Category Archives: Ethics

WRITING TO WIN: PICK UP THE TELEPHONE!

WRITING TO WIN: PICK UP THE TELEPHONE!
by Royce Murcherson

Royce 1 ManEffective written communication is absolutely essential in the workplace. I emphasize its importance in my book. I absolutely stress we must be strategic and persuasive when it comes to implementing beneficial change.   As much as I believe in the concept of creating a smart, intelligent image of yourself through your writing, it’s not the only means.  Pick up the telephone.

Yes, we live in a data age of electronic words which has pretty much replaced the traditional, “Hi, how are you…and… I have a quick question that will take care of the entire issue”.  The obvious concern with the present state of things is the lack of human-to-human ‘real voice’ communication. The exchange of ideas in our current environment rests on three main platforms: instant messaging, email, and texting.   We’ve grown used to it. We love it. Somehow we have lulled ourselves into the complacency of avoiding a real conversation because we think it takes more time.  But perhaps, it’s time to re think this digital substitution and think ‘old school’ instead. There are many advantages to picking up the telephone.

  • Royce PhoneNO MISTAKES IN TONE – The first is safeguarding your tone and avoiding mistakes of intention. Quite simply, you avoid SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE. In section two of my book, I stress the importance of tone. It’s easy to inadvertently deposit your emotional state in an email, text, or instant message which in turn can cause unintended consequences. By picking up the telephone, you eliminate the guess-work. The tone and inflection of your voice, the conversational back and forth, the impromptu humor and discussion leaves no room for error.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING – Building strong working relationships with your colleagues is very important and can likely contribute to your ultimate success. You may have heard the quote by John Donne, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”. This is exactly right in the business world . Teamwork is everything. And you can’t foster teamwork without building relationships. You can’t build ‘real’ relationships with only email and instant messaging. There must be some human contact to give those digital words life.
  • CUTTING DOWN THE EMAIL CHAIN – Texting is great for brief questions and confirmations, but not for conversations. When the text messages get too long and begin to go on for what seems like forever, you know when it’s time to stop and dial the number. The same is true with email. These types of messages should be brief, and should not go on forever. To avoid these never-ending chains, pick up the phone. One five-minute conversation could be equal to fourteen emails.
  • IMMEDIATE RESPONSE – Writing takes time. Time is precious during the workday. Why wait for a reply to an email, when you can get your answer much faster. Remember, everyone’s inbox is full. When you send an email, you get prioritized. Don’t get prioritized. Get your answer quickly.

For an expanded discussions on business writing and workplace etiquette, see my book:

Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

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For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.

 

 


Five Tough Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Soft Skills
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Are you a team player?

“Mastering technology to get a job and keep a job is a fact of life. Yet, technical skills alone are not an avenue to advancement. For career resilience, it’s important to connect with others in authentic and meaningful ways. That means pairing digital skills with soft skills—behaviors, practices and core values.”

The above is a quote from an article on the IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) Web site.  The article appeared in the association’s January/February 2015 publication. You should be able to answer “Yes” to all but one of the questions.  See if you can determine which question’s answer is a definite “No.”

These five questions should be reviewed often!  If you are happy with the job you currently have, a reminder of the specifics of these questions will assist you in keeping that job for as long as possible.

Here is a link to the article:  Five Tough Questions


 

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.


Make Your Business Charts More Effective!

06-30-2014 Effective Charts Thinkstock Photos 164540686Take a “working” tip from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication course:

Tip: Understand that the use of charts in today’s communications is accepted, and actually expected, as a way of getting your readers to understand your message faster and easier.

So what can you do to make your charts more effective?—in essence how can you make your charts “do the talking?”

Consider these six key points when creating business charts:

Effective Business Charts

If you want to improve your written communication skills, consider taking POFT 2312 Business Correspondence & Communication, which a course in the BOSS program at Richland College. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  bjones@dcccd.edu 972-238-6215.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a free version of Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus (or 2011 on the Mac) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.

Sources:

Bovee, John V. Thill and Courtland L. Excellence in Business Communication. 11th. Boston: Pearson, 2015.

HubSpot. Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts and Graphs. 2014. Document. 21 June 2014. <http://offers.hubspot.com/data-visualization-guide>.

Visage. A Business Guide to Visual Communication. 2014. Document. 21 June 2014. <http://visage.co>.

 


WRITING TO WIN: Boost Your Job Application to the Top!

