Let’s debate the question by looking at when email was adopted as an acceptable means of communication in the workplace and the formal letter writing almost become redundant followed about 10 years ago by instant messaging and mobile text messaging, allowing us to communicate by quick one-liners or informal “pings”. Has the advances in communication over the last 20 years created a more “relaxed” and casual working environment?
As the workplace has become less formal, the lines between personal and professional behavior have blurred. Because we are now able and do answer work-related texts and emails in the evenings and on weekends, there is a tendency to be more relaxed in the way we formulate this communication. This has also had an influence on our grammar, spelling, formatting and language. Typing mistakes and jargon seems to be creeping into formal communication. The reasons behind this is no surprise, after all, imagine you are sitting having a relaxing day on the couch all playing “Candy Crush” or watching “Orange is the new Black” and suddenly that work related email comes through. You now have to immediately change your mind set to reply professionally. This is sometimes easier said than done.
Mobile phones, in particular Smart phones, have been both a blessing and a curse as on the one side you are able to keep up with the office while on training or out of town but I am certain we have all faced the challenge of writing longer notes on mobile devices and this has helped to add to an general acceptance of typing mistakes, short responses and more casual language. Another catalyst for increasingly informal behavior over the last decade is social networks. In today’s world we don’t only manage and drive professional connections through services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter but we also build our own “image” independent from the company. Again this is “six of one and half a dozen of the other” as while social media has been blamed for increasingly casual and what can sometimes be seen as unprofessional behavior, it has been speculated that employees who used various types of social media seems to be more creative and cooperative at work, and therefore can be more productive.
Another point to consider is that there is a bigger chance that we are more likely to miscommunicate because when we text as there is less contextual background. Texting is a fast way of expressing our thoughts in the simplest possible way and deciding how to communicate a particular message has gotten much more difficult with decisions between, phone call, email or text to name a few. The thing to remember is that the shorter the communication gets, the harder it becomes to interpret.
Common blunders that is made in everyday work communication are:
- Make it clear from the subject line what is communicated in the email and if any action is required.
- Check your spelling and grammar. An email full of mistakes gives the impression that you does not care enough about the information in the email to even get the words right;
- Use a proper greeting. Addressing the person the email is intended for by name. Use the person’s title (Mr. Mrs. Ms. or Dr.) with their last name, followed by a comma. Depending on your relationship with the person, a first name is also acceptable but always start with a greeting
- Use the correct form of parting when ending the communication. This will depend on your level of familiarity with the person. Examples include, Yours sincerely, Regards and Respectfully,
- Be mindful of the time at which you send communications. It is called “instant messaging” for a reason and normally require immediate action. If it is not important, it can wait until office hours
- Avoid the use of abbreviations and emoticons. They may be misunderstood or give the impression of unprofessionalism if it is formal communication.
- Jargon or slang should be avoided as it refers to the shared language used by particular professions or groups of people and it can make it difficult for the masses to understand what is being said.
Always keep in mind that professionalism counts in the work place. “Proper English” is a sign of poise, respect and an understanding of professional protocols and therefore it is important not to transfer this casual behavior over into areas that require more professional behavior, such as in business email.
“In business ‘professionalism’ is not a tactic but a moral value.” ― Amit Kalantri