issue. If everyone already knows him, its a small company, and these aren’t customer facing, then its not a big deal. As someone else pointed out, aside from the greeting, you can’t even put your finger on WHY its an issue, except that its different from yours and others. But as you say, his point is getting across, so why make him change. I mean punctuation I suppose is a big deal, but at the same time, if you are talking to a colleague, I think things like that can be forgiven

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But she can put her finger on why it’s an issue — she said that she wants people to be eager rather than hesitant to contact them the next time there’s a problem, and making the calls about what does and doesn’t achieve that is very much her purview as the team’s manager.

  23. insert pun here

    On writing: you need to tell people what you want them to do. People who are not trained to write are not going to be able to improve if you just say “this isn’t right, do it better.” Here’s what I would do:
    1.) Give a general outline of the issue. Personally, I would prioritize clarity and specificity over style and warm fuzziness in this situation, but your call.
    2.) Give an example of a similar piece of writing that you think works, and (this part is very important) tell the person why. Point it out. Circle the important parts. Whatever.
    3.) Using a piece of their own writing, mark it up using MS Word’s “track changes” feature (or something similar.) You should note where you (as reader) get confused, lost, unsure. Point out where word choice is ambiguous or might not convey what you think the person wants to convey. Point out where punctuation (or lack of) confuses what they are trying to say. (The point here is to stress that punctuation is not just a set of stupid arbitrary rules, it’s a tool that helps us literally speak the same language.)

    Now — and this is very important — you need to make sure that the whole time, you are conveying that you are on this person’s side, you are on the same team, and you want to help them be successful as you can, and one aspect of that is communicating well. You cannot effectively edit someone’s prose if you have an antagonistic relationship with them. The person has to trust you enough to believe that you’re genuinely trying to do what’s best for them. That gives them the space to take risks, try new things, and improve. I’ve been on all sides of this relationship — editor, edited, trusted, not trusted — and I can tell you, it only works if everyone is pulling in the same direction.

    Good luck!

    1. OP #1

      Very helpful, thank you! I need to tweak this a bit because the pieces of writing we’re talking about are generally shorter than what I think you’re imagining. (And because many of us tech people have an aversion to MS Office.) But I think I’m going to follow something like this.

      1. Observer

        Libre Office has a similar feature set ;)

        The serious point here is to not get hung up on the tool – there are a lot of ways to accomplish what @insert was suggesting. And, by the same token, don’t get too hung up on the details of your guidelines. While it’s obviously necessary to be specific you don’t want to veer into nit-picky, and it’s surprisingly easy to do.

        Someone mentioned a case where a rather laid back tech got grumpy when someone started helping him to improve his emails. I wonder if that was part of the problem.

        1. insert pun here

          Right — track changes is a tool. It happens to be the one I use and like, but it’s not the only thing that can get the job done. You need something that makes your changes visible (it’s hard to see minor differences between two pieces of prose without another visual cue, such as color or underlining) and allows you to add comments outside of the prose itself: that’s it. Heck, you can do it on paper, if you want…but teaching people to “read” proofreading marks is probably more of a hassle than teaching them track changes.

      2. Just Another Techie

        diff -u instead of Track Changes then :)

        I loathe MS Office, and still haven’t quite got the hang of track changes even though I’ve been a coder since I was six.

  24. Mike C.

    OP1: I think the best solution is to develop a style guide. Lay out concrete examples of what official communications should look like.

    Let’s face it, you can’t measure how “good” something is unless you have a ruler, and this is your ruler.

  25. BananaPants

    #3 – Is the internship for credit or interfering with your ability to do summer research or teaching that’s required as part of a graduate assistantship? Otherwise I don’t understand why the school would be involved at all in what you do during the summer. If it is for credit, then the employer should be fine with meeting the school’s documentation requirements. In that case it’s a routine request and you shouldn’t worry about them revoking the offer; they know that different schools require different levels of documentation to issue credit and should be used to handling these requests.

    I wouldn’t have a problem filling out some paperwork (actually, having HR do it), but my employer flat-out does not offer credit-bearing internships; candidates are informed of this policy at the beginning of the intern recruiting process, so we don’t waste anyone’s time if a student is seeking a credit-bearing internship. I’ve mentored 3 interns and we have summer interns in my department every summer and we’ve never had to do special paperwork for a college or university for any of them, including grad students.

  26. Ann O'Nemity

    I once had a job where I had to convey tiny amounts of information via email throughout the day. Things like “X is fixed” or “Y is scheduled” or “Z is under review and you will receive an update in one week.” These things didn’t require much explanation and due to the sheer volume, it was easy to get in the habit of sending extremely concise messages without putting any time into greetings or pleasantries.