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonUsing the Toulmin Model to Write Persuasive Job Application Letters–One of the most effective ways to write persuasive job application letters is to use the Toulmin Model of Argumentation. This model is based on the work of Stephen Toulmin in his book, The Uses of Argument.

Persuasive job application letters are also arguments. You are arguing for your future. You are selling the idea of you being the best person for the job. And to sell yourself effectively, you will need to understand the three essentials in job application letters. These essentials are found in the Toulmin Model.

Three Essentials
Claim – This is a straightforward declarative statement. It could be something as simple as completing the sentence, “My years of experience and broad knowledge of financial analysis make me supremely qualified for this position.”
Support – It can emphasize work experience, or if recently graduated, emphasize academic accomplishments
Employer Expectations – Assumptions as to what the employer expects in a prospective employee

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Types of Letters
Job application letters sometimes called cover letters will work in tandem with the resume. The cover letter puts forth a claim that you are the best candidate for the job while at the same time addressing the prospective employer’s stated or unstated expectations.

There are several types:

  • Letters that respond to a job opening
  • Letters that are general inquiries when no specific opening has been posted
  • Letters that are targeted inquiries when you are interested in a specific job
  • Follow up letters such as a post-interview letter

All of these letters should include the Three Essentials:

  1. Claim – Why you are the best person for the job
  2. Support – Reasons why you are the best person for the job
  3. Employer Expectations – Attributes the employer will want to see in you

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2The Need to Know Employer Expectations
After your initial claim, you must address the prospective employer’s expectations. Remember ‘the need to know’ mentioned in my previous blog?  The need to know your reader or prospective employer is very important. You must try to figure out what qualities and skills the employer will want in a new employee. You’re probably thinking, how do I figure this out? This is how you do it.

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3Ask Yourself One Simple Question…
Why would this person want to hire me? Remember these are only assumptions, but common sense assumptions, so make a list. It might be reasons like experience, education, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills.  Writing about yourself in these areas will help to address unanswered questions the prospective employer may have about you.

How You Can Remove Some of the Guess Work?
Research the Employer – Locate all relevant information on the company such as corporate vision, profit and loss, stock performance, and long term industry outlook. Knowing something about the company demonstrates your interest.
Research the Position – Locate information on salary range, customary duties and responsibilities, potential for growth.

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_4Persuasion is Power!
Understanding the art of persuasion, the power it wields, and the success it can yield is absolutely necessary in the job search. You will have many opportunities to sell your ideas when you’re on the job, but first you will need to land the job. And to do this, you will need the best tools. Think of the Toulmin Model as a new kind of toolbox, one that contains the essentials of success.

For a more expanded discussion on writing persuasive job application letters  and using the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, PhD,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge University Press. New York, 1958.

This article is the last in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, PhD, on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu  972-238-6215.


Writing to Win: The Need to Know

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonWhen it comes to your career, what do you need to know? You are thinking, ‘I need to know the way to success’.  Life coaches and motivational books that encourage personal achievement will generally push ‘the art of the sell’. In plain language, you need to know the best way to sell yourself and promote your abilities. Why? The benefits are large.

From day one on the job, you’ll be writing your narrative, your story that will create an image along your career path.  The quality of your story will depend on communicating persuasively.  This is because you’ll be selling your ideas, solutions, and improvements which will get the attention of those in control of your professional future.  Your ideas will be communicated in the form of persuasive business documents: email, memos, reports and proposals.

What is the best outcome?  Think résumé. Think being able to say SOLD!  Each time your ideas or solutions are implemented, you can add them to your list of accomplishments.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ’S]

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1How do you get the best outcome?

You need to know your audience. This is imperative.  Know the ‘readers’ of your documents.  Think of them as ‘buyers’. You are the seller. They are the buyers.

 

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2Who exactly are the ‘readers’?

Your readers will be your bosses and colleagues.  Creating an impression that promotes your ability to communicate clearly and persuasively is directly related to your level of success.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3What does it mean ‘to know your readers’?

To know your reader is to have a good idea of the position your reader takes on issues in the workplace. Your bosses will need to be persuaded to accept your good ideas, solutions, and improvements. In order to persuade your readers, you must have knowledge of their stated or unstated beliefs on workplace issues.  Meaning, you must be familiar with their thoughts and assumptions in areas of the business, particularly those for which you are offering improvements.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_4How do you go about ‘knowing your reader’?

  • Be diligent on the job. Stay informed.  Engage your colleagues in meaningful conversations on job-related issues.
  • Be aware of your boss’s success objectives. These are specific things that must be achieved to demonstrate success in your department.

