What’s our message, really?


Today I needed to deliver bad news to an internship candidate.

After filtering his application, we recommended him to join a frontline department. Soon after, the department head wrote to my team. He recommended we reject this particular application because the young fellow had been working in a frontline department two years ago, and had a case of four-day no-show. All facts were in order, so no disputes on that. One-day of AWOL is already a no-no; what more four consecutive days, no?

Part of my job is to manage the internship program. As much as I dislike bringing bad news to people, it is my responsibility to communicate all decisions – happy AND sad.

Before my phone call with the young chap, I listed my three points of focus:

  • Get his confirmation that he’s worked in the particular department before
  • Discuss details of the no-show & how it influenced the dept head to say no
  • Find out the circumstances of that no-show

As a manager, I must go beyond ‘delivering the news’. How will being only a messenger help the candidate move on as he faces a detour in the path for him to achieve his dream? That thought reminded me of how every event is a chance for me to make a point. So I asked myself: WHAT’S MY KEY MESSAGE IN THIS CONVERSATION?

I then wrote down my key message that must come across clearly in this situation: in life we may see brick walls plonked right in front of us. It’s a test – to help us discover what we really want. If we’re really determined to stay on the particular path, we’d find a way to go around (or over, under, or through) it!

In our chat, after getting the answers to my questions, I told him that as much as I believed him remorseful about his mistake, I will need facts that can support his application. One of the best ways to do that immediately is to apply to another organization & put in at least six months internship there before putting in a request to join us. With a good track record, he won’t need to rely only on a verbal promise. Our team over here will then be able to support his application – with proof that he has gained the maturity not apparent in his behavior two years ago. To his credit, he took it like a mature adult. He was clear about my key message and was keen to move on & put his plan in place. I can tell you right now that it was a humbling experience for me too.

Every encounter is a chance to make a point. How have you made your point in your communication?

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