    When my manager suggested that I improve my email “customer service skills,” my solution was to add an email signature template with the following:

    Greetings!

    Please let me know if I can answer any questions or offer additional assistance.

    Best,
    Ann O’Nemity

    The big space after “greetings!” is where I added my concise info (the actual purpose for the email). This solution went over well.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Looks like my big space was edited out when I posted. Just image a few blank lines between “Greetings!” and “Please let me know…”

  27. OriginalEmma

    OP #1: To quote The Genie “He can be taught!” Writing e-mails is a skill that can be developed. I don’t know if this is his first job where he’s writing e-mails but I can tell you that when I first started, I encountered the same issues you’re identifying. Too short, awkward, no greeting or an inappropriate one (not, like, “yo b*tches!” but more like “Hey, Demeter!,” which is not professional unless you know the person).

    Giving him e-mails to mimic is a good idea, and helping him perhaps see the “bigger picture” when sending out certain types of e-mails might help (e.g., a request can be terse but still needs a greeting, a thanks, and a name; but an ongoing or frustrating technical issue might require more social lubricant).

    1. Windchime

      I’ve been in these kinds of customer service jobs, and some bosses won’t take “no” for an answer. Which means that you never can really plan on having a day off, because you’re sure to get called and be bullied into coming in to cover for someone who called in “sick” but really wanted to go to the lake.

      Years ago, I worked at a grocery store. I was at work when someone called in sick. My boss tried to call in “Wanda”, who was off that day. She didn’t answer, so my boss made me get in my car and drive to her house (!) and knock on her door to tell her that Boss wanted her to come in. I felt so terrible doing that. So yeah, people learn to just not answer the phone on their days off.

      1. Kat

        That boss sucks. I had a boss do it to me once. I was sick, puking sick and had a high fever. I called in sick and my boss came to my house and banged on the door. I tried to ignore him until he left, but he didnt go. I answered the door and when he started yelling at me, I opened my mouth to say I was sick but I puked on his shoes. He stopped yelling, turned around and left. I quit a week later. It was also for a grocery store.

        I’ve never had a problem with being bullied into working on my day off, so I am probably less sympathetic about it.

        1. Observer

          Well, it’s good for you that you don’t get (too) moved by physical intimidation. But, most of us would, I think, agree that it’s perfectly legitimate to try to avoid that even if it means a bit of passive aggressiveness.

      2. Snoskred

        This is why I *love* the move some companies in Australia are making toward group SMS when someone calls in sick to find a replacement.

        Workplaces that have a lot of casual staff are the most likely to have this set up. My last workplace was one example but we also were a call centre who did work for many companies and a lot of the companies we worked with used the same system we did. I know our local Mcdonalds uses it, too.

        The one we used is called MessageNet and you can go in there and set up all kinds of awesomeness. You can add every staff member to a group and then SMS the entire group with 160 characters. So I would get SMS that looked like this – Shift available Mon 23 March 9am-5pm call X number.

        You can imagine for a manager who used to have to call 60+ staff and leave voicemails or talk to all these people and 90% of the time they would say no, and then go into their reasons for the no..making those calls can be time consuming. This way they just send the SMS and wait for someone to call in and claim the shift.

        My workplace was advanced enough that they wanted us to SMS in when we were sick as well and they had it set up so that SMS would be emailed to the people who needed to know, after a few too many times of someone taking a message and then the message not going to the right people.

        Anyway I know this is not the case in the USA for a lot of reasons.. :)

  28. John R

    #1: If he is a good employee otherwise, he may just not KNOW how to write well. I would recommend sending him to an inexpensive Business Writing class. I don’t think good writing is something you can teach just by showing someone an example. Not sure if this is in your budget, though.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I actually thinking that the relatively small changes the OP wants, showing him examples is likely to be more effective/faster/more direct than sending him to a business writing class (which I’m not convinced ever have serious impact).

  29. Kyrielle

    For #2, are they requiring *public* posting, or do they have you friended on FB?

    If the latter, I’d make a list that includes them and your coworkers, and post only to that list, but that’s just me. :P

  30. C Average

    I have what I consider a really good relationship with our sys admin team, and they all have very curt email styles. I, on the other hand, am firmly in the salutation-body-closing school of thought regarding email.

    Because they’re competent, friendly in person, and do not have any consumer-facing communication, I’ve worked really hard to honestly, truly let it go. (Although I don’t manage them, I’m sort of everyone’s go-to copy editor in the department, and if they did write consumer-facing communications, I’d absolutely have no qualms about saying something.)

