Spring is here, and as the weather heats up and skimpier clothing options abound, I’m reminded of one of my least favorite kinds of email: the “This is just a reminder” email. Many organizations like to send messages like this:
This is just a reminder that we have a dress code. Please review it in your handbook. Men, you should be wearing a shirt and tie or a polo in a school color. Ladies, your clothing should be comparable. Please no exposed shoulders, flip-flops, jeans or other inappropriate attire.”
“This is just a reminder” emails don’t work for any issue where infractions are visible to the whole staff: parking lot violations, messy desks, body piercings and so on. Those emails can became a bit of a joke. Most people know who is not following the rules because it often is the same few people, and yet the “This is just a reminder” email goes to everyone. Instead of speaking directly with the individuals who breaks the rules, the powers that be send vague reminders to the whole staff. The approach is ineffective for the following reasons:
- It makes the boss look weak. Employees know that no one is speaking directly to the rule breakers and that the boss is avoiding an uncomfortable discussion. That’s understandable, however, when you’re the boss, it’s your job. You don’t want your employees to think you can’t handle the unsavory aspects of your position.
- Staff-wide emails are easy to ignore. Such emails might alert one or two people that they are unknowingly breaking a policy and prompt them to change their behavior. Yet many people believe that their managers should address them directly if they have a problem with their actions. It is easy to delete an email, however, if you speak to employees directly about their behavior, they are more likely to change their ways.
- Some people really don’t get it. Some people honestly don’t realize that they are breaking the rules—and a nonspecific email will do nothing to clear that up for them. Like it or not, as a boss, sometimes you’ll have to explain what you think is common sense to your employees.
If you have a rule about something like that—and people are breaking it—don’t send an email to your whole staff or department. Talk to the people directly. It’ll be worth it.
Have a good “This is just a reminder” email story? Please share it in the Comments section!