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_5How do you use this knowledge?

When you have a strong idea of what may be going on in the mind of your boss, you will have a strong idea of how to sell your idea. This is the same as building a strong persuasive document. A persuasive document is an argument. And building a good argument starts with creating the foundation upon which it rests. This foundation is the need to know your reader. Basic composition courses call this analyzing your audience. In my book, this principle of knowing your reader is based on the writings of Stephen Toulmin. He calls this knowledge ‘warrants’.  Whichever label you choose, here’s how both work on the job.

WRITING YOUR PERSUASIVE DOCUMENT AT WORK – A MEMO

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_6

 

 

 

You have decided to write a persuasive memo that will justify a change in office hours. You want to convince your boss to give you a shorter work week for the same pay. For example, you will argue increases in productivity will occur with a Monday through Thursday work week rather than Monday through Friday.  First, you’ll need to understand why she wouldn’t want to do this even though you will be putting in the same amount of hours.

Before you begin to write your persuasive memo, you must figure out what she believes on the subject of shorter work weeks. This is where you begin to make assumptions or guesses. These assumptions or guesses are ‘what you need to know’, or as Toulmin puts it, the “warrants.” When you couple information with her success objectives, you’ll have a strong idea of what type of evidence you’ll need to convince her.

FIRST STEPS IN PERSUASIVE BUSINESS WRITING

Your great ideas for solving problems or improving processes in the workplace will only be ideas if you are not able to ‘sell’ them. As a friend advised, ‘don’t let your ideas fall on the floor’. You want your ideas to be implemented, to become real, and to produce real benefits for you and yours.

To sell them, you must master persuasive business writing, and to master persuasive business writing, you must understand the first two steps in an effective model that produces results:

02-17-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_7

 

 

 

    • Step 1 – Know your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs with regard to the issue you are addressing.
    • Step 2 – Know how to locate the evidence that will serve as your support and appeal to your reader’s stated and unstated beliefs.

For a more expanded discussion on persuasive business writing, ‘warrants’,  ‘the need to know’, and the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, PhD,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

This article is the third in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, PhD, on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu  972-238-6215.


Writing to Win: How to Keep the ‘Mood’ Out of the Message

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonHere’s the thing about electronic communication in the business world nowadays. You rarely have to face the person on the other end so it becomes easy to hide behind a wall of transactions like “reply and delete,” “follow-up, clean up, and forward.” In the section on ‘tone’ in my handbook, I wrote, “Do not think of email as some protective covering.” Actually, it should go something like this, do not think of business writing as protective covering. It’s anything but…..your writing and the tone you create in your messages can make you an open book, that is, open to other people’s interpretation. Try not to let this happen.

You will send many messages in the workplace. Typically, most of them will be in the form of email and instant messaging. But depending on your job, you may also be tasked with more formal writing such as letters, memos, and progress reports to name a few.

Just as the singing contestants in the NBC series, The Voice, work to create the most beautiful tone and win the contest, you must also work to create the most appropriate tone in your business writing. How? By understanding the origin of tone, and understanding what it takes to ensure your tone is always appropriate. Because the concept of tone is challenging and requires explanation and exercises, let’s confine our discussion to two basic questions and some solid advice.

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Question # 1: What is tone?

In my handbook, I explain it in this simple way, “Tone is Attitude. And attitude is a state of mind that can be passed on in our words.”

 

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Question #2: How do you know when your tone is appropriate?

Your tone is appropriate when you take the ‘mood out of the message’.

 

Solid Advice                                                                                                                                       Understand Emotional Mine Fields                                                                                                To keep the mood out of the message, know how to navigate the emotional mine fields. It’s good to have a happy and upbeat attitude. But what about the times when you are not particularly happy and upbeat? These are the times when you must work to keep your mood out of your message. Think about sleepless nights, car troubles, family matters, and workload deadlines. These can drive the tone of your message and can wreak havoc in business communication.  On the flip side, think about successes? Don’t let them go to your head. Remember, you are a member of the team and must treat your colleagues with respect. It can be easy to slip into the, “I’m the king of the world” attitude (Titanic, Twentieth Century Fox, 1997).

Avoid Booby Traps in the Mine Fields                                                                                            As you make your way through the mine fields, don’t be caught off guard and let your emotions lead you into the trap of…….

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2

             Being Contentious – Don’t use combative, bombastic language that    suggests you are the conqueror and your colleagues are the conquered.  Remember, cultivating teamwork means success for all.

