Putting it into Practice

As you saw at the beginning of this chapter, being professional is an important business communication competency. By exhibiting courtesy, care, and conventionality, you will get past the initial hurdle of business communication: getting your receiver to pay attention to your message and to take you seriously. Moreover, being professional sets the stage for developing the other core competencies.

You should now be ready to begin practicing and applying the professional competency. The majority of the writing people do each day in the workplace involves professional correspondence. Therefore, in this section, you will learn strategies for writing the three most common kinds of professional correspondence: the direct request, the good news message, and the bad news message.

Message Strategy: Making a Direct Request

One type of message that you will have to send is the direct request. Direct requests are used when you ask someone to do something for you or give something to you. When you assign someone a task or ask for a favor, you are making a direct request. Obviously, your instrumental goal with the direct request is for your receiver to grant the request. But don’t forget your relational goals either. You need to acknowledge your relationship with the receiver in appropriate ways when you make a request.

For example, assume that you are asking your receiver to fill out an expense report by Friday. If you are the boss and you are making the request to your subordinates, that message may look much different from a message that you send to your boss to fill out her expense report.

A direct request typically follows this structure:

Make the Request Politely

You may signal politeness by framing the request as a question (Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation?) or by using polite words (Please fill out your expense report by Friday).

Provide a Justification for the Request, if Necessary

If you have a tight deadline, for example, you may explain why you weren’t able to provide more leeway. The point here is for you to think of any questions or objections your receiver may have and address them upfront.

Provide Details Your Receiver Needs to Complete the Request

For instance, if you are asking people to indicate their availability for a meeting, you might provide the options for the meeting. Or if you’re asking someone to write a reference letter for you, you should include the contact information for the person to whom the reference will be sent, the job description, and your current résumé.

Express Appreciation

Research shows that receivers are much more likely to offer help—and offer high quality help—when they feel appreciated (Grant, 2008). So make sure to say thank you. If it is a request that you are relatively sure the person will respond positively to, simply say “Thank you.” If it is a genuine request that your receiver may or may not agree to, you may want to end with something like, “thank you for considering my request,” which acknowledges that they have the right to say no. If it is a big request, you may want to express even more appreciation, as appropriate. For instance, “Thank you. Your support of my career really means a lot to me.”


TO: michael.jones@hfcu.org
SUBJECT: Request for Professional Recommendation


I am applying for a new position at HFCU. I need to get three professional references. Would you would be willing to serve as one of my references?

Because you were my manager when I first started in the Member Services Department, you know me and my work ethic quite well. I am hoping that you would be willing to speak to my customer focus and interpersonal communication skills.

The position I am applying for is a consumer loan officer. I’m attaching a copy of my current résumé and the job posting to this message. The letter should be emailed to Adam Kieslinger, SVP Consumer Loans (adam.kiselinger@hfcu.org).

Thank you so much for considering my request. I appreciate all you have done to support and mentor me in my career here at HFCU.



Kallie MacGregor
Consumer Loan Processor | HFCU
890 Main Street
Hometown, KY 40200
(502) 555-1279


TO: taylor.silvis@hfcu.org
SUBJECT: Congratulations! HFCU Employee of the Year

Dear Taylor,

Congratulations! We are pleased to announce that you have been selected as the Hometown Federal Credit Union Employee of the Year.

The Employee of the Year Award is an incredible honor. Of the more than 200 employees at HFCU, you were selected based on your work ethic, positive attitude, and commitment to our customers.

You will receive a plaque and a $500 bonus that will be included in your next paycheck, and we will be sending an announcement to Hometown Daily News to feature this award in the community spotlight. Joe Swanson, from the Marketing Office, will soon be in touch with you to get a photo and some information for the news release.

Again, congratulations on this terrific award. And thank you for your service to HFCU.


Neil Smith
Talent Manager | HFCU
890 Main Street
Hometown, KY 40200
(502) 555-2013

Message Strategy: Delivering Bad News

Unfortunately, there will be many times in business when you must deliver bad news. Perhaps you need to let a customer know a product they ordered is no longer available. Perhaps you will need to deny someone a refund or a request for time off. You may have to let employees know their workload is going to increase (without additional pay) to cover for an employee who left the company.

Composing bad news messages is a much more challenging task than composing good news messages. Bad news messages can trigger a range of negative responses in your receiver—from disappointment to outright anger. Furthermore, receivers of bad news tend to be much more critical judges of how the message was sent. So when you’re sending bad news, the need to be professional and courteous is even stronger than when you’re delivering good news.

You should plan your message in a way that reduces dissatisfaction, creates goodwill, and improves or restores your relationship with the receiver. A general strategy for reducing the blow of bad news is to use an indirect approach. Here is the basic outline of an indirect bad news message.

Lead with a Neutral Opening

Unlike direct requests and good news messages where you jump right in, bad news messages should not start with the bad news. Instead, begin with something more neutral. For example, if you are notifying someone that they were not selected for a leadership program, you might begin by thanking them for applying.

State the Facts

In the next step, identify any facts, policies, or other information that will set up your decision.

Gently State the Bad News

Now it is time to announce the bad news. You need to be clear. But you do not need to be harsh. If there is any way to soften the wording of the bad news, you should soften it. There is a difference between, “We rejected your application” and “You were not selected for the leadership program.”

Acknowledge Emotions

Some bad news is only mildly disappointing. Other bad news can be devastating. If you can reasonably foresee that your receiver will have a strong and negative reaction to your message, you should acknowledge those emotions in an authentic way.

Close with Goodwill

Finally, close the message with another expression of goodwill. Thanking your receiver or offering encouragement are ways to share goodwill.



HFCU 890 Main Street • Hometown, KY 40200  • www.hfcu.org

April 19, 2024

Mr. Douglas C. Foster
217 Elm Ave.
Hometown, KY 40211

Dear Mr. Foster:

At HFCU, we are always striving to improve the products and services we offer to ensure that you get the best overall portfolio of financial products. Sometimes that means that we need to make some changes to those services. Because you have a Hometown Basic Checking Account, we are writing to inform you about an upcoming change to that account.

Effective June 1, 2024, ATM transactions made at non-HFCU machines will incur a $2 service fee. This fee is in addition to any charges directly charged by the non-HFCU machine.

While this change may make some transactions more expensive, we would like to remind you that you always get free ATM transactions at each of HFCU’s 13 conveniently located ATMS. We have included a small map in this mailing with all our ATM locations.

Additionally, you will retain all of the other great features you have come to expect from the Hometown Basic Checking Account. There is no monthly service fee and no minimum balance. You will have access to a free online bill pay service on our website or on our mobile app. You can use your HFCU Visa® card without any fees. You also are eligible for one free box of checks each year.

If you have any questions about your Hometown Basic Checking Account or any other HFCU services, please do not hesitate to call or to stop in at any of our branches.

We look forward to continuing to serve your financial needs.


Durae Dahlin
Vice President, Member Relations



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Business Communication: Five Core Competencies Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Lucas, Jacob D. Rawlins, and Jenna Haugen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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