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Effective Means of Communication: Flaming Emails

This is an example of a "flame" exchanged through electronic mail in an organization. It resulted in a few more messages and seriously damaged the working relationship of the two employees. Their conflict affected their job performance and extended to other parts of the organization, taking up significant time and money. Both employees ended up in a supervisor's office.

Email Memo
From: John Doe
To: Tom Jones
Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2001, 10:04 a.m.
Subject: Company Newsletter

Tom,
I can't include your article in the company's newsletter. I have spent a lot of time with it and the more I go over it, the more it is clear to me that there are major problems with your writing. It just doesn't hang together. It reads like a series of separate thoughts that came to you at the time but bear no relationship to the topic of the article. You don't explain how one paragraph even relates to the topic of the article and you don't use transitions between paragraphs. For example, what's the purpose of paragraph two and how does it relate to the topic? And I'm also not sure what the "news" is for readers. I shared it with another employee and he was not sure what he learned from reading it. You also write too generally and don't relate your concepts to specific situations. I might be open to the possibility of saving the article if you fix these problems and send it to me by Monday. But the above issues have to be addressed explicitly and you'll have to stick to specifics.
Regards,
John

Reply Email Memo
From: Tom Jones
To: John Doe
Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2001 10:18 a.m.
Subject: Company Newsletter

JOHN.
I JUST READ YOUR MESSAGE AND YOU ARE WRONG!!! I HAVE SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON THIS ARTICLE TOO AND I THINK IT HANGS TOGETHER VERY WELL. AND SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE THAT LOOKED AT IT. THEY SEEM TO THINK I DID A GOOD JOB. IT IS NOT A SERIES OF SEPARATE THOUGHTS (NOTE THE CORRECT SPELLING OF "SEPARATE") AND I DID STICK TO THE TOPIC. I'M SORRY THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. I CANNOT MAKE ANY REVISIONS BY MONDAY. MAYBE IF YOU HAD SENT ME THE PROMISED FEEDBACK IN A TIMELY MANNER, I WOULD HAVE HAD A CHANCE. I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT YOU WOULD HAVE HAD THE COURTESY TO CALL ME TO DISCUSS THIS RATHER THAN DROPPING THIS ON ME. THANKS FOR NOTHING, JOHN!!
TOM

Please comment on the two memos. What could be done to handle this flaming exchange in a more effective manner? E-mail flame exchanges between two people can involve the whole organization, consuming significant time and money. How does e-mail differ from other types of communication (e.g., telephone, face-to-face, etc.)? Do you consider e-mail to be an effective or efficient means of communication?

Solution Preview

In the first memo, John Doe is accusatory and demeaning. There are a lot of "you" which is attacking Tom personally instead of addressing the exact issues with his article. You do this and you do that are not means of effective communication. This should have been done face to face or via the phone to avoid any misinterpretations of what it is that John is trying to accomplish. John needs to watch his phrases like "major problems" "doesn't hang together" there are a lot of "you don'ts" and the tone of ...

Solution Summary

This response discusses the means of communication within a company. The use of flaming emails are analyzed.

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