When the Professional is Also Personal

A couple of weeks ago, my Twitter feed was filled with Tweets from friends and colleagues talking about workshop proposals they had submitted for the 2012 ASAE Annual Meeting in Dallas.  As is the norm, some were accepted and some were not.  I've been on the receiving side of both the good news and the bad news.

Some whose submission had not been accepted Tweeted the news like this:  I got rejected.

Now I haven't talked with any of those folks, nor would I pretend to delve into the psyche of other individuals, but that language made me take notice.

To me "My proposal didn't get accepted" is very different than "I got rejected."  One focuses on the proposal; one focuses on the personal. It's a distinction worth exploring.

The more our organizations successfully facilitate a professional home for people, a place where they build community and connections with colleagues, and dare I say it, lifelong friendships, the more the professional becomes personal.  In general, that is a very, very, good thing.  In Gallup terms, this is a strength to leverage, one that causes individuals to contribute vast amounts of their personal and professional resources in ways that benefit the profession, the organization, and its community.  And in doing so, their caring knits a tighter connection to their colleagues and to the community and its efforts.

But it also means our organizations must thoughtfully manage those moments when members of the community are told no because of budget restrictions, a competitive program proposal process, or limited slots on certain committees for task forces.

I'm guessing most organizations communicate those moments of non-acceptance purely in professional terms: "Thank you very much for submitting an Annual Meeting proposal.  We received an overwhelming number of excellent submissions this year, and I regret to inform you that yours was not selected." 

But just as fundraising and development professionals tailor their donor acknowledgments to reflect the contribution and commitment of the individual donors—to continue to cultivate lifelong contributions—so in some cases might we want to tailor our "bad news" communications in ways that help ensure the individuals don't feel rejected even if their proposal or expression of interest was not accepted

It's one thing to use language that appeals to the head; it's quite another to communicate in a way that honors the heart.  We don't want members of our community to feel that they have been cut off from contributing or caring.

What would such a message look like for your organization and in what instances can you see it beneficial to using it?