Technological innovations have spurred the evolution of the modern business environment by changing workplace strategies and processes, in order to take advantage of available tools and opportunities.
Today’s most popular forms of communication are texting and instant messaging, which have progressively been integrated into businesses for both internal and external communications, changing the way we communicate, interpret and understand each other.
Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of workforce solutions provider Manpower South Africa gives insight into communication in the modern business environment. “Business communication is evolving from traditional means of face-to-face interaction to more instant and social forms of communication. While this has facilitated for easier communication across borders and locations, it also comes with a set of challenges and consequences in terms of communication etiquette.”
Messaging platforms such a Whatsapp, iMessage and Skype, most often used for personal and social conversations are gaining popularity in the business environment. “It can be difficult to remember to use business communication etiquette when using these platforms to communicate with colleagues, management, business partners, and clients,” she says.
Van den Barselaar further states that communication etiquette creates an impression of a person and their credibility as a professional. “However, owing to the amount of messages one receives, reads, reply’s to and sends each day, we may be prone to making errors, which could have serious consequences in a business setting.”
The effects of negative communication in the workplace can lead to misinformation, misinterpretation, incomplete information and employee slander. Professional communication methods are essential for maintaining a productive workplace, so tech savvy business etiquette needs to be adopted to encourage positive communication across all technological platforms.
Take note of the below guidelines for professional business communication etiquette:
Do start your text with a professional greeting
While there are many greetings available to us, it is important to avoid using colloquial greetings like “hey” even when making use of instant messaging. It is advisable to use professional greetings like “Good day”, or perhaps less formal greetings like “Hi” and “Hello”. The greeting should be chosen depending on your relationship with the email or text recipient and the content of the message.
Do use a respectful tone
Even though sending a text message may feel less formal, you should ideally bear in mind that business related communication, must be professional no matter what platform one is using. In order for one to be taken seriously, avoid the use of slang and text language.
Do watch your spelling, grammar and abbreviation
While text language can ‘b gr8 4 ur frndz’ it is certainly not appropriate in a business setting. Spelling and grammar, without a doubt, should be your top concern when formulating an instant message, text or an email. Errors in this regard can show a lack of attention to detail. Make sure you quickly proofread your messages before you send them as the autocorrect function on your mobile device can also cause some unwanted and often embarrassing mistakes.
It is common to use abbreviations such as “np” (no problem), or “u” (you) in personal messages, however it is sensible to note that inappropriate abbreviations can brand your message as unprofessional in the workforce. Improper use of punctuation marks can also be a concern, such as ending off sentences with several exclamation marks, which can come off as rude or emotional.
Do keep it simple and straight to the point
Short sentences in email and text communication are key, in order to ensure your message is communicated quickly and clearly. If you have to make a number of points, it is advisable to use a bulleted list to cover these.
Do reply promptly to texts and emails
It is important to treat instant messages and emails like phone calls and to reply within a reasonable time frame. If you know you don’t have an immediate answer to a particular message or email, reply to the sender to acknowledge their message and give them a time frame of when you think you’ll be able to respond.
Do stay away from using emoticons, fancy fonts and colours
In terms of business communication, refrain from using multiple fonts or font colours. For IMs, avoid the use of excessive shorthand, emoticons and other web-friendly trends that create a less professional image.
Do know when to send an email or text
Refrain from sending emails for something that can be tackled easily over the phone or in person. Emails are there to save your time and not waste it. The same applies with instant messaging, which is most appropriate for interactions that only require a quick response.
Do be careful with humour and sarcasm
In professional communication sarcasm should be avoided entirely. Sarcasm if perceived incorrectly can harm relationships, tarnish a person’s image and make further communication ineffective.
It is important to make a distinction between personal and business communication. However, infusing some personality in humour can go a long way in engaging with clients or colleagues, though you have to ensure that you use it the right way.
Do not send anything over email or text you might regret
If you think your words can be interpreted in more than one way it is advisable to avoid sending emails or messages you might regret in the long run. Stay away from sending emails or texts in anger, or any other strong emotion. It is important to keep emotions separate from business as far as possible.
Bear in mind that nothing is truly private online. Since we have no control of what happens or who sees an email or text once we press the send button, it is advisable to write all emails and texts with a clear head, while maintaining professionalism at all times.
Do double-check the recipient
It is important to pay careful attention to the recipient block when sending an email or message. It is easy to select the wrong recipient, which can be an embarrassing mistake. It is also advisable to use a professional IM handle on all your business IM accounts such as Skype and Whatsapp, since it will be visible to co-workers, business colleagues and potential clients.