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The reader's reaction to a negative message will be influenced by all of the following context elements for the message EXCEPT:
A)Your organization's record for treating (or not treating) people well.
B)Any advance warning that the negative news might be coming.
C)The existing relationship between the writer and the reader.
D)The sincerity (or lack) of an apology.
If you know that a client prefers the direct approach, that's what you should use, even when your message conveys negative news.
An exaggerated, dramatic subject line, such as "End of the Civilized World as We Know It," is acceptable for a negative message in certain cases.
You should put the negative news in the subject line in all of the following cases EXCEPT
A)When the reader needs the information in order to act or make a decision.
B)When the bad news is serious and you want to make sure the reader sees it.
C)When you are refusing an e-mail request.
D)When the negative news is a result of your own error, not the reader's.
It is preferable to give a weak reason for a refusal rather than no reason at all.
You should end a negative message to a customer by
A)Restating the negative news in a different way, so the reader will not misunderstand it.
B)Reassuring the customer that you're glad to have been of service.
C)Introducing a new, more positive subject, such as a recent product improvement, to minimize the negative impact of the message.
D)Looking to the future.
In a time of crisis, not communicating bad news to employees
A)Is a wise practice, to avoid the low productivity and loss of star performers that can result from an anxious, demoralized workforce.
B)Is likely what the communications department would recommend.
C)Leads to the negative results of panic and a sense of powerlessness among employees.
D)Is rare; most organizations communicate negative news quickly and openly.
The tone of a negative message is especially important when
A)You want to make sure the reader doesn't contact you again to try to talk you into changing your decision.
B)You want the reader to believe that you took his or her request seriously.
C)The reader is a prospective customer whom you might want to contact again.
D)You recently conveyed negative news to the same reader on a different subject.
What is the main problem with apologizing in a negative message?
A)There is no problem with apologizing as long as you do it once, do it early and then move on. An apology is a sign that you care about the reader.
B)An apology could be interpreted as an admission of guilt or error.
C)It's difficult to word an apology so it sounds sincere. An apology that sounds automatic and clichéd could alienate the reader.
D)An apology can be seen as a weak substitute for having a valid reason for the negative news.
Mrs. Baker, a new customer, is entitled to a 30% discount on service charges because she has more than $100,000 in total assets with the bank: $12,000 in a chequing account and $85,000 in a savings account. However, in error the bank hadn't linked her two accounts, so it deducted the full service charge for a transaction on her chequing account. Mrs. Baker fires off an angry e-mail to the head office customer service address, demanding that the bank honour its commitment and give her the discount. The customer service team sends the following reply: We have reversed the incorrect service charge and given you the 30% discount to which you are entitled. We had neglected to link your chequing and savings accounts, so our system did not recognize that you have more than $100,000 with us. We apologize for the error. We have now linked your accounts, and you will receive the 30% discount on future transactions for both accounts. Again, please accept our apologies for the error. We look forward to serving you for all of your banking needs. Is this the correct type of response to a customer's complaint about an error?
A)Yes, because the bank takes responsibility, apologizes and explains what it's done to fix the mistake.
B)No, because the bank should apologize before saying what it's done to correct the error.
C)No, because the bank should apologize only once, early in the message.
D)No, because looking forward to future business sounds insincere when the bank has just admitted it overcharged her.
You should never use humour in a negative message.
Bill sends an e-mail to Hans, a colleague who is on short-term disability following a car accident, asking if Hans can help the team by doing some research on a confidential project from home while he's recuperating. "Sorry, but I can't," Hans replies. "We're in Bermuda for a few weeks' vacation. I'm using my son's laptop – the company's laptop that can access the secure system is back at home. How about asking Rudy? He's a speed demon with research." Is this a wise response?
A)Yes, because Hans has a strong reason for refusing to do research on a confidential project.
B)Yes, because Hans apologizes and suggests an alternative.
C)No. Hans should have put his team's needs first and offered to cut short his vacation and fly back.
D)No, because the reply to Bill will live on in the company's system. The reason Hans gave for refusing could be used against him if the insurer who provides short-term disability coverage decides to investigate his claim.

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