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Why Your Boss Thinks You're an Idiot — And How to Fix That Part 2

Why your boss thinks you're an idiot

Missed part one? Check it out here.

As one of the most in-touch generations, you would think that communication wouldn’t be an issue for millennials, but we do tend to fall down when it comes to communicating in certain situations, especially at work. If sending emails to your boss or clients makes you feel hinky or you have to send emails multiple times to get answers to your questions or requests, you’re probably not doing it right. You can fix that by:

1. Remembering that there’s a person on the other end — not a client or a boss, but a person with emotions, desires, and quirks. It will help you think about how to connect with them and will impact the way that you phrase things. Also, since this is business communication, that person is likely to be very busy, so respect them enough not to waste their time with vague writing, unclear emails, or other time wasters. You don’t have a right to their attention, you need to earn it.

2. Get ungodly clear on what you’re trying to say. If you don’t know what you’re trying to get across, they definitely won’t either. Simplify what you’re trying to say to its core, and lead with that. If you’re sharing data, share the most important part in the first or second sentence, and ideally at least a little in the subject line of the email. Give people some info about what this is about. It can be hard to get outside of your own head when doing this, so read it to someone else, or at the very least, read it out loud to see if it makes sense.

3. Likewise, you should really really clear with them about what you want them to do. People skim emails really fast, and if there’s not a clear “Please do XYZ” then they might not get what you want them to do. If you need multiple things done, then bullet point it. It’s best to state your request at the end, or recap a list of your requests at the end if you have a long email.

4. Review to see if there’s any room for misinterpretation. Is your point really clear to someone who’s not you? Is it structured in such a way that the most important information is first? Is it very clear what you want the other person to do?

5. Get the details right — nothing rubs me the wrong way more than getting an email addressed “Dear Sirs”. I’m clearly not plural and my name is not gender neutral. This is nothing but laziness and tells your recipient that you really don’t give a damn about them. Also, don’t misspell people’s names, and make sure you’re sending it to the right person. With all the social media and online presence of pretty much everybody, there’s really no excuse. If you have to, then call up to make sure you’ve got it right — it shows that you’re responsible and actually care about what you’re doing, which means that the person you’re communicating with is more likely to respond the way you want them to.

6. Kill all typos. This should go without saying, but no typos, grammatical mistakes, awkward phrases, or ambiguities. This is one of the only times in life where there actually is one simple tip for getting it right: read it out loud. Seriously. You can do it in a funny voice if you want (I totally do) but just do it — your ear catches a lot that your eyes miss.

Next time I’ll finish things off with (appropriately) how to sum things up — but before we go there, talk to me about communication. Where do you fall down? Or if you’re on the other end, where do millennials mess this up in your organization?

About Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen is a word wrangler, grammar janitor, timecard apostate, and online writing obsessive who runs thewrevolution.com. Ultimately, all of her work is about helping people unlearn the terrible writing habits they’ve picked up at school or work and become amazing at communicating with people over the Internet. (Because that = more money and the freedom to live and work however they want, wherever they want. And who doesn’t want that?)

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2 thoughts on “Why Your Boss Thinks You're an Idiot — And How to Fix That Part 2

  1. Ben says:

    Clarity is definitely important, because the bosses are often busy. If you care about what you’re saying, be succinct (hook their interest) and then go into details.

    I would suggest leading with a summary over concluding with one, since important words start to become “blah blah blah” the longer the email.

    1. Rachel says:

      Absolutely — I always like to start with a summary and then end with a recap of any requests. That way it’s really hard for them to misinterpret what you’re saying, and it also makes you come across as organized and on top of things.

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