Marriott Security Breach


Personal information of more than 500,00 guests was stolen from the Starwood reservation system. Exposed data includes payment card information, and critics say the company could have avoided the breach years ago. In 2015, Starwood announced a small breach, which cybersecurity experts say should have inspired the company to do more at the time. Starwood argues it didn’t realize the risk, and Marriott leaders argue that they had not yet acquired Starwood. On Friday, Marriott shares were down 5.6%.

A notice at the top of the Marriott homepage reads, “For more information on the Starwood guest reservation database security incident, please click here.” Although the breach was from a Starwood database, the media is consistently reporting the news as “Marriott.” That link and a press release on the website both go to legal sounding statements, although they do provide FAQs at the bottom.

Lawsuits have already been filed against the company for failing to protect users’ data.


  • Is the company taking adequate responsibility for the breach? Explain your response.

  • How can Marriott respond to this crisis and protect the brand at this point?

  • How can the website information be improved? Consider the primary and second audiences, communication objectives, organization, writing style and so on.

Good News, Bad News About Student Preparation for Work


A survey of freshmen and seniors at 500 U.S. colleges shows that students feel positively about their career preparation. The According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), 93% of students say what they learned in school is relevant to their future career, and perhaps surprisingly, students with professional majors agree only slightly more than students in arts and sciences programs.

This is good news. But a Chronicle of Higher Education article identifies a disconnect: employers aren’t so confident about graduates’ preparation. Employers want students to immediately apply skills on the job, but faculty may not be teaching specific work-related skills, such as running a meeting or writing memos—two examples from the Chronicle article.


  • Students of business communication certainly know how to write a memo—or more accurately, an email. What other skills should be included in a college curriculum for any major?

  • One argument is that employers are responsible for skills training, while the university teaches critical-thinking skills. What’s your view?

  • What report writing principles does the NSSE follow, and how could it be improved? Particularly analyze the charts and graphs, such as the one shown here.

GM Lays Off 15,000 Employees


General Motors will lay off about 15,000 employees and close five U.S. factories. About 2,250 employees accepted a voluntary buyout, which could include six months of pay. But that number wasn’t enough for GM to reach it goals.

About 8,000 salaried employees, or 15% of the workforce, will leave the company. Engineers and designers are hardest hit, and the company will hire more technology workers to focus on electric and hybrid vehicles. The move reflects shifts in consumer preferences against small cars, such as Cruze compact and Volt, in favor of SUVs and trucks. Gas prices are low, so people want larger, more convenient vehicles.

In a statement, GM outlined its plans for the future, and Chairman and CEO Mary Barra explained the decision:

“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future. We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

President Trump said he spoke with Barra and was “very tough.” He also said he’s “not happy” about the plant closings and is hoping for the company to rebuild in Ohio.


  • Evaluate GM’s statement. What business writing principles are followed, and what could be improved?

  • What else, if anything, should GM do to maintain brand image during the cuts? For example, Barra could agree to media interviews. Should she? Why or why not?

Controversy About Wildfires

Trump tweet.JPG

As wildfires rage in California, let’s look at controversy about the cause. So far, fires have taken 31 lives, and more than 200 people are missing. Governor Jerry Brown requested federal aid.

In a tweet, President Trump blamed California for poor forest management. This drew a harsh response from the California Professional Firefighters association, which called the statement “dangerously wrong.” In a statement, the group defended state actions, firefighters, and victims:

“The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”

Later, the president tweeted a more compassionate message:

More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.


  • Analyze the California Professional Firefighters statement: audience, objectives, writing style, organization, etc. How well does the group defend its position?

  • How well does the statement illustrate principles of persuasion: logical argument, emotional appeal, and credibility?

  • Which leadership character dimensions does this situation illustrate?

Elementary Teachers Dress as Border Wall

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For Halloween, elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, wore costumes portraying parts of a border wall and depicting stereotypes of Mexicans. Pictures showing them smiling as a group with the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” were posted to a Facebook page.

