How to Effectively Use Business Email Communications

This topic of how to effectively use email communications arose in a discussion with an executive the other day. He was caught in the middle of a situation because he had not strategically used to the tools available to him in business email communications. It got me thinking that if he could be more effective, then others could too.


The first step is assess your business environment and how communication is done. In his case, he was accustomed to talking to people vs. boiling down things into writing in a earlier organization. I am strong proponent of this age-old method when it works – however, let’s get real – in today’s business environment, some of that does not work especially in the rough and tumble cultures. The lesson here is to be observant about what other people are doing and adopt changes to be successful – if this is a place you want to thrive in.

Take a look at the email communications that you have received over the last few weeks. Is there a trend? When do people copy (cc) others? When do they leave them off and you think that they probably should have been copied? Note – this may be a clue to heavy use of blind copying (bcc). Knowing how others use business communications will help you establish your parameters for using the email communication tools.

I can hear your push back…you don’t want to have to reduce all your conversations in writing. I am not suggestion that you will have to do that, however, if you are getting burned or pushed into a corner, then you are at a clear disadvantage.

Consider what conversations need to be documented. Let people know as you leave the meeting that you will be following up with an email to confirm what the plan is and who will be responsible for taking the actions discussed. Without a paper trail, the water gets awful murky when something blows up.

Here are some general guidelines for addressing emails, use of copy (cc) and blind copy (bcc) especially in a business environment where people document their actions (sometimes affectionately called covering their ass).  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for using these tools, however, some organizations take it to an excess.

Who to Address an Email Communication To

Always address the email to the person or persons who you believe need to take ACTION on your email. When you address emails to people who do not need to take action, they will discount future emails and may not react quickly because they are not sure if it is an actionable request.

When to Copy (cc) an Email

When you copy a person in the email you are sending the message – I want you to be informed about the request or conversation that is being shared with the people you have addressed the email to. Using copy (cc) does not ask someone to take action.

Do not copy your boss or project lead on every email unless they have asked you to do so. Why? This sends a signal to the people you are communicating with that you have little power or authority in the organization.

When to Blind Copy (bcc) an Email

This one gets tricky and will depend on the organization’s culture and the person you are blind copying. There are some people who want to know everything so blind copying is used heavily.

There are some situations where you should definitely blind copy someone:

  • Your boss has asked you specifically to do something and you want to let them know you are working the plan without using them as a crutch to get people to do something.
  • You believe an initiative or action may go haywire because of an experience or the person you are working with is unreliable. Keeping your boss apprised will help you if something blows up.

If you are unsure about what level of email communication your boss desires, ask them. Bring up a few different situations and see what their response is and respond accordingly.

Be as clear in your email communication as you can by using the structure available to you and don’t get caught in a political tug a war.

Making an Impression at Work

Sometimes people just get it right. A friend’s son shared his story about making an impression on the CEO, CFO and Chairman of the Board of his company. He did not try to WOW them with a pre-planned encounter; he was himself – in the moment – showing his true personality and asking questions as if they were his peers.

Kudos to the executives who welcomed and cultivated a professional relationship with someone unpicked from a slate of high potential candidates and saw potential in the unobvious.

Here’s the story about making an impression at work – there are many lessons to glean. No doubt, the self-confidence this man exudes will take him very far.

So I’m standing out front of my office building taking a couple hits off my vape and checking my Instagram, when the CEO, CFO, and Chairman of the Board come strolling out. These are white collar men who have never heard the term casual Friday, in suits I can coolly appraise around $2k and shoes meticulously shined to a mirror sheen. The Chairman (whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but am impressed by his record of many years as the CEO of our music company) takes a look at me and remarks, “That’s the coolest looking guy I’ve ever seen hanging out in front of our building”.

Now my first reaction is to blush a bit and fumble my words, because I am not sure if they’re making fun of me or not. The CEO and CFO introduce me and I am promptly invited out to lunch at the cafe down the block with three of the wealthiest and most successful men I’ll probably ever meet.

I did most of the talking, though I’m wisely tight lipped about most of my past, what seems to impress them the most is the admission that I am a high school dropout who never finished community college. While these three
gentlemen hold master’s degrees in accounting and business, they are extremely eager to hear my opinion of the organization, both as an hourly wage employee and as a newcomer to Los Angeles, taking my first tip toeing steps towards discovering my own identity as a Jewish person.

