Businesses and organizations depend on communication lines staying open and remaining dependable between different parts and divisions. Without the ability to communicate effectively, company functions start to fall apart real quick. However, everyone communicating their own way at the same time also leads to chaos. This is where workplace protocols come into play.
Simply said, protocols are internal rules that an organization's members are required to follow and use. By making sure targeted activities are handled under protocols, the organization ensures consistency and conformity at every level. The downside, however, is that too many protocols lead to redundancy, bureaucracy and, worse, unnecessary delays. This works against an organization trying to be nimble and flexible. Strike a balance between conformity and responsiveness.
To add to the challenge of managing how people in the same organization communicate, electronic and computerized methods have complicated the issue. The speed of electronic communication frequently results in problems happen faster and spreading further when mistakes are made. Smart phones, email, instant messaging and computer files only add to a flurry of communications.
Written messages, the most traditional of business communication methods, are easily standardized by organizations so they can be correctly routed correctly and properly prioritized. This is done by choosing different methods for different levels of importance. Emails, notes and basic messages can be used for daily communication. Memorandums and letters on company letterhead present communicated issues in a more formal manner. Reserve issue papers and reports for policy discussions and important decision-making efforts.
The problem with emails, instant messaging and the Internet is that organizations frequently lose control of the message and its audience very quickly. Organizations are well-served by regularly training staff on the risks and perils of electronic communication, reserving these tools for daily, regular communication and training staff on understanding how to regularly purge old communications and keep only important information. Too often, people use these tools for silly or personal messaging. The results can range from embarrassing to serious should these files later get resurrected in lawsuits or legal matters.
As part of the protocols, organizations also benefit from making sure that any communications follow clear-use rules. This means making sure staff understands how to communicate properly in writing. Quick, techy acronyms, such as LOL, WTB, WU, LTR and so on, don’t belong in professional writings. Staff should understand they need to communicate in proper language that places a premium on spelling and grammar.
Protocols for verbal communication can be implemented in similar fashion as written documents. There should be levels for verbal meetings, including casual discussion, formal meetings, hierarchy meetings, and policymaking/decision-making interactions. Each of these contact events should have an understood expectation of how to communicate, for how long and how to process reactions and decisions. Failure to do this in a business frequently results in ad hoc interaction which, while comfortable in small groups, begins to cause problems as organizations grow.
- Burbank (California) Unified School District: E-mail Protocol and E-mail Etiquette for Effective Communication
- SageJournals Online: Conceptualizing Research on Written Management Communication
- Entrepreneur: Virtual Office Means Effective Communication
- AllBusiness: 5 Rules for Effective Communication
Since 2009 Tom Lutzenberger has written for various websites, covering topics ranging from finance to automotive history. Lutzenberger works in public finance and policy and consults on a variety of analytical services. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Saint Mary's College and a Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing from California State University, Sacramento.