    I’ve focused instead on my own communication to them, making sure that my questions aren’t buried in folderol and that my bug reports are concise and actionable. I figure in my own small way I’m thereby demonstrating to them that it’s possible to convey technical information in a succinct but friendly way. I’ve seen some of my phrasings get recycled by others and catch on across the department as more or less standard text, and that’s been perversely satisfying.

  31. BSharp

    Hey Allison—heads up, reading this hijacked my phone, took me to the app store, and made safari very cranky. Some ad?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      So, I’ve turned off ads on mobile devices altogether, so it makes no sense that this is still happening! Would you try clearing your browser’s cache and seeing if that fixes it? (Not just refreshing, but clearing the cache.)

      If that doesn’t fix it, you could also try using a different browser; it only seems to be happening in Safari on iPhones.

      1. Professor of Teapots

        Allison, I had this happen last night on my mobile as well – I was redirected to what appeared to be a phishing site posing as the app store, telling me that my phone had been compromised by a virus I got from a website with “adult content.” It was so over-the-top odd I knew it was fake, but it was definitely weird!

  32. _ism

    #1 – is he sending emails from a mobile device? I know people who write perfectly fine e-mails at their computer but if they reply from their phone, it’s extremely concise, abbreviated, and unpunctuated, and they come across as rude as a result.

    I think it is worth correcting for his role. Tech support needs to communicate clear, precise information in order to support users efficiently. And non-techie people often feel a little intimidated or out of their depth when asking IT for help on something – politeness is crucial for this reason. Any support role, really.

    I took a Technical Writing course in business school and would recommend it to anyone who needs to use written communication in & about business and technology and science and all sorts of other areas that deal with very specific requests or instructions. One principle of the class is that fewer words are better – which does not mean that a sentence fragment is a good reply to a question someone is asking you, especially if they’re asking for your help and expertise. Fewer words are better but they must be precisely chosen and worded.

  33. YandO

    #2 No way. Not in million years. I will get fired before I do it. I use my facebook rarely and with purpose. I do not promote material. I share, on occasion, things I am passionate about. If my employer is saving babies, I may choose to share that on my own. Otherwise, my personal life is personal. My professional life is professional. If employer wants employees to mix the two, then it is his choice and he can go ahead and deal with the culture that promotes.

    My current employer has spent months trying to rope me into inappropriate personal relationship with him and I have chosen to stand firm in my rejection of that concept. When I say inappropriate I do no mean sexual. I mean personal conversations/comments about his marital problems/my relationship, asking me to bring in clients through my personal connections, demanding to talk about my feelings, crying in my office. He has yet to ask me to use my personal social media accounts for firm’s promotion purposes and that’s because he knows my answer will be “no” followed with a period.

    I guess I am lucky, I am valuable enough that he would not fire me over not being his best friend. This is a boundary I refuse to let employer cross.

  34. CA Admin

    I just got redirected to the App Store 3x in 5 min over on the “poker face” post. Even after clearing my cache.

  35. Christian Troy

    #1 – When I was hired in my role during grad school, we had to attend a training session on how to write emails. I know people may think this is overkill and unnecessary, but I think it was necessary because there was always the possibility someone high profile might email you and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or the department. Plus I think it helps learning what things you can do to “warm up” an email since it might be the first contact you have with someone from another location and first impressions are important.

  36. LizNYC

    OP #2 — I do Facebook advertising as part of my job (through legitimate means!). This article might help your immediate supervisor see FB advertising differently:

    10 Reasons Why You Should Spend $10 per Week on Facebook Advertising by Jeff Bullas
    That would be a grand total of $520 for the year / $43 a month. You can pick your audience quite specifically, if you want, through their platform (which I dislike the whole setup, but that’s a different rant).

    Business owners who don’t want to advertise, yet magically expect their business to grow, doesn’t really understand how the whole “getting the word out” thing really works.

  37. bad at online naming

    #2. I don’t think anyone’s said this – “one horrid but enclosed echo chamber of self-promotion for the company” is a fantastic image.

  38. EarlGrey

    OP1, would it help to create some email templates or signature blocks that your staff can put into emails with one click? For someone who sends a lot of messages or has a hard time writing “friendly” emails naturally, it could be a big time and stress saver. Obviously secondary to the issue of bringing it up with this individual, but potentially part of a good solution. Personally, I love having a lot of that stuff pre-written so I can copy/paste or use a pre-loaded template and not have to think about it every time.

