Case study: One garbled memo – 26 baffled phone calls
Joanne supervised 36 professionals in 6 city libraries. To cut the costs of unnecessary overtime, 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.
After the 36 copies were sent out, Joanne’s office received 26 phone calls asking what the memo meant. What the 10 people who didn’t call about the memo thought is uncertain. It took a week to clarify the new policy.
Memos are the primary means of in-house communication in US businesses. After reading the case, answer the following questions:
1. What are the major mistakes in this memo that led to workers’ misunderstanding?
- What are some of the techniques Joanne might follow to improve this memo?
3. Describe a situation in your experience where the communication went wrong. Analyze that situation taking the following criteria into your consideration:
– The type and the medium of communication
– The communication barriers