We respond almost instantly to text messages – and that immediacy lends itself to problems. Whatsapp and other texting platforms are here to stay, and using it for business is blurring the line between personal and professional communication.
A recent NY Magazine article detailed the use of a period to end a text message. Does it make the sender seem insincere, snarky, dismissive? Is it an innocent grammatical symbol? What about what happens in professional settings when we use instant messages to communicate? Do these factors influence workplace communication?
eWeek reports that 80% of professionals are using text messages for business. A top executive will send out dozens of text messages on any given day. The official forms of communication in the workplace that helped mediate messages in the workplace years ago have been replaced by a varied set of tools that everyone has access to at a moment’s notice.
- Check tone: When we write quickly, we may easily forget to check our tone, whipping off answers or abbreviated messages that can cause misunderstandings or worse: injured feelings. Without tone of voice and body language to moderate how your message is interpreted, extra care is needed. That’s why emoticons or emojis can help for personal texts, but should generally be left out of all professional communication.
- Consider purpose: Sending a report via text message and expecting extensive, productive feedback is unlikely. Save texts for simpler, time-sensitive matters.
- Consider your professional image: It is important to understand that though texting has become an integral part of our professional toolset, it does require some time and thought and it is not the same as sending messages to friends. Any instant message sent to professional contacts and colleagues should always include complete sentences and proper punctuation.
- Remember that it’s evidence: Just because you might delete the message or conversation on your phone, it can remain as evidence of your interaction long after. Though it does not need to be formatted like a printed letter, you should always consider that it will need to be as clear as possible, given the shortness of time that the recipient will likely dedicate to it. Read your message out loud, if you can, and make sure it makes sense and is appropriate for the context, recipient or organization.