The teachers dressed up during school hours, and parents alerted the school administrators to the problem. In addition to their complaints, 12 local advocacy organizations wrote a letter to the superintendent, including this statement:

“The intent or misjudgments of the individuals involved does not undo the trauma experienced by students, families and communities. The impact on these students does not stay only with them but has lasting effects beyond the school or classroom. We believe the school and classrooms have now become hostile environments that are not conducive to the education of the students.”

In response, the school district posted a statement on its website:

The events that took place at Heights Elementary School in Middleton on Halloween are disturbing and inappropriate. The teachers involved, as well as school administrative personnel, and the Middleton School District showed extremely poor judgment.

The messages conveyed are the antithesis of the beliefs and values of the Idaho Education Association and its dedicated members throughout the state.

The IEA and the Middleton Education Association stand ready, willing, and able to assist the district in providing diversity and cultural competency training for Middleton School District employees. As troubling as the situation is, it does provide us with an opportunity for education and growth so that people can be made more aware of how hurtful these kinds of insensitive behaviors can be.


  • What’s your view of the teachers’ costumes: harmless fun, insensitive, hurtful, or something else?

  • Assess the district’s statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How well does it achieve its purpose.

  • Write a better apology. How can you demonstrate humility and address concerns more specifically? Include consequences: what should the district do as a result?

Do Women Overuse Exclamation Points?

They sure do! But a Wall Street Journal article says women are expected to use more exclamation points, and they face a dilemma:

Male bosses who write in blunt, terse prose aren’t noticed much. Plenty of management research has shown, though, that women bosses tread a thin line. Too few softeners like exclamation points, and they’re viewed as hard and unfeeling; too many, and they lack gravitas.

The authors of a Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication article conclude that the exclamation point isn’t as much a “marker of excitability,” as former research claims, but is more about “friendly interaction.” They also found that 73% of exclamations were made by women and 26% by men.

A Wall Street Journal video shows three female executives talking about their own use of exclamation points. Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank fame, says women use the mark partly because they want to please others, while men, particularly senior-level men, “don’t even bother to put a period at the end.”

Advice varies, but for business communication, you might use the mark sparingly. Corcoran says she assumes women who use a lot of exclamation points are insecure and know they are unlikely to get what they ask.


But for friendly communications, one or two are okay. Corcoran also suggests, as does a previous WSJ article, that exclamation marks may be appreciated by people who report to you. This is illustrated in the tweet here.

Image source.


  • How do you use exclamation points?

  • Have you noticed a difference between how men and women use the mark?

  • Will this article change how you use the mark?

Google Admits Sexual Harassment Incidents

It’s been quiet until now, but Google has fired 48 employees for sexual harassment. A New York Times article exposed a number of high-profile departures dating back to 2014, including Andy Rubin, who developed the Android.

Rubin was paid $90 million when the company asked for his resignation, but executives never told the entire truth: that Rubin left because he was accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, then-CEO Larry Page, complimented him: “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” and “With Android, he created something truly remarkable—with a billion-plus happy users.” Rubin denies the claim and the circumstances of his termination.

In addition to this situation, the Times article cites a number of relationships between senior-level managers and employees. An email from CEO Sundar Pichai and the VP of people operations to staff acknowledges the 48 departures, including 13 “senior managers and above.”

Hi everyone,

Today's story in the New York Times was difficult to read.

We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.

In recent years, we've made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority: in the last two years, 48 people have been terminated for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above. None of these individuals received an exit package.

In 2015, we launched Respect@ and our annual Internal Investigations Report to provide transparency about these types of investigations at Google. Because we know that reporting harassment can be traumatic, we provide confidential channels to share any inappropriate behavior you experience or see. We support and respect those who have spoken out. You can find many ways to do this at go/saysomething. You can make a report anonymously if you wish.

We've also updated our policy to require all VPs and SVPs to disclose any relationship with a co-worker regardless of reporting line or presence of conflict.

We are committed to ensuring that Google is a workplace where you can feel safe to do your best work, and where there are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately.

Sundar and Eileen

Image source.


  • Should Google have been more transparent about the previous departures? Why or why not?

