While text messaging, or texting, may dominate your everyday social communications, there is an unspoken protocol in place when it comes to texting colleagues and business associates. Here you will find some helpful hints to spare you some awkward texting gaffes, and as a result, help you maintain good rapport in the workplace. (Many of these tips can also be found here).
1. Know when texting is appropriate
Despite the omnipresence of cell phones today, not all users have text messaging services enabled. This means that users can incur extra charges to send and receive messages. So before sending someone a text message, ask if it’s okay. You can also go ahead and assume it’s okay if the other party initiates the texting. Avoid texting outside of normal work hours, and especially late at night—you never know when the ‘ding’ might wake someone up!
2. Be respectful of those in your physical presence
Whether you’re in a meeting with a client, or having dinner with your future boss, show respect for their time by saving the text messages and phone calls for later. To quickly switch into meeting settings, just set your cell phone to airplane mode, and your texts will be held until you disable it.
3. Avoid relying on texting for urgent matters
Sometimes time-sensitive matters arise, such as a meeting being rescheduled. But you cannot guarantee that you will get hold of someone in time through texting. For this reason, it is best use more formal methods, such as calling or emailing if you cannot speak to a colleague in person. For truly urgent matters, you may use multiple modes of communication, but do so only when circumstances call for it.
4. Group texts should be used sparingly
Group texts may seem like a convenient way of reaching out to multiple people, but it can be really irritating to be on the receiving end of them. Responses go to everyone, which isn’t always clear to the participants. That means they can receive message after message from contacts that they may not even know. And remember the point about not texting people whose cell phone plans incur extra charges? That definitely applies here, too. Instead of a group text, opt for a meeting, conference call, or email thread.
5. Don’t send bad news via text
Text messaging is an inherently informal method of communication, and as such should not be used for more serious matters. If you need to deliver bad news to someone, it’s best to do it in person. In some circumstances, you may have to deliver it via email or phone, but try to imagine how the person on the other end of the line might react to the news first.
6. Use emojis sparingly or not at all
With smartphones came along some fun new features, such as emoticons, or ‘emojis’. But while there’s an emoji for just about any occasion, resist the urge to saturate your texts with them. Using emoticons may come across as unprofessional, so don’t go overboard if you do choose to send them. And if do so with someone you know well, stick to the classics, like simple smiley faces.
7. Structure your text in a professional manner
This means no casual abbreviations (e.g. “lol”), typing in all caps, or misspellings. Try to keep your message brief and to the point, otherwise send an email instead. Always sign your name on your initial message as well, unless you’re confident that the recipient will know who it is.
When it comes to texting, it really boils down to responsibility. You will need to use your best discretion on a case-by-case basis, but so long as you’re responsible and considerate, your colleagues will consider your texting to be professional.
Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She is passionate about the Australian startup scene and new marketing trends.