• Mohamad Tabbaa

Framing A Corporate Email

Following the deadly explosion in Beirut this week, I wrote the following on Facebook:

"I waited till this morning to see if my workplace would make any comment about Lebanon as they have previously about events in Europe, and like Christchurch, waited in vain. It's not because they're necessarily bad or uncaring people, for the most part they're not. But racism produces a hierarchy of human life, and Arabs, like others, are not high up on that list.

Our lives are not seen as grievable because violence is associated with who we are. And our suffering is not seen as significant enough to warrant a communications release let alone an impact on production.

Imagine a European having their home wiped off the map overnight and being asked to continue on as if nothing just happened.

I sent our Director the below email this morning, I suggest you raise it with your workplace as well if you're in a position to do so:

"Good morning [Manager],

I hope you're well.

I'm sure you're across the explosion that occurred in Lebanon yesterday. There are a large number of Lebanese Australians within [company], and it's very common for Lebanese families living in Australia to have family members back home, some of whom may have been injured or killed in the explosion. The explosion has impacted those outside the vicinity as well, as the country's grain supply and core infrastructure has been decimated. Many Lebanese are reeling from the situation there and it has significantly impacted their mental health, compounding the existing stresses of the COVID situation locally. It may already be planned, but if not, I think it would be a nice gesture to put out a message from the company to offer support in these very difficult times, as well as to remind employees to access the EPA if they need support. Managers may also need to expect requests for time off from employees.

I'm happy to discuss further or lend any assistance if required.

Thanks for your consideration,


It received a worthwhile response so I've followed up with a post outlining some lessons learned, which are below, as well as doing a quick discourse analysis of the framing of the email in case it helps, see attachment.

Lebanon Email Framing
Download DOCX • 21KB

Follow up Facebook post:

"In response to my request to the Director to make a statement about Lebanon, this is our CEO addressing the topic yesterday to the company (~7500 employees).

It’s not some amazing victory and it really should be standard practice, but I think it’s a worthwhile start to normalising the recognition of our humanity, even if that needs a ‘gentle reminder’ from time to time. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of not being recognised as fully human and capable of suffering within our workplaces where we essentially spend at least a third of our lives.

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned from being on Boards over the years is that achieving a successful outcome is more often a matter of strategic delivery than it is about being correct. It’s a question of diplomacy more than truth, and there are many ways one could present the very same point. For example, I could have (and have on previous occasions) sent an email criticising the company for their double-standards and accusing them of racism. It would have been just as true as the email I went with, but it would have soured relations, assumed bad intentions and very likely not resulted in the CEO addressing the topic as he did. It may have felt more gratifying for the ego to call them out, but with a different style I can alert them to their moral failure whilst still achieving the desired outcome, as well as offering a practical opportunity to others to do the same (a number of people have sent my email to their workplaces with similar results).

There’s really no mythology to any of it, the questions we ask will direct our response. In these situations, I simply ask myself two basic questions:

1) What would I like to achieve from this engagement?

2) What is the best way to achieve this?

Although very simple, this is a very different approach to the one I used to take, which was more about whether something was true or not and would lead me down a combative path, which is not really conducive to achieving results and often inflates the ego. This email took me about two minutes to write and not only got the required result but built rapport with the Director with whom I didn’t have a personal relationship. He thanked me for highlighting something that slipped his attention, i.e. helping him do his job well.

It also struck me that a number of people found the framing of the email helpful. One of the highly versatile and useful things an Arts degree teaches you is about framing, which is useful for both dissecting speech and producing it. I’ve done a quick commentary on the framing of the email attached which might be helpful."


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