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Great Party–But You Can’t Come!

Imagine a friend describing a great party she is planning–wonderful food, music, people, dancing–all on a beautiful exotic beach. Too bad it’s in New Zealand and you’re in New York. Your loss.

Or your home office emails you about a fabulous company event. All the important people will be there. It will be a perfect opportunity to get known around the company. Unfortunately, the event is in Toronto, you’re in Tokyo, and travel budgets have been axed. That’s a shame.

How would you feel about those two non-invitations? Disappointed? Irritated? Jealous? Taken for granted? Don’t worry–they are imaginary.

But the many corporate emails sent each day to "all employees" are real. Such messages tell brokers in London about a picnic in Los Angeles, service specialists in Mumbai about dinner in Montreal, and disaster clean-up experts in Houston about a fashion show in Dallas.

Why invite people who cannot attend? You know the answer: it is the beauty and the curse of being able to communicate with all employees in seconds.

If you are guilty of sending all-employee messages about free donuts in your local conference room, stop! You are making people feel disappointed, irritated, jealous, taken for granted, and just plain frustrated. After all, they can’t delete the message without seeing what it is about–and knowing that, once again, they are left out.

This issue is on my mind today because of lunch with a friend who is fighting the good fight against all-employee messages at his new company. He says the people there have never thought about these things.

Let’s encourage more thinking about all-employee messages. Do you receive emails that invite you to impossible events? Please share your story.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “Great Party–But You Can’t Come!”

  • I can see how these disappointing invitations can occur very easily. I do not have any examples that come to mind. Fortunately, my organization (a university) does a very good job with targeting communication.

    The institution can do so by creating email groups that are regularly updated. Below are some examples of these groups that my organization maintains:
    – all faculty who teach in a particular department
    – all students who live in the women’s residence halls (or the men’s residence halls)
    – all students who work for the campus newspaper (or other departments)
    – all computer lab monitors who work in particular buildings

    I estimate that there are forty or more groups like these. The above are just some examples. For those occasions when a group does not exist for the sender’s purposes, the first line can save readers’ time with a statement like, “Attention all work supervisors (all others may disregard this message).”

  • In my company, I believe the invitations to all are handled fairly well. If you are in the area of the event you are invited to the event. Those outside the area see the invitation but are invited to take the time with others in their area to enjoy the afternoon or whatever allotment of time the event would take up. And there is the promise that other events will be scheduled in their area at a later date and that promise is kept. So there are not so many hard feelings.

    However, there is the occasional event that is in the same state but would require a very long drive to attend. There are some managers who apply pressure to make that drive since it is a group event. Of course, there is no offer of reimbursement for travel. I was invited to a professional ballgame that would required a 2-hour drive for me to get to the bus that would take me on the 2-hour drive to the ballgame. We’d get back to the original destination at about midnight. I guess if you lived a few minutes away from that destination, that would be fine but facing another 2-hour commute home was just too much for me. Some people were understanding – others felt I should have “made the effort”. If I had lived in another state 2 hours away all would have been forgiven. At that point, I wish I hadn’t been invited at all.

  • Anne, thank you for sharing your ballgame story. It’s too bad that group event was not more convenient for everyone.

    I was intrigued to read about your company encouraging people to take time to relax while others in another geographic area are attending an enjoyable event. I work in a small company (my own), and I appreciate learning how things are done in big organizations.

    Thank you!

  • Mass emails like this certainly might cause some trouble in a large organization with multiple facilities. However, as a Twitter user, I also believe there is some value in learning about events even if you can’t personally attend. It’s nice to know that the Southwest division is celebrating Cordell Cookingham’s anniversary with the company, even if I can’t be there to have a piece of cake. Perhaps the messages could just be cast differently?

  • Hi, Lester. For most of the people who attend my writing classes, I don’t think casting the message a different way is the answer. They are drowning in email. As result, they want to receive only essential messages.

    A company intranet may be the best place to celebrate an employee’s anniversary.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • I had to laugh when reading this. My colleagues and I receive three emails a week advertising, “Don’t forget to sign up for a free massage today — there are still openings in Pamela’s schedule.” Unfortunately, we are two hours away on client site. Now that I think about it, I haven’t received any massage email alerts this week. Maybe someone read this post!

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