  • Should the executives say more in the email about the specific departures mentioned in the Times article? Why or why not?

  • Assess the email for audience analysis, objectives, tone, organization, and style. What works well, and what could be improved?

  • Which leadership character dimensions does Pichai demonstrate and fail to demonstrate?

Teacher Recommendation Letters Influence Harvard Decision

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Details about Harvard’s admissions process are surfacing during the trial about how the university’s “race-conscious” decision policy may adversely affect Asian-Americans. The entire guidebook for admissions decisions in 2014 was entered into evidence.

This week, Harvard revealed that white students typically receive “somewhat stronger” recommendation letters from teachers and guidance counselors than Asian-American students, which affects each group’s “personal rating.” The personal ratings on based on characteristics such as kindness, courage, and leadership. When writing letters, reviewers are asked to assess “consistent testimony of an applicant’s unusual effervescence, charity, maturity, or strength of character.”

Back in 1990, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights criticized Harvard’s practice of using a personal rating and admissions officers’ stereotypical comments of Asian-American students. The same issue seems to be presented here, with comments from teachers and guidance counselors.

Image source.


  • How valuable do you think teacher and guidance counselor letters of recommendation are in the admissions process? How much weight should they carry in the overall decision?

  • By definition, the personal rating includes subjective evaluations. Should universities try to avoid subjectivity in the admissions process? Why or why not?

Senators Send Harsh Letter to Google

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The U.S. Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sent a strongly worded letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The senators question what the company has done to protect 500,00 users whose profile information was stolen in 2015. Their anger stems from knowledge of an internal memo, cited in a Wall Street Journal article, discouraging disclosure because of fear of “immediate regulatory interest” and the requirement for Pichai to testify before Congress.

In the letter, the senators compare Google’s response to Facebook’s in light of the Cambridge Analytica breach:

“At the same time that Facebook was learning the important lesson that tech firms must be forthright with the public about privacy issues, Google apparently elected to withhold information about a relevant vulnerability for fear of public scrutiny.”

The senators then list specific information about vulnerabilities for Google to provide by October 30.

Google logo image source.


  • Read the Wall Street Journal article for more background information. Did the senators respond appropriately? Why or why not?

  • What is Google’s accountability in this situation? What is the committee’s accountability?

  • In addition to responding to the senators’ requests, what, if anything, should Google communicate to the public at this point?

  • Google may have been avoiding its own vulnerability.

Crisis at Sloan Kettering


Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center’s chief executive, Craig Thompson, has resigned from two boards, Merck and Charles River Laboratories, following investigations of conflicts of interest. Thompson issued a statement about his decision to resign:

“I have taken feedback from our staff and faculty seriously and intend to lead by example. I believe this is the right decision for Memorial Sloan Kettering and will allow me to redouble my focus on MSK priorities: quality patient care, faculty, scientists and staff.”

Sloan Kettering’s chief medical officer, Jose Baselga, was accused of not reporting millions of dollars he received from pharmaceutical companies for his research articles. Baselga previously resigned from Memorial Sloan Kettering as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he served on the board. As one former patient wrote, failing to disclose payments gives “the appearance of influence is troubling. It highlights ineffective oversight, with the potential to cast a shadow on the center’s other excellent doctors.”

When the story first broke, Memorial Sloan Kettering leadership wrote a letter stating, “MSK and our faculty need to do a better job.”

Thompson photo source.


  • Analyze the MSK letter. Who is the audience, and what are the communication objectives? How do you assess the organization and writing style?

  • Should Thompson also resign his chief executive position at MSK? Why or why not?

  • How well does MSK leadership take responsibility for the problems? How is this an issue of integrity for MSK?

Facebook Breach Announced Today

Millions of Facebook users inadvertently gave hackers access to their accounts, and the company is trying to fix the problem. Hackers found a way in through the “View As” feature, which people use to see how their profile looks to others.

FP spotlight.jpg

The company learned of the issue this week and today held a conference call with reporters. To the extent to which Facebook could manage the story, it’s the perfect day for such a report, when the country is focused on whether lawmakers will support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court despite allegations of sexual assault.

