Communication upwards in IT is about effectively communicating emotion

The way I look at it, the key objective of communication upwards in the IT organization is to effectively communicate emotion.

Remember the 7% (verbal) -38% (tonality) -55% (body language) communication rule. In email we have to use words to transmit the emotion.

Imagine the typical situation where you were assigned to handle a specific situation, and are to keep the upper management informed. Throughout my career I have faced many such situations, and this is what I learned.

Typical key expectations:

  1. Regular status updates during execution (frequency depends on context)
  2. “Management summary” style brief information
  3. Be “kept in the loop” for important disruptions to the plan (they want to hear from you before someone else escalates to them!)

They want to see:

  1. Are you in control of the situation (“on top of things”, “can we (still) trust you” to lead this)?
  2. At which step of the action plan are we now? Is the action plan on track?
    1. If not, what do you do about it (or where do you need my help)?
  3. What is ETA (estimated time for arrival) for results or intermediary deliverables?

Watch out for:

  1. Who is in cc & what is in the email trace (you do not control who forwards what to who…)
  2. Outdated or too generic subject lines. The content of subject line is VERY important, it sets the tone for the message, and influences what email get opened before others…
  3. Is the key information concise & coming across in <30 seconds?
    1. Add color coding (red/green), bullet point lists, bold or other markers to highlight parts.