Essay about A Close Textual Analysis of Corporate Layoff Memos

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All employers occasionally must deliver bad news to their employees, but few bad news situations can compete with the delicate task of announcing layoffs. In an electronic age, when layoff notices delivered via email are quickly leaked to outsiders, CEOs must take into account not only the employees who will be affected by the layoffs, but also the reporters, bloggers, and stock analysts who will undoubtedly see the emails. In an attempt to please these multiple audiences, employers—like the three CEOs who wrote the memos that are the focus of this column—often downplay the negative news or sandwich it between hopeful predictions about the future. While this strategy may mitigate the short-term effects of announcing bad news, it can also …show more content…
Close textual analysis is an ideal method for novice rhetoricians because it does not require a complex theoretical grounding; the analysis begins tabula rosa—with the textual artifact itself. CTA keeps the text at the center of the analysis and rewards critics who return to the text again and again, “slow[ing] down the action within the text” through multiple careful readings (Lucas, 1988, p. 249). Furthermore, CTA can be a particularly useful method for studying short texts—such as these layoff memos—because their length allows us to conduct a “microscopic” (Lucas, 1990; Slagell, 1991) reading of the text, enabling critics and writers alike to see rhetoric at work in business communication.
Possible avenues for analysis When applied to the layoff memos in this column, close textual analysis suggests several potential avenues for rhetorical investigation. For example:

• A careful study of pronoun use by the three authors reveals striking differences among how the CEOs perceive their relationships to their respective employees. A close reader might highlight and count every use of “I,” “me,” “my,” “we,” “us,” “our,” “you,” and “yours,” then return to the texts to investigate how the authors’ pronoun use changes throughout the course of the memos. This approach might prompt the critic to connect her

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