By Jim Wong, CPA | July 22, 2015


Times have changed when it comes to communicating at work.

With the onslaught of so many new technologies, communicating at work isn’t what it used to be. Phone calls and email aren’t the only avenues these days, and the tone overall has turned more casual. It’s just as common for me to send a text message to a colleague, or follow them on social media even, as it is to reach them by phone.

This new era of communication tends to be more efficient – albeit less formal at times – as it lends to quicker response times and access to individuals and information no matter the time or location. Face it, the fast-paced, go-go-go mindset is the new norm in today’s corporate culture, and the means of communication reflect that.

Whether you’re text messaging, instant messaging, social media posting or emailing, this wave of modern technology has crossed barriers into the accounting, finance and IT space, just as it has sales or marketing; or any profession for that matter.

Since there are so many more mediums to use, it’s important to know when and how to use them, along with some best practices when doing so.

CIO.com recently published an article on etiquette for office communication. I’ve summarized key points from the article and incorporated some thoughts of my own in the 6 Rules of Etiquette for Office Communication below.

1. Know when to use each medium.

Almost any mode of communication is fair game in today’s work environment, and it’s important to know when best to use them. Text messaging can be convenient if you’re trying to get a hold of someone in a conference or meeting and you don’t want to interrupt with a phone call. Or, if you just need quick information like a date, time or address. If your company has an instant messaging platform and you need to ask someone on a different floor a quick question, you may want to choose that mode. However, if you need to deliver in-depth details with numerous documents and reports, it’s probably best to use email or a shared document system.

2. Be brief.

If you are sending a text message to a colleague, your boss or a client, don’t send a long message. If you’re familiar with Twitter, a text should be similar to the length of a tweet. If the receiving party has to scroll and scroll on their phone to see what you need or what information you’re providing, most likely your text is too long. Either shorten up your wording, or simply send an email. However, be sure to watch your length on emails, too. Keep your message short and to the point, especially to a c-level professional. Often times, they just want to receive high-level data and will ask you for more detail if it’s needed.

3. Don’t take anything personally.

If your manager or leader sends you what you feel is a short or curt communication, on any platform, don’t take it personally. Remember that all professionals, especially managers and leaders, have busy schedules and a lot on their plate – just like you. If they fire off a quick text or email, they may be doing so in between meetings with only a few seconds to spare. So, take each communication for what it is and respond accordingly.

4. Don’t get defensive.

To follow up number three, no matter how much you read into a message, you should put emotion aside and not get defensive. Whether it’s an email, text, or social media message where you’re not sure of the sender’s tone, take a second to process what the main facts or information is within the communication and respond in respectable manner. It will only put you in a poor light if you match any negative tone that may or may not have been intended.

5. Include your name and phone number.

If you’re communicating with someone you don’t have a regular rapport with, be sure to include your name, and if you need them to call you, your phone number. Additionally, if you know that someone does have your information, make it easy for them by including your name, email and / or phone number, simply so they don’t have to spend time looking it up. It’s a nice gesture on your part and will most likely get you a quicker response, as well.

6. Look at the big picture.

Businesses are expanding and growing at a rapid pace in today’s market which could lead to bigger teams, more remote colleagues and even more technologies coming your way. So, embrace the new communication mediums as they come. If you’re not a fan of social media, but have been asked to have a presence on LinkedIn, for instance, go with the flow and learn the benefits of such communication before frowning upon it. Also, take the time to learn what your colleagues prefer in terms of communication. If you know that your manager or leader prefers email over text – or vice versa – try to stick to that mode of communication whenever possible.

What are some other rules of etiquette for office communication? Comment below and let us know!


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