If you work in TV news, and have never received a harsh email from your ND or AND, then you have not been in news long. Since no boss is around you 24/7, chances are you will be emailed a strong critique at some point.
These can seem out of the blue, especially if you have a really “with it” EP or a protective AND. They often stop the (expletive deleted) from rolling down hill. Yes, it is true, most of the ND’s rants do not actually get to you. So when one does it can be disconcerting and downright unnerving. But that smack down can also be a big opportunity for you, if handled correctly.
So let’s talk scenarios. Morning crews tend to get these email “lashings” the most often, because frankly, email is often the only way to reach you if the ND has a lot of meetings that week. So you work your tail off, and come in the next day to find a scathing email listing all the ways your performance stunk the day before. As much as this stings, you have to look for whether there is something the ND wants you to implement immediately. Sometimes the ND spells it out for you. Other times you have no clue. Either way, implement the changes you can realistically implement, then after the newscast sit down and read the email again for deeper perspective. Did the numbers tank? Is the big boss in town? When’s the last time the morning crew and the ND sat down and talked philosophy to make sure everyone is on the same page? Truth be told, these zingers do not often truly come out of the blue. Most of the time, they are actually a signal that you and the manager involved are not getting or making time to “check in” and see that everyone is on the same page.
After you get a scathing critique, the best thing to do is come up with an action plan to change things, then schedule a meeting to make sure the boss likes those changes. This can also mean that you should stay late a little more often so you can potentially take 5 and visit with the ND occasionally. It is harder to send a scathing note when you actually see the person regularly.
Night siders if you get a nasty note, take the time to go in and talk it through with the boss. When I say talk it through, I mean ask for specific things the ND expects from you, then listen and say “O.K.” Do not go in angry ready for a fight. Whether you agree with the critique or not, you need to make sure that you are implementing what the boss needs. Be ready to explain why you made the decisions you did. You could be asked. Often there are simple misunderstandings that are easy to correct.
The most important thing to NOT do in these cases is share the note with the entire shift and turn it into a massive gripe session. Morale is a touchy thing in newsrooms anyway. If the ND sent this as a mass email, try and stay out of the complainers box, and get to work on making any changes you need to make with your performance. The more you sit in on the gripe sessions, the harder it will be to remain objective and glean constructive criticism out of the email. The easy thing to do, is gripe and give up. The smartest thing, is to try and turn the critique into a positive and push yourself.
One final note: Sometimes the ND has just hit his/her limit and uses these emails to get frustration out. There is no agenda, no loss of confidence in you. The ND simply ran out of places to vent, and you were a convenient target. If that is the case, do not demand an apology. Should your boss be more mature than that? Yes. But, truth be told, you probably take your bad day out on someone else some of the time as well. We are human, it happens. As long as it is rare, let it go. This is a relationship you need to foster. Sometimes that means being the bigger person, even if you rank lower. Do it with grace and humility and chances are the boss will return the favor. Don’t know about you, but I was always happy to know that I could have a bad day and the boss would have my back, because I had his/hers in the past.