On the conference call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed that fighting hackers is an ongoing concern:

"This is a really serious security issue. This underscores there are just constant attacks from people who are trying to take over accounts and steal information from our community. This is going to be an ongoing effort." 

Facebook’s VP of product development posted a “Security Update” statement on Facebook’s news site, including this reassurance:

“People’s privacy and security is incredibly important, and we’re sorry this happened. It’s why we’ve taken immediate action to secure these accounts and let users know what happened.”

Cover image source. Spotlight image source.


  • Do you agree that Facebook timed the announcement when a bigger story would likely overshadow the news? Or am I just cynical?

  • Assess the Security Update as a persuasive message. Describe the tone and organizational strategy. How well does the statement achieve its objectives?

  • How well does the company take responsibility for what happened?

Google CEO: No Political Bias

Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote an email to staff with a clear message: Google does not have a political bias in search results. Pichai is responding to President Trump’s allegations as well as his own employees’ concerns about suppressing conservative news.

In one part of the email, he writes,

Google search.png

“Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our Search results for a political end. This is absolutely false. We do not bias our products to favor any political agenda. The trust our users place in us is our greatest asset and we must always protect it. If any Googler ever undermines that trust, we will hold them accountable.”

Pichai may also be defending the results of an internal email chain in which employees discussed ideas for including information in search results. Here we see some of the internal debate:

“Can we launch an ephemeral experience that includes Highlights, up-to-date info from the US State Dept, DHS, links to donate to ACLU, etc?” the email added.

Several officials responded favorably to the overall idea. “We’re absolutely in…Anything you need,” one wrote.

But a public-affairs executive wrote: “Very much in favor of Google stepping up, but just have a few questions on this,” including “how partisan we want to be on this.”

“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” the public-affairs executive said. “Is that accurate? If so, would we be willing to open access to highlights to [organizations] that…actually support the ban?”

Pichai image source.


  • Read Pichai’s entire email to staff. Who is the audience and what are Pichai’s communication objectives? How well does he meet them? What organizational structure does Pichai use?

  • How well does Pichai take and assign accountability about Google’s search debate?

  • What’s your view of the internal email discussion? What, if anything, surprises you about this discussion? It was, of course, intended to stay internal.

Changes at Riot Games

Following allegations of sexism, Riot Games has apologized and is making changes. A long report by Kotaku placed blame mostly on the fast company growth and sexist working environment.

Trying to shed its “bro-culture” stigma, leaders have acknowledged that the company could be more inclusive. In a long statement last month titled, “Our First Steps Forward,” the company starts by apologizing to “to all those we’ve let down.” The statement then lists steps the company will take around inclusion initiatives, staffing, training, and so on


In a more recent statement, the company announced hiring a “leadership and strategy expert,” Frances Frei, who had also worked with Uber. The statement includes this quotation from Frei:

“After spending time with Riot’s leadership and many others across the organization, it became clear that Riot is truly putting everything on the table and committing to evolving its culture. In my interactions with Rioters, I’ve seen extraordinary levels of engagement on these issues across the company. Every Rioter with whom I’ve met truly cares about inclusion, which means real change is possible. Riot isn’t interested simply in fixing problems on the surface, it has the ambition to be an industry leader and to provide a roadmap for others to follow. I share that ambition and am eager to help Riot navigate this process.”

Frei image source.


  • Read Kotaku’s report. How credible do you find the investigation and reporting? What could increase the credibility?

  • Assess Riot Games’ statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How do the organization, writing style, and tone affect your assessment?

  • Now assess the statement about Frei. What’s your view of including Frei’s statement? What else, if anything, should be included in the statement?

  • Overall, how well is Riot Games demonstrating accountability? What other leadership character dimensions are demonstrated?

Can You Identify Fake Facebook Pages?

A New York Times article asks readers to spot deceiving Facebook accounts based on posts. In the example below, which is from a fake page? 