“Where is the representation for culture?” is my number one question to everyone I work with. I code pages and event forms every day for the silver spoon crowd – lawyers, real estate investors, and film producers. These people are fourth generation and up of affluent Angelino society. They had valet park their Mercedes for the networking meeting – I took the bus. My question to these community leaders was this – within the Jewish community, am I simply not Jewish enough? If we are supposed to bind together as Jews in the face of adversity, does classism still exist within our own institution?

Apparently these are important questions to ask, as I now have an official meeting with them after the holidays and an invitation to join the young adults’ leadership development program. A cool guy dressed all in black who’s not afraid to ask a trio of millionaires why our organization overlooks artists and musicians seems like exactly the kind of person who needs to be in a community leadership role here in Los Angeles.

Help Absolutely Abby’s 2015 Tour Be Successful

I met Absolutely Abby a couple of years ago when she came to Rochester, NY. Since then, she’s been back three times. Two months ago, I moved to Charlotte, NC and she’s already been there too.

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Abby is on a mission. It’s very simple. She wants to help one million (1,000,000) people get back to work. She figures she has said no to at least that many when she was a recruiter and could only hire one person for a job. She’s looking to pay it forward by helping others be successful.

Talking to that many people is a lot of work. It requires her to travel across the country and find places and organizations where she can speak and share her secrets. She has lots of secrets to share – I have heard most of her presentations and every time she leaves people in a better place to land their next job. She tells them what companies and recruiters won’t tell you. Armed with that information, it puts you in a better position to navigate murky job hunting waters.

Here are some of the articles I have shared over the years about her talks:

To continue her work, she needs the support of YOU and OTHERS. Every bit helps – just a $5 pledge from 15,000 people would help her reach her goal of $75,000.

I spoke with her today about not knowing she had the crowd-sourcing campaign running because we’ve become friends. If I don’t know, then I know others don’t know. She says asking for help is uncomfortable. I get it. You get it. The only way we can help someone feel good about asking for help is to help them when they do ask.

I like to think of my personal contribution as a pay it forward. I have not needed her help personally because I am not out of work. However, I have worked with many people who have benefited from her sage advice. I am sure you have too and if not, all the more reason to keep her on tour to get to your friends, family and colleagues.

There are only a few days left for YOU to make a difference and pay it forward to someone who is looking for work.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do to help Abby reach 1,000,000 people:

  1.  Visit and watch the video.
  2. Share this link on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles and tell them why contributing $5 will help one million people get back to work.
  3. Blog about how Abby’s efforts help our workforce to become stronger.
  4. Share the site via email with everyone that you know that can afford $5 –family members, employed friends, college alumni, etc. Ask them to give $5 and to share the link on their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles.

Know that when you’re done, you have paid it forward to someone who needs help to find a job and will be thankful for your generosity.

Strategies to Overcome Unemployment

Let’s face it – how to overcome unemployment is difficult – especially when you are in the middle of it. Confidence is low because you may have just gotten laid off or fired from your last job.

While it seems brutal and personal, being let go is the process that companies use to:

  • Right size their staffs
  • Let people go that are not a good fit with their culture
  • Move poorer performers out to bring in high performers

So what are the best strategies to overcome unemployment? The first and most obvious one is to avoid being laid off or fired in the first place. I realize if you are unemployed right now, this may smack you in the face a bit, however, the more you know about how things work; the better you can strategize and position yourself not to get laid off in the future.

Here are some things to remember. Companies keep employees:

  • With critical skills – If there is not some skill or ability that differentiates you from the person working next to you, you are at risk. Get the training you need in your industry or profession. The more specialized your skill is, the better.
  • That are high performers – Whatever it is you do – generate revenue or save the company money – do it better than anyone else. If you are looking for a job, make sure you highlight your accomplishments on your resume or in your cover letter. Give the employer are reason to want to talk to you!
  • Who get along with others – You don’t have to schmooz to get along with other people. Be known as the person who everyone wants on their team or is a go-to-person because of your contributions.  Extend that same philosophy with your outside networks – job hunting, social and professional groups.  Bottom line – people help people they like.

Now that you know how companies evaluate who to keep, use that information in the next set of strategies.