          

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2         Being Arrogant – Don’t use high flying over-bloated language that would suggest you’re the smartest in the room.  Remember, it’s possible you have a lot to learn from your teammates.

     

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2

 

       Being Bossy – Don’t use pretentious and domineering language as if you have been given the ‘alpha’ role. Remember, this decision likely rests with others.

Why is it Important to Keep the Mood Out of The Message?                                                   Know that your mood can be caused by a single emotional response or a conglomerate of them. Emotional responses include such things as anger, sadness, indifference, arrogance, and sarcasm. If you need to take some time, take the time and write when you are feeling calm, clear, and objective.                                                                                                                

Know that your readers may misunderstand and think your emotional response is their fault, or that you are directing your anger at them when in fact you are angry with yourself.

Know that electronic messages are practically eternal in cyberspace. They may never be fully deleted either on the server or in the minds of your colleagues.  

Know that words have consequences.  What you think is acceptable or funny may be offensive to others. Do not use slang or overly familiar language. Do not use text-speak. Do not use expletives of any kind. Use Standard English and practice good grammar and spelling. Stay away from humor.

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3GOLDEN RULE – THE MESSAGE CREATES THE IMAGE                                     Some of your colleagues will never have the privilege of meeting you face to face and building a traditional working relationship. They will have to rely on your messaging. So, make your messaging worthy of ‘who you truly are’ and ‘how you wish to be known’.

For a more expanded discussion on tone in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

This article is the second in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, software productivity classes, and the Microsoft Office Specialist Certifications; contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, bjones@dcccd.edu  972-238-6215.

 

 


Writing to Win: How to Survive Ethical Skirmishes in the Workplace

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonMaking the C.A.S.E. for Persuasive Business Writing involves more than giving your great ideas:

      • Currency [value]
      • Articulation [voice]
      • Selling Power [promotion]
      • Endurance [strength]

It involves giving your great ideas an honest and principled foundation based more on the good of all versus the good of one. In the hit medieval HBO series, A Game of Thrones, several warring noble houses repeatedly clash in their quest for the “iron throne.” They resort to the most questionable tactics to seize this great prize as their own. It is obvious that ethics and ethical behavior do not factor into their strategies. From that world to the business world in which you will likely find yourself, the great prize could be a corner office with a view, a dedicated administrative assistant, a six figure income, and an annual bonus with stock options.

Unlike the nobles in A Game of Thrones, you must stay within the ethical boundaries of ‘Corporate America.’ And staying within these boundaries means understanding the nature of ethical behavior. It doesn’t always boil down to the simple difference between ‘right and wrong.’  More often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish where the right thing to do may not be fitting, the wrong thing to do is not an option, and the in-between still leaves you with an uneasy feeling.

Surviving an ethical skirmish in the workplace requires a strong sense of self. What does this mean exactly? It’s simple. It’s when you realize it’s not about you all of the time. So forget the notion that a skirmish has to involve another party. The most challenging ethical skirmishes may be a conflict between ‘you’ and ‘you’ when trying to answer questions such as:

  • Is sharing a good thing?
  • Is taking responsibility a good thing?
  • How much commitment should I show?
  • Am I being truthful and honest?

What do these questions of ethical behavior have to do with persuasive business writing?  The obvious. You must be able to communicate your ability to solve problems and improve processes in a fair and principled manner. And to do this, you must be able to survive ethical skirmishes in the workplace.

TWO BIG RULES OF SURVIVAL:                                                                                            

Rule #1 – Avoid the ‘Me-Condition’

Try not to base all of your ideas, choices, and decisions on personal interest. Self-interest can be a good thing, but it can also run contrary to other people’s best interest.

Rule #2 – Test Your Conclusions

When situation and circumstance come into play, it can be hard to avoid the ‘me-condition’ and come to the most ethical conclusion.  So ask yourself three simple questions:

  • How might this conclusion benefit me?
  • How might this benefit hurt or help other people?
  • In the long run, how might this conclusion contribute to the kind of person I ultimately want to be?

Remember, more often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish in which your character could be tried. And as I state in my book, it’s hard not to think of your own best interest first. Because of this, you should practice the rules of survival being fully aware you may be engaged in a clash of conscious in what I refer to as the ‘grey zone,’ a place where interpreting the difference between right and wrong behavior can be tested.

This guest blog, which is the first in a four-part series, was written by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., who is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For a more expanded discussion on ethics and ethical behavior in the workplace, consult Dr. Murcherson’s book,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

*You can refer to the HBO series or the novel, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin for further description and discussion of the “iron throne.”