FB posts.JPG
FB Post 2.JPG

If you guessed the one on the right, you are correct. The best indicator, according to the article, is the poor word choice and grammar at the top of the post: "live" should be "leave," and "End of the story" is atypical English and should read "End of story." Particularly to identify Russian posts, look for missing or misused articles (a, an, the). 

But some posters are getting more clever. In the example at right, we see that text is lifted from another source, so the writing style and grammar sound like native English. 

I just re-read 2017 Facebook guidelines about spotting fake news. Interestingly, the advice doesn't include looking carefully at grammar, proofreading, and punctuation. 

Cover image source.


  • In a way, aren't we giving into our biases if we assume that posts with poor grammar are from international sources that lack credibility? How do you reconcile this approach to spotting fake news?
  • How confident are you in spotting posts from credible sources? Under what circumstances have you been fooled in the past? 

In-N-Out Responds to Boycott


Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party, called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger for donating $25,000 to the GOP, but the company had a strong defense. Bauman tweeted to his 11,000 followers:

“Et tu In-N-Out? Tens of thousands of dollars donated to the California Republican Party . . . it’s time to #BoycottInNOut — let Trump and his cronies support these creeps . . . perhaps animal style!”

But Bauman didn't get support from his party. A spokesperson said, "It was his personal tweet and doesn’t reflect party policy. That said, he is giving force to a sentiment many people feel right now. Which is that, in this era, with the stakes so high, engaging in things like personal boycotts is a way for people to effect change.”

The California Republican Party also disputed the call:

“I have no idea what possessed the California Democrat Party chairman to attack a California institution like In-N-Out, especially considering the fact that the organization gave more money to Democrats than Republicans recently. I’m sure he got many angry phone calls from Democrats who have benefited from In-N-Out’s generosity, and that’s why he not only went dark following the tweet, but forced the party’s spokesperson to distance the party from the comments.”

In response to the charge, In-N-Out defended its giving and other practices.

Image source.


  • Like the Facebook employees' call to join a FB group, calling for a boycott is one way to get attention. In this case, is a boycott a good strategy? Why or why not?
  • Analyze In-N-Out's statement. How well does the company defend itself against the boycott?

Facebook Memo from Conservative Employees

FB Group.PNG

Reminiscent of last year's Google memo titled "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber," a group of politically conservative employees at Facebook wrote a memo titled "We Have a Problem With Political Diversity." The message is similar: employees who hold conservative views do not feel included at the company.

The memo emphasizes two major points:

  • "We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views."
  • "We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically."

The writer includes some evidence, and business communication students may want more. The end of the memo, which is much shorter and less divisive than Google's, includes a call to action: for interested employees to join a Facebook group, now showing 1422 members.


  • Assess the memo for organization. Are the headings clear and parallel? What are the strengths, and what could be improved?
  • Now assess the evidence. Which facts and examples do you find most and least convincing? What additional evidence would improve the arguments?
  • What's your view of the employees' approach? Do you find the memo and call to join a Facebook group an effective choice for the company? What could be some alternatives? 
  • In what ways is this situation an example of diversity and inclusion at Facebook?
  • In what ways does the memo demonstrate courage?

SodaStream Acquisition Communications

Pepsi will acquire SodaStream, which makes sense given declining sales of sugary drinks and bottled water, and increasing sales of sparkling water.


As we might expect, the press release focuses on Pepsi's "growing water portfolio" and its goal of "reducing the amount of waste generated." Incoming CEO and President Ramon Laguarta emphasized the strategic match between the two companies:

"SodaStream is highly complementary and incremental to our business, adding to our growing water portfolio, while catalyzing our ability to offer personalized in-home beverage solutions around the world. From breakthrough innovations like Drinkfinity to beverage dispensing technologies like Spire for foodservice and Aquafina water stations for workplaces and colleges, PepsiCo is finding new ways to reach consumers beyond the bottle, and today's announcement is fully in line with that strategy."

A Wall Street Journal article included a clear, simple column chart showing the dramatic increase in seltzer water.

Image source.


