Friday, 7 February 2014

Keeping it Professional: Emails and Instant Messaging

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This post is specifically target at anyone in my generation (Gen Y) but can be applied across the board.  Email, instant messaging, texting and other forms of instant communication mean that we are ever more connected to our friends and our family.  However they are also now used frequently in business dealings.  I don't know a single person that doesn't use email for business and most large organisations now use some sort of instant office communicator for meetings and other communications.

The problem arises when we do not separate the way in which we use instant communications for our personal dealings and instant communications for our business dealings.

You should not be less formal just because you are using email or instant messaging

The temptation to shoot of a quick email without any of the 'niceties' that we would associate with letter writing or even if we were giving another person a call can be very tempting.  After all 'it's just an email'.  But in the business context you should always strive for a business tone when sending any form of communication - not only does it reflect on the company you work for (when you are dealing with clients) but it more importantly reflects on you in both an internal and external sense.

This does not mean you need to be overly formal...but avoid communicating like you would with your friends

I am not suggesting that you become overly formal in your business dealings - especially if you are sending an internal email to someone else in your office.  You can keep the tone and level of familiarity relevant to the situation but avoid communicating in ways you would with your friends

  • Do not use abbreviations
    • I use abbreviations all the time when I am communicating with my friends - I started writing a list of the ones I use commonly but then realised it made me look like a teenager but you get the general idea
    • Never use them in a business communication - even 'lol' should be strictly banned when you are in a business context
  • Address people and sign off
    • This is basic but Gen Y forget to do this all the time - if you are writing someone an email then start the email with their name (at a minimum)
    • Have a sign off that you're comfortable with - Kind regards and regards are pretty safe - and use that as a matter of course.  
    • Have a signature that you sign off with after your name - it just adds a degree of formality and you can automate it
  • Do not get casual in the middle of an email chain
    • A lot of people tend to remember to be business appropriate in the first one or two emails that they send on a particular topic but then forget about it as the chain gets longer
    • You can probably avoid addressing the other person every time you send a reply but you should not get more casual in the tone of  your email 
There are several reasons you should keep your business communications professional at all times

There are many many reasons to keep your business communications professional.  Below are some of the primary reasons
  1. You never know who is going to read the email
    • Although you may be sending it to a person you know very well and you have a good relationship with so it shouldn't matter what is in it - you never know who is going to read the email
    • Emails get copied and forwarded all the time without your knowledge - often reaching people you wish you had known it was going to reach
  2. Older people tend to expect you to be more formal
    • Typically your advancement in a business or organisation is determined by those at higher levels than you with much more experience
    • These people tend to be older and have greater expectations of formality - while this is not always true - why would you take the chance?  You are never going to look bad by keeping your communications professional
  3. Emails last forever
    • It is very rare for people to delete an email.  Every has their own filing system but emails can be found and retrieved years later.  Don't send anything that you do not want seen or found in many years time or if your firm is every audited
This may seem basic...but you would be surprised how often people get it wrong

This is all basic stuff but you will be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.  People notice the person who is overly casual (negatively) and also notice a person who seems professional at all times.  It makes a difference in how you get rated and how you get perceived.

Although it is rarely going to 'make or break' your career it will have an important impact on the way you are perceived and your reputation.

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Note: This is a sponsored post.  The sponsor of this post (Grammarly) did not influence in any way the content of this post.

1 comment:

  1. Yes I definitely agree, it is quite tough in