Can We Talk?

In today’s society, instant gratifications has infiltrated the workplace in all areas of communication. This has changed how colleagues and management interact. However, this change is not necessarily for the better. We have moved from submitting meeting requests on paper or via the phone, to emails, and now on to instant messages or texts. The expected response time has decreased dramatically from a business day to several hours, and in some cases down to just several minutes or even seconds.

There are some people who do not even employ these types of communication. They simply walk right into their colleague’s office and begin discussing whatever topic is on their mind. This is very disrupting to the other person’s productivity. They have not only been interrupted from their train of thought and have to find it again, but are now expected to remember a meeting, for example, that they have only heard about verbally, versus through at least an email for reference.

Communication etiquette does not need to remain a lost art. Here are a few examples of places where the most common etiquette pitfalls occur and how to resolve these issues.

Email – An email is essentially a business letter that is delivered to the recipient in minutes versus days. Email is considered a standard for of communication in the workplace. However, many treat it too causally. All emails should be kept formal. The use of emoticons and excessive punctuation would never happen in a formal business letter. Therefore, they should not appear in emails sent from your work email address. An easy way to make sure that you are on track with proper email etiquette is to ask yourself, “If there was ever an issue that my boss needed to get involved with, and this email had to be pulled out as part of the resolution, is it something that I want my boss to see?”

Meetings – It is very tempting to walk up to a team member’s desk for a quick meeting, especially in open office settings. This is not only distracting, but considered rude by the staff member and others working near them. You can set an example of how to properly set up a meeting by showing your subordinates what to do. Next time you want to meet with someone in your office, even if it is urgent, do not say, “Come to my office right now.” Instead, show that person proper etiquette by sending a message stating, “I need to meet with you in my office immediately. Please finish what you are going and come see me.” This tells the person that even though you have something urgent to discuss, you respect the fact that he is in the middle of something and are willing for him to complete his thought or his task before meeting with you. When you do meet, do so in your office or an empty conference room (i.e. behind closed doors) so others are not disturbed. When you extend this sort of respect, your subordinates will begin to extend this behavior as well.

Cell phones, tablets, etc. in meetings – it is a myth that multitasking makes us more productive and efficient. If you look in on most meetings, you will see a few people with their heads down checking their email or social media accounts. This is disrespectful to the person speaking or presenting. Set the standard by employing a universal rule that cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. are not allowed in meetings of any sort, unless otherwise stated. Ensure that you follow this rule too, so that even if you are not conducting the meeting, you are showing your subordinates that you respect the presenter and what he has to say.

Conversations with colleagues – Humans are social creatures by nature. Having a conversation about your weekend with colleagues at lunch is perfectly acceptable. Walking from office to office, or cubicle to cubicle, and striking up conversations while others are working is not acceptable. It is also important to remember the necessary separation between work life and personal life. Sharing too much personal information can negatively impact your image. The rule of thumb is to stick to neutral topics, maintain a more neutral position, and always keep the conversation light and positive.

It is important to practice proper etiquette when utilizing all forms of communication. Doing so shows respect to your clients, customers, and coworkers.