  39. AmyNYC

    Ugh, my company asked us to do this on Facebook…. thankfully they haven’t been pushy about it, but when the new website launched we got many emails about becoming fans and giving the company 5-star ratings. I became a fan, but drew the line at essentially reviewing myself

  40. periwinkle

    Attention all FB users on Chrome! There is a very cool extension called Social Fixer that allows you to filter stuff out of your feed. If someone is posting MLM crap or content mandated by their wackjob cheap employer or political rants or the like, you can set up filters to hide them. This is the only reason I’m still FB friends with some people, and at times the only way Facebook can be a tolerable place to visit during election cycles.

    1. Jubilance

      I love Social Fixer, and it can do a lot more than just filter people out. Even if you aren’t using Social Fixer, or want your settings to sync across platforms, FB let’s you unfollow people or hide them from your news feed so that you don’t have to see their updates. Very useful feature for me.

  41. OP#5

    Hi all,
    I asked this question up stream, but in your mind is the anticipation of several hours waiting to hear whether you got the job worse or better than hearing the news in an inauspicious place but having no delay? I appreciate Allison’s comments that we can’t avoid disappointment, and looking at my email can see how I maybe used the word disappointed too many times, but I do think different scenarios have different impacts on folks’ ability to understand the nuances of what we’re telling them about their performance. Perhaps it’s best to tell them quickly and then arrange another time to really talk about why we made the decisions we did? Kindness is indeed really important to me as well. I’ve had to learn to balance that with not avoiding hard topics and so perhaps the balance isn’t yet ingrained in my thinking and is making this more complicated than needs be. I have to say also that telling everyone this mostly bad news made for an unusually terrible day for me (worse for them of course) and I definitely self medicated myself with a beer or two that night.

    1. Christian Troy

      I feel like reading your comment, you’re making this into a much larger deal than it needs to me. You mentioned wanting to be kind and it sounds like you’re taking a lot of consideration for the well being of these interns, but rejection and disappointment is par for the course. You can’t give every single person who interns or works with your organization a position as much as you’d like to. I’m not really sure I would spend a lot of time giving feedback unless you ask if they want it and they accept.

  42. OP#5

    Also concerning emails…recently my pet peeve is folks who start emails with things like “Teapot Division” as who they are addressing the email too. Please, please go for something like “Coworkers in the Teapot Division” as who you are addressing. We’re real people and not a company.

  43. Gene

    I’m a little pressed for time, so I’ll just spew my comments without having time to read all the others, If these are repetitive, I apologize.

    1: Is he communicating clearly what needs to be communicated? THAT is the hallmark of good communication, not Grammar-Nazi level writing or if his writing makes the recipient feel all warm and cuddly. My written and verbal communication style has been described as terse, though I prefer to think of it as concise.

    2: IIRC, Facebook requires that commercial use be on Pages rather than Profiles. So you using your profile for commercial use may risk your profile being deleted. You should take a close look at the EUA to see if you are violating what you agreed to. (To suit #1, that should have said “that to which you agreed.” :-) )

    4: Assuming you are not exempt, unless you are being paid stand-by pay, they can’t really require you to be available.

    5: If the concern is that news travels faster than you can notify people due to the number of people you are talking with, write an individual email to each person with your determination. Let everyone know that you’ll be coming around to chat personally to each of them. Then set your email program to send all the emails as a batch at a single time. That way everyone gets the news at the same time.

  44. OP#5

    Thanks everyone! It seems like we might be putting too much worry into how this goes. Those of us who manage the program generally fairly quickly agree on tactics, talking points, and plans and this was one case where we didn’t. I’m going to share with them that the general consensus is that there are multiple we can handle this and that we’re likely to get similar results no matter what path we choose. +1 for a good work place where this seems like something to real wrestle with.

    Just as an interesting note, in the last few years we have placed more emphasis on giving professional feedback in part because we were getting to these hiring decisions and people were surprised that they didn’t get hired. So, it’s true at this point it’s hopefully not a situation where people are expecting feedback. I know there is a general bias against stereotyping Millennials here and I agree a lot of it isn’t accurate, but I also think we’re seeing a desire for more feedback and feedback more often. Of course, it could be that consciousness has just been raised about giving constructive criticism. I enjoy thinking and talking about these ideas and so thanks for letting me share a bit here.

  45. Holly

    My old boss used to make me post work stuff on my personal Facebook, too. Go into the sharing settings of that post and click ‘Custom’, then set it so it ONLY shows the update to your boss (and co-workers if necessary). To them, it looks like it’s gone out to everyone, but really only they can see it.

  46. aakash

    I want to write technical mail to my boss please help me. I want to give site status to my boss please suggest what I write.

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