Framing messages in response to challenging business scenarios


1. Review course materials:

Business Communications, chapter 6

Title: Jeff Bezos Confronts Criticism of Amazon’s ‘Brutal’ Workplace Conditions

Title: How to Tell Someone They’re [sic] Being Laid Off (article)

Article link:

Title: A Better Way to Deliver Bad News (article)

Article link:


2. Read this scenario:


Mary rubbed her temples. What a day it had been! Managing a call center can be stressful, and today had been no exception. Sometimes her team performed flawlessly, and other times she imagined herself as the mother hen, flapping frantically to shoo her chicks from danger.

“No! No! Don’t escalate that call!” she’d just told Tom. “You can handle this one. Tell him …”

She was going to have to coach Tom about the irate caller with the “fried” hard drive, but it could wait until tomorrow. Before she could leave her office, her boss, Susan, appeared at the door.

“Mary. Good! I’m glad I caught you. We have a situation.”

Oh, no, Mary thought. Susan’s tone told her the news wouldn’t be good.

“We need two volunteers from your team to start working the midnight shift for the summer. They need to start tomorrow night,” Susan said.

“I thought all the shifts were covered,” Mary said.

“We lost two people last night and have to replace them right away,” Mary said. “You’ll have to pull your team together and use your leadership skills to get this covered quickly.”

The next morning, Mary faced having to break the news to her team of 10 call center representatives. She knew that they all had other commitments and that none of them would want to take the midnight shift. They’d each worked hard and consequently been promoted to the day shift. This was going to kill morale and cause some of her team members some hardship.


3. Take on the role of Mary. Your task is to break the news to your team in the best way possible and to persuade two of them to agree to work the midnight shift all summer. Be creative and use the effective communication skills that you’ve learned in this module’s readings. Write out the announcement that Mary will make to her team, along with her strategy for breaking the news and persuading them to volunteer. You can use dialogue, essay, narrative, or any form that meets the assignment criteria.

Write from Mary’s point of view (use “I” when talking about Mary, her thoughts, words and actions). Your paper should be about 450-500 words.

4. In the final paragraph, return to your own body! (give up being Mary), and reflect, personally, on how the principles for breaking bad news and persuading might help you in your own workplace communications.


5. Please use APA citations and references as needed. Submit your paper as an attachment to the dropbox.