Column Description: In a profession where access to information is a top priority, why is it so difficult for us to communicate? In this column we will explore the importance of communicating, different methods of communication, and how to implement effective communication practices.
This is a true story. All identifying information has been removed. It did not happen in a library, so don’t bother asking around.
An employee at a company had been there for several years. The employee, let’s call them X, saw that there was an opening for a position they wanted. It was a managerial position and paid more. X applied to the position but did not get the job. Instead, it went to a different employee, known here as Y. Y had been at the company less time than X, and did not have as much experience in the field. Employee X decided to sue the company for discrimination.
X made the case that, according to the employee handbook and job descriptions, they were qualified for the job, but were not promoted for discriminatory reasons. However, the company had updated the handbook years ago, and that included an update to the job description and job requirements.
That employee handbook was sent out annually, along with a document summarizing any changes made. Employees had to sign off that they received, read, and understood the handbook and any changes.
The company produced documents that stated that X had signed off on receiving, reading, and understanding the handbook every single year since the beginning of their employment. Employee Y had also received the updated handbook and job description. Y saw that the job requirements had changed, decided to earn the necessary requirements, and was then promoted. X did not win the lawsuit.
For those of you who will now stop reading this column, I leave you with this: read your emails.
Yes, they may be long and boring, but we’ll get to that in Part II. Remember back in December when I wrote about the importance of supervisors sharing information with library staff? This is where the two-way street part comes in.
If your director, department head, co-worker, etc. sends you an email, please read it. It could have valuable information like an updated policy, a big program another department is doing, or an announcement that there is cake in the break room.
To the email senders: write better emails.
By better, I mean shorter. Be concise and to the point. I include myself in this, and fully recognize that I need to take my own advice (anyone reading this who has received an email from me knows).
Think about the emails you send.
Are you adding a back story? How you came to write the email, why you think it’s important, how it will impact multiple people, etc? Stop.
Take that out. Library staff tends to be people of words. We like reading, whether it be books, magazines, blogs, or the news. When it comes to emails, though, I beg you, send the email you’d like to receive. No, send the email you’d actually read.
I was talking to John about the meeting on Friday. We don’t really know how many people are going to be there and we’d like to order food for everyone since it’s going to be a late night. We’re deciding between ordering Chinese, in which case we’ll send out a menu and take everyone’s orders ahead of time, or pizza because it’s easier. Don’t worry- we know you’re gluten-free!
If you’re going to be at the meeting, please let me know so we can plan out the food situation. We also need to make sure we have enough chairs, agendas, and of course cookies! I hope to talk to you soon.
See you on Friday! Maybe!
Time to analyze the situation. Does the Person need to know that you’re deciding on the cuisine? No. That you have to print agendas? No. That you are super strong and can move chairs? Also no. The purpose of this email is to find out if Person will be there and to let them know if they do attend the meeting, there will be something they can eat.
Please let me know whether or not you’re attending Friday’s meeting by the end of the day. There will be gluten-free pizza.
Is that email warm, fuzzy, and friendly? No. Is it quick, efficient, and easy to read? Yes. Bonus points for giving Person a deadline to respond.
Next time you write an email, go ahead and put down all of the filler. Get it out of your system. Before you hit send, though, go back and ask yourself what is necessary, and edit accordingly. The recipient’s attention span will thank you.
Joanna Goldfarb is the Youth Services Consultant at the Ramapo Catskill Library System. Prior to her current position, Joanna was a Teen Librarian, Youth Services Librarian, Technology Aid, Information Assistant, and Library Page. Communication was important in all positions. In her free time, Joanna likes to read, run long distances, watch The Great British Baking Show, and think about other hobbies to take up so she can add them to her bio.