Other strategies to overcome unemployment include:

  1. Make good decisions on the companies you want to work for. Don’t just accept any job – accept a job that has a good culture fit.
  2. In the interviewing process, are you being an active participant? Remember you are evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you.
  3. Get comfortable with networking. More often than not, it is who you know that opens the door to the job. If you are relying on online services for finding your next position, you are severely limiting your opportunities to find the perfect job.
  4. Let all your friends and family know you are looking for a job and what kind of job you want. Most people really don’t know what you do so it is up to you to educate them. Tell them about your specialized skills or your accomplishments.  Chances are if they don’t know they won’t ask because they don’t want to appear uninformed.

To summarize, the best way to overcome unemployment is for the company never to want to let you go…and if you are looking for a new company – let them know why they need to snatch you up.

How to Find out About Your Career Progression

You may have joined a new organization or you have been in a job for a while and you are curious about what kind of career progression your company offers you. How do you find out about it?

There are a number of people in your organization that can help you answer that question and who those people are will depend on the size of your organization or company. The larger the company, the more specialized the roles in the human resources department and that will decide who you should be approaching.

Who Knows About Career Progression?

The Human Resources department keeps information about career progression especially in large companies because it is a central point of contact. They conduct the research about positions and how salaries tie to the different levels within an organization. Here is a list of Human Resources people who may have knowledge about career progression:

HR Generalist – often the person who supports the business group or function. They have general information about career progression especially if they support functions across different divisions.  This is a good person to talk to first. Bounce off questions that you have about how to advance yourself in the organization. If they need more detail about your specific situation, they will consult with the specialists in their department or refer you directly to them.

Compensation Specialists map out the functional pathways of career progression within organizations so that can benchmark those jobs for compensation purposes.  This is good place to see how a functional organization’s career progression is mapped out to help you plan on different roles to consider for development. Absent having this information, an organizational chart would be helpful.

Organization Development Specialists help lead the succession planning efforts in organizations. Succession planning is the process where leaders identify and slot people for future promotional opportunities and create definitive development plans to aid in propelling their career progression.

Other Career Progression Sources

Let’s not forget that talking to your manager or the head of your department is also a great resource. They have may have come up the ranks and will offer personal insight into what kinds of skills or assignments will be beneficial as you move up the career ladder.

Finally, if there are people in the organization who have a role you aspire to, then do some research to see how they progressed either inside or outside the organization. Check to see if they have a LinkedIn profile – that may give you a good starting point. Once you have some specific questions outlined, ask for a meeting and find out their story. Most people love to talk about their career progression with others.

Company Posts Your Position after Termination

What do you do when you have been terminated by your company and soon after the company posts your position or a similar position? It doesn’t seem quite fair as this reader states his situation:

27967595_sMy employer presented me a notice of termination 2 months ago. It was stated there that since the company has redundancy issue. But they are giving me monthly pay for 2 months and on my last day they will give me extra month pay tax-free. And I signed it without consulting anyone and I was not able to put “signature is for acknowledging receipt only” since I just learned that upon reading your advice and I thank you for that. This is my last month now and I have learned that the company has hired new employees but for a different division but still of same job position I have.

I am thinking now of going back to my employer and cancel the signed paper. Since it was stated there that the reason for my termination was due to redundancy, but they were able to hire new employees.

Will that signed document be an issue against me?

Thanks in advance,

The situation you describe happens a lot in companies, especially where there are different divisions, groups or departments. There are several ways that companies can justify a layoff. The most common are position eliminations or consolidations.

Layoff Reasons

When a position is eliminated, it is because the majority of work that the person performs is no longer needed to be done. This is most likely what you are referring to as being terminated by redundancy.

A position consolidation is when there are two or more positions that are collapsed into a single position. Companies usually select the person with the critical skills necessary to do the work or may use tenure for who is awarded the position.

Company Posts Your Position – Is it Legal?

Here’s what you need to know. In the United States, if a company lays you off from one division, group, or department and has defined the lay off to that division, group or department, they can create a new position within a different department, group or division without having to offer or allow you to apply to it (unless there is a bargaining agreement in place).  I know it seems unfair, but that is how it works.

It would have been more convenient for you to use the internal job posting system if you were still an employee to apply for this job; however, companies do not always anticipate new job positions while doing layoffs – especially in other others of the company. In my experience, there are many divisions and groups that do not share this kind of information with each other. As an example, the need for a new position does not arise until there is a spike in business with a new customer or demand which affects only that division, group or department and the rest of the company is unaware of this change in business.

While it is normal to be suspicious and think the company had a master plan about not keeping you, realize creating the new positions may very well be unexpected. The fact that the company posts your previous position elsewhere may  be happenstance.

