the muddled memo: a case study of poor messaging

the muddled memo: a case study of poor messaging
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

In today's fast-paced world, effective communication has become more crucial than ever. Unclear expectations, vague instructions, and ambiguous messages can lead to unwanted confusion and misinterpretation. When communication lacks clarity, employees may make assumptions or engage in guesswork, resulting in errors and delays.

For example, here’s a case study that showcases the futility of terrible messaging:

A supervisor who managed 36 professionals in six city libraries wanted to cut the costs of unnecessary overtime. So, she issued this one-sentence memo to her staff:

When workloads increase to a level requiring hours in excess of an employee’s regular duty assignment, and when such work is estimated to require a full shift of eight (8) hours or more on two (2) or more consecutive days, even though unscheduled days intervene, an employee’s tour of duty shall be altered so as to include the hours when such work must be done, unless an adverse impact would result from such employee’s absence from his previously scheduled assignment.

Once the 36 copies were sent, the supervisor’s office received 26 phone calls asking what the memo exactly meant. What the remaining 10 staff members who didn’t call thought about the note still remains a mystery. Finally, it took a week-long time for the office to clarify the directive and for everyone to properly understand the new policy.

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One key point you must keep in mind is this: Simplicity enhances understanding.

Complexity is often the enemy of effective communication. In an era filled with information overload, simplicity is a breath of fresh air. When you simplify your communication, you distill your message down to its essence, making it easier for others to comprehend and retain the information.

By removing unnecessary complexity, you ensure that your message is accessible to a wider audience. Whether you are explaining a concept, presenting a proposal, or providing instructions, using simple and concise language, avoiding convoluted sentences, and breaking down complex ideas into digestible pieces can significantly enhance understanding and engagement.

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If you’re interested in improving your communication skills and taking them to the next level, then I have good news for you. My new book Daily Communication (Book 7 in The Daily Learner Series) is out and available at your favorite digital store!

In this book, I have extracted life-changing ideas from the best resources on communication, influence, and meaningful connection and packaged them in daily easy-to-read meditations.

Every meditation has been crafted to give you either the essence and the formula, if you will, of the subject at hand or a groundbreaking idea introduced by an established author or thought leader through their work.

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