Chapter 8 Lecture:
Critical Thinking Questions
1. A survey of business professionals revealed that nearly every respondent said that every effort should be made to resolve business problems in person. Why is this logical?
One respondent in this survey said, “We work in truncated time and I would never deliver bad news in writing. It takes too long. And it’s too formal. With clients the problem is usually that there was an error in something or we missed a deadline. It’s better to be intimate and do it personally. The follow-up letter or memo just ensures you’ve covered yourself.” Another respondent said, “Problems are more easily explained and resolved when meeting or talking personally. (Elizabeth Dorn, “Case Method in the Business Writing Classroom,” Business Communication Quarterly, March 1999, 52-53).
2. Does bad news travel faster and farther than good news? Why? What implications would this have for companies responding to unhappy customers?
“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.”
Why does bad news travel faster than good news? Bad news often makes people angry, and they wish to vent their anger or seek revenge by broadcasting their views. One writer claims that the recipient of good news tells about 6 people, while the recipient of bad news tells about 11 other people (Marcia Mascolini, “Another Look at Teaching the External Negative Message,” The Bulletin, June 1994, 45). The implication for companies dealing with the public is to use all means possible to retain customer goodwill. When revealing bad news, seek ways to soften it, look for alternatives, and employ a warm, caring tone.
3. Consider times when you have been aware that others have used the indirect pattern in writing or speaking to you. How did you react?
You may have appreciated the indirect pattern because it was more tactful and made you feel that the communicator cared about your feelings. Or, you may have felt that you were being manipulated and that the communicator was not being forthright.
Some business communicators feel that using the indirect pattern prepares the receiver for bad news or for an important idea. Other communicators feel that the indirect strategy is unethical. However, it is not unethical to make the best presentation possible. To say that something is unethical is to suggest dishonesty. It’s not dishonest to delay bad news in an effort to protect the feelings of the receiver. If you feel that the receiver would prefer to have the news directly, then do just that.
4. Why is the “reasons” section of a bad news message so important?
The "reasons” section is especially important because it explains why a negative message (such as a refusal or a request) is necessary. People are much more willing to accept a refusal if a logical reason is given. If no reason or if a poor reason is provided, the receiver may not accept the refusal and may take negative action. Customers stop patronizing businesses where they are not given good service or treated well.
5. Some people feel that all employee news, good or bad, should be announced directly. Do you agree?
Today, gaining the compliance and cooperation of employees is now recognized as beneficial to management in boosting productivity and improving customer service. The indirect plan might be appropriate for some messages, especially to retain employee goodwill.