Here are some positive actions you can take:

I do not think it is in your best interest to ask about cancelling your signed paper – to be honest you won’t be able to do it. Too much time has passed, you do not have a good case and all that will happen is you will stir up negative conversations with the company.

Instead, approach the company and let them know you have seen the new position in the different division and ask if you can apply to it. If you have a good work history, I would think they would welcome your interest. If the position requires relocation, you may or may not have an opportunity to apply to the position if they are not providing relocation benefits unless you tell them you will pay for it on your own. Many companies will bridge a short break in service and you would be able to keep seniority with any benefit plans.

Good luck!

Are You about to be Fired?

I received a letter from someone who is about to be fired and is thinking ahead, most of the time people are scrambling after the fact. Sometimes you see the signs in your organization or from your boss that you are about to be fired is about to happen, what do you do? Here’s her letter:

First, thank you for your article about termination settlements. It was very helpful. Second, I am anticipating being fired on Wednesday. I have been an outstanding worker but due to personalities, my guess is that this will happen. I believe my manager told my coworker which, I assume, would be a violation of my rights. I am a trainer and see that my name is only on the schedule up until Wednesday morning. My manager has been on vacation for the past few days but I have been informed that a meeting w/HR has been called upon his return.

I have never been in this situation before. So if they ask me to sign something, do I have the right to not sign it until I review it or get someone to review it? You said it’s not something the company can use against you in terms of not providing your last pay check. Also, what is a typical settlement? I’ve been with this company for two years. It is a private company so I’m not sure if that changes things or not.

If this indeed does happen, is it possible to ask for a letter of recommendation in addition for any negative contents of your file be removed? Does signing it waive unemployment? Or if you put ‘do not agree’ or ‘recognized receipt only’, does that enable you to get unemployment? I have two sons heading off to college in a week so this loss of income would be very difficult.

I just want to be prepared. I contend this is wrongful termination but based on the statutes you and others listed, proving anything would be almost impossible even if I have email documentation of an unfair situation. The reason being is that it’s not related to sex, race, religion, etc. just due to personalities.

I deeply appreciate any help or guidance you can provide.

Have a wonderful day!
About to be Fired

First of all, even though it is stressful and upsetting that you may be fired on Wednesday, you are in a MUCH better place to handle the discussion that will occur and make decisions that will benefit you. Too often when someone is about to be fired, they are caught off guard and make mistakes.

All the signs you point to – the lack of work being scheduled and having an HR meeting very strong clues that you are about to be fired.

The fact that you manager may have shared that you will be terminated with another employee is not a violation of your rights. In my opinion it may be poor management practices but there are always exceptions. For example, if the other person is going to absorb your work or have to make adjustments to accommodate a schedule, then they may be told in advance. I realize it is upsetting that someone else knows your business however; the company will make business decisions in their best interest, not yours.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being Fired

Your guide to handling being Fired!

Another thing you have going for you is that it seems the company is large, which means they should know legally what they can and cannot do in the meeting. The best thing you can do is go in ready for the meeting and keep your cool. Remember you do NOT have to make any final decisions in the meeting. Here are a few pointers:

  • Do not sign any documents. Tell them you will review them when you have a chance to look at them with a clear head. Ask them what the time line is returning the information. The reason for this is that you want to be clear what you are signing – are you giving up any rights in return for more separation pay. Even if they say this is this the standard agreement, take it away and read it later.
  • If the documents are confusing, get advice from a lawyer or someone who understands how to interpret the information so that you can make informed decisions.
  • Company settlements have been less generous over the last few years. Larger companies have policies in place for standard separation pay. They will let you know if you are getting the standard or if they want you to sign off an agreement that gives you extra pay where you agree to hold them harmless.
  • Ask the company if it is not stated in the termination paperwork what the reason is their reason for termination. Until you know that, you won’t know if there may be a fight with unemployment.
  • Asking for a letter of recommendation is something you can do – consider if that is the right time. You’ll know based on how the termination discussion goes on Wednesday. They may be less likely to cooperate if you don’t sign off on everything. Not signing their paperwork means more work and follow-up for them and leaves them in an uncertain state. Personally, I would leave that for later as a potential negotiation point.
  • You don’t have to have anything signed to get unemployment. Knowing how the company is going to position your termination is important in how you present your case the unemployment.

I realize that time is tight, however, I would suggest that you or anyone else that is about to be fired or has just been fired, pick up my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired. It will help you get through many of challenges you will be facing ahead.

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