When it comes to today’s business communications, there are some essential rules you should abide by.
Communication is, and always will be, the backbone of any successful business. How and where these conversations take place is something that changes all the time. Ten years ago, communication occurred in conference rooms, at meetings, and around the popular water cooler. These days, apps like Slack and Skype are the new norm as more employees work remotely. If they visited your physical location, they probably couldn’t find the water cooler if their job depended on it.
Even though the informal conversation is now the new norm, the essential rules of etiquette remain the same. Here are some tips to follow:
Be Careful with Emojis.
Everyone loves emojis. (Except film critics, apparently—Reviews of “The Emoji Movie” were brutal!) However, legal professionals increasingly recommend that businesses keep them OUT of modern communication. The problem is, the meaning behind an emoji is incredibly subjective—It changes depending on who’s doing the sending and receiving, which could land you in a world of trouble if you’re not careful.
The emoji problem has the potential to become so severe that people like Michelle Lee Flores are already presenting seminars to educate people on when to (and when not to) use them.
- You may think that the eggplant emoji is just a funny little thing—But others may see it as a phallic symbol!
- That oncoming fist emoji you intended as a celebratory “fist bump” may come across as an “angry punch.”
- Just because you sent someone a winking-face emoji doesn’t mean they’ll see it that way. Oftentimes, it’s perceived as being flirtatious, or even sexual harassment, which is a big “no-no” in the work environment.
One San Francisco lawyer said that he saw an emoji used as evidence in lawsuits that alleged harassment and issues of workplace discrimination. Plus, if you accidentally use the wrong gender, or fail to use the correct skin pigmentation, you could deeply offend someone, and open up your business to a world of legal hurt.
With this in mind, perhaps the number-one rule of etiquette should be: “Just because your phone will let you send an emoji doesn’t mean that you should.”
Smartphones have changed the way we will communicate forever. This can be both good and bad in terms of etiquette. Here are some things to consider when making business calls with your cell phone:
- Don’t put your phone on the table when meeting with others. Even if you’re not expecting a call or text, your phone will likely be firing push notifications and news updates every few minutes. Many people will see this as a distraction, or worse – a sign that you’re not interested in what they have to say.
- Choose a normal ringtone. You may think it’s great that your iPhone lets you set the theme song to the hit show “Friends” as your ringtone. But, consider how embarrassing it will be if it goes off in the middle of your crowded office. Or worse, at your next client meeting. Consider how others will react to your ringtone before choosing one, and in most situations, remember that “playing it safe” is highly recommended.
- Let a caller know when they’re on speaker phone, or if someone else is in the room during a conference call. This is just common sense, and extends to the world of video communication, as well. Just because someone can see you on Skype doesn’t mean that they can see others in your office who may be watching and listening. Make sure the person you’re talking to is aware of others in the room, and trust that they’ll extend the same courtesy to you.
- Don’t leave long voicemails. Every form of communication has its intended purpose, and ignoring this is the perfect way to irritate anyone. Keep voicemails short and to the point. If you believe your message is going to be longer than 30 seconds, consider using email instead. This way, essential information will be properly conveyed and received.
- Remember that you very rarely, if ever, want to “reply all” to an email. At best, you’re sending additional messages to recipients who may or may not be interested, and wasting their time. At worst, you’ll invariably trigger a “reply-all apocalypse” the likes of which recipients may never escape.
- When delivering bad news, choose your medium very carefully. Just because instant messaging and SMS text messaging are easy and efficient, doesn’t mean they’re an appropriate way to tell someone they’ve been fired or that they just lost a big account. If you must deliver bad news, it’s best to do it face-to-face. If that’s impossible, choose a form of communication that allows you to SEE the other person’s reaction, like a Skype video call.
- Be careful what you put in writing. This just makes good legal sense. Never put anything in writing via text message, email or other form that might come back to bite you later. Pick up the phone instead. Or better yet, pay a visit and communicate in person. Your legal team will be glad you did.
If your business is in San Diego County and you’d like to learn more about business communications or other IT issues, please contact The Network Co. of California at: (760) 744-0442 or firstname.lastname@example.org