I wish I could reproduce human resources chief Roxanne Horning's new letter to employees, warning about an upcoming audit of dependent care eligibility for Gannett's health plans. (Most of you should be getting the letter soon; it's dated March 27.)
I've just re-read it, and now better understand why I reacted so negatively the first time. I appreciate the need to control employee health costs; I wrote about that often for USA Today. My problem is the letter's language: It reads like something a federal prosecutor might send out -- with a subpoena. In fact, I bet it was written by a team of lawyers; it's that stone cold in language and tone. Read the first paragraph:
"You will recall that we advised you during last fall's annual enrollment season that we would be verifying dependent eligibility under our health plans. It is time for the process to begin, and Gannett has asked an independent firm, Chapman Kelly Inc. to document all eligible dependents -- children, spouses and domestic partners -- covered by our medical, dental and vision plans."
Advised. Verifying. Dependent. Process. Document.
What follows are about five more graphs that sound the same. The closest the author(s) come to expressing any humanity comes in the final sentence: "Thank you very much for your cooperation."
I know this can't be turned into a big warm fuzzy. But neither must it read like the HR equivalent of a colonoscopy. Come on, people: Gannett's a communications company. I assume this letter went out to 30,000 or 40,000 families: That's an employee relations disaster just waiting to happen. I wonder: Does HR ever put a final draft of these kinds of letters before a group of, say, parents, to test for unduly harsh wording? Couldn't HR recruit some of the hundreds of wordsmiths, one tower over at USA Today?
Use this link to e-mail feedback, etc.; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.
[Image: Lawrence Oliver prepares to question Dustin Hoffman in the 1976 thriller, Marathon Man]