Who knew that boxing skills extend to the basketball court? You may have heard about the punch that Brittney Griner threw against Jordan Barncastle in a recent Baylor/Texas Tech college basketball game. It was reported that Griner threw the punch after she was aggressively flung around by Barncastle. Who do you think got the bigger punishment? Griner did. She was suspended for a total of two games. Barncastle only got a foul called against her. It’s just like in business. If you’re going to throw a punch, you had better be the first one to do it.
I was recently talking with a manager who held interdepartmental meetings. His company culture values communication. It’s a good strategy because it means that more people are on the same page when projects get developed and implemented. Different departments have different requirements. By holding meetings with a cross section of employees, the company gets input with different perspectives and that produces a better result for the company.
The meetings were working well with many departments represented. Participants were engaged and provided good input. Then one of the participants who was a member of senior staff in one of the departments announces to this manager that he no longer “needed” to attend the meetings. Why? He just didn’t feel like it. Round 1 began.
That was unacceptable to the manager. The more he thought about the arrogant attitude of the participant, he got angrier and angrier. The manager decided to write an email to the participant. He sent an email and told the senior staffer that his participation was needed. Then the manager said that the participant was showing poor teamwork for announcing that he wasn’t going to attend meetings. Round 2 began.
You may have predicted the senior staffer’s reaction to the email. It made him angry. He took his case to his manager and complained about the other manager “attacking” him. Round 3 began.
It goes to show you that writing emails when angry is a bad idea. Even more important, email has so few cues to go by that the reader is often confused by the writer’s true intent in the email. That’s what happened here. The manager really didn’t mean to attack the staffer. He just wanted the staffer to know that his participation at meetings was needed.
Then the manager’s manager got involved. He told the manager that he was out of line for writing the email. It was a big mess. Emotions were high. Ruffled egos were everywhere. It was only with time that tempers cooled. In the end the participant still didn’t attend the meetings. The manager was still annoyed. Of course this issue could have been handled differently. All the jousting was for nothing.
It did show that just like in the basketball game that the one who throws the first punch is often not the one receiving the most punishment. So if you’re going to throw a punch in business, make sure you are the first one to do it. Then again, if you’re going to throw some jabs in business you might not want to use email.