  • What is not said in the press release? What, if anything else, should be included?
  • Pepsi's former CEO was Indra Nooyi, one of the few women running Fortune 500 companies, just announced her departure after 12 years. How, if at all, do you think the acquisition timing is relevant?
  • What visual design principles are illustrated in the column chart?


Pope Francis's Letter

Pope Francis has joined the conversation about sexual abuse in the Catholic church after 1,000 victims and 300 perpetrators were identified by a grand jury investigation report in Pennsylvania. The report also revealed how the church systematically covered up the abuse over a 70-year period.

In an open letter, which is posted on Vatican News, expresses empathy early and often, for example, in this passage:

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.  We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.  

Pope Francis's letter follows one by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, when abuse in Ireland became widely known.


  • Compare the two letters. In what ways are they similar and different? How might the circumstance and timing affect each approach?
  • How is the letter organized? How would you describe the tone?
  • Which character dimensions does Pope Francis demonstrate in his letter?


More Research Support for Gratitude

New research, once again, illustrates the value of writing thank-you letters. A recent study shows that senders underestimate the impact of sending a letter of gratitude, which prevents them from writing one. People also worry that letters will be scrutinized and that receivers will feel awkward, but none of these perceptions align with the reality.

In their study, Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley, at the University of Chicago, compared how "expressers" felt about writing a letter with how people felt receiving them. Receivers felt more surprised about receiving the letters and about the content, more positive, and less awkward than the senders thought they would be. Most expressers spent less than five minutes writing a letter.

Understandably, writers in the study doubted their own competence. Participants answered questions such as, “To what extent were you able to express your gratitude using words that were just right?” and “After your recipient reads your letter, how articulate do you believe they will think your expression of gratitude is?” People who received messages rated senders as more competent than senders rated themselves.

This study builds on Kumar's earlier work showing that reflecting on experiences rather than on material goods makes people feel better and act more generously toward others.


  • Have you sent a letter of gratitude in the past couple of years? What inspired you to send it? How was it received?
  • Have you thought about sending a letter but did not? What stopped you? Do the findings in this study encourage you now? The authors hope so!

Before You Hit Delete: How to Respond to Emails You Want to Ignore

Students know how it feels: you spend hours crafting the perfect email—and then nothing. You refresh and refresh, check on your phone, laptop, and desktop. We know how it feels, so why don’t people respond to emails? Here are three common reasons and suggested responses for each. Sometimes having the language helps, and of course, these can be adjusted to the situation and for your own style.

Inappropriate or Untimely Request

  • Thanks for the email, but this isn’t really my area of interest [or expertise]. I hope you find someone else to help.
  • Thanks for reaching out, but I’m not the right person for this because . . .
  • This sounds like a great idea, but I’m fully committed at this point. Best of luck on the project.
  • Can this possibly wait until September when I’ll have more time to focus on this?

Obvious or Annoying Question

  • May I suggest that you look at the policy for this information? [Add a link.]
  • I’m not sure I understand your question. Can you please clarify how I can help?
  • From my point of view, we already covered this when we talked on Thursday. I’m not sure how else to clarify my thinking on this.
  • I’m forwarding your email to . . . who can better address your question.

Overwhelming Request or Question

  • This is a lot! Could we schedule a quick call to discuss?
  • I’m having trouble digesting all of this. Can you please send back a few bullets that I can respond to?
  • The short answer to your question is . . . If you need more from me, can you please be more specific about how I can help?
  • I can answer some of this . . . For your other questions, I suggest trying . . .

Admittedly, all of these responses require some engagement, but we respond to emails for good reasons: to demonstrate respect, to educate, and for reciprocity. I would argue that replying is “the right thing to do”—and a brief response requires very little from us to be good corporate citizens.

Image source.


  • When have you written an email that was ignored? Why do you think the person didn't respond, and how did you feel? Could you have done anything differently to get a response?
  • When have you ignored an email? Why didn't you respond?
  • Do you agree that responding is the "right thing to do"? Why or why not? When, if ever, is it acceptable to ignore an email?
  • What leadership character dimensions may be lacking when people don't respond to emails?