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Boss’s bad grammar a cause for concern

Q. My boss cannot write. His spelling is horrible, his grammar is quite bad, and he doesn’t feel it’s important (he’s 36). We’re a small company and he reports to our CEO, and going to her is not ideal. Any ideas? We feel he represents the organization poorly with his written communication. Does this not matter in today’s workplace?

A. Communication skills do matter, and having the ability to write well, speak well, and present to small and large groups can have a significant impact on landing a job and advancing careers. Hiring managers are eager to see demonstrated ability in these soft skills and organizations do benefit from effective communication.

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It seems that there are other skills more important than grammar and writing in your organization, at least in your boss’s role. Often leadership finds communication issues hard to address. You are correct, though. Bad grammar or unprofessional speech reflect poorly on the organization.

If your goal is to support your boss and organization, you can have a private conversation with him: “You have lots of great skills, but writing is not one that shows up at the top. My writing skills are strong, and I’d like to volunteer to proofread and edit your materials. Your message is great and with a little editing, I know it would make everything you have to say that much stronger.” When an offer to help comes with support and not negative judgment, most people respond well. Hopefully your manager will.

Having a conversation with your chief executive about a professional development opportunity focused on improving your manager’s communication skills is also reasonable. The CEO may not recognize the impact your boss’s lack of communication skills is having on staff morale or the public perception of the company. Offering potential solutions rather than frustration will encourage the CEO to offer support.

Your boss’s age may indicate a generational issue. If he becomes convinced of the long-term value of improving his skills, he could be more willing to invest the time and energy.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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