Communication etiquette in the workplace is an important skill to master. Whether you’re writing to staff, talking to customers or negotiating with partners, it’s critical to remain professional in your communication and follow the social norms of your workplace. The rules change from business to business and medium to medium, so it’s vital to stay up to date on the best way to communicate at work.
Follow Business Etiquette for Your Office
The culture of the organization often extends to the communication etiquette rules in the business. Companies that have a formal culture and values may require the communication to be formal as well.
This means that in such an organization, it would not be appropriate to pop into an executive’s office unannounced without a meeting to discuss an issue. However, in more informal organizations, this kind of impromptu communication may be welcome. Always be sure to follow the communication guidelines for your office.
When deciding on the communication guidelines for your business, provide employees with written guidelines to which they can refer. For example, some organizations discourage the use of texting with colleagues while at work, and others allow that communication medium. In some companies, speaking to customers requires a formal tone, while in others, it’s appropriate to speak casually with customers.
Use the Correct Medium
There are many different ways to communicate in the workplace, and there are business etiquette rules for each medium. Some examples of different mediums include:
- Video conferencing tools like Zoom
- Instant messaging platforms like Skype
- Team collaboration platforms like Slack
- Social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram
- Impromptu in-person meetings
- Preplanned in-person meetings
Always be sure to select the medium that best suits your message. For example, if you’re looking to send a long memo about a project update, instant messaging is likely not a good choice. That kind of message is better sent through an email or discussed in a preplanned meeting. Similarly, don’t select social media as the medium to discuss a critical business issue with a manager. That medium is better for personal matters.
If you want to meet with a customer in person, it’s best to call ahead and set up a meeting rather than showing up at his office unannounced. In most office etiquette guidelines, it’s better to give the customer notice about your visit so as not to disrupt his day.
Don’t Forget the Power of Face-to-Face Conversation
With digital communication tools front and center at most organizations, it’s easy to forget about the importance of speaking with colleagues face to face. Many organizations have remote employees or offices in different geographic locations, so colleagues have to rely on tools like Zoom, Skype and Slack to communicate on a regular basis.
However, when conversing in person is possible, it can have many advantages. If you’re sitting at a desk next to a colleague, for example, it often makes more sense to have an in-person conversation rather than sending an email. When speaking with someone in person, it’s easier to clarify issues and get a feel for sentiment through tone and body language, which is lost through email and other digital communication.
Keep it Professional While Being Personable
Communication etiquette in the workplace requires that all conversation, whether written or verbal, should be professional. This means that proper grammar, sentence structure and punctuation should always be used in emails, instant messages and other written forms of communication. Use the correct email thread when responding to a chain and be sure to keep the content succinct and clear.
For verbal communication, it’s best to value other people’s time. Many employees have scheduled meetings and long to-do lists. While it’s cordial to ask how a colleague’s day is going, it can be an inconvenience for them to spend 30 minutes listening to your personal matter.
However, always be personable and polite, and take the time to remember personal details about your colleagues such as their birthdays or their children’s names. This shows peers how much they are valued within the organization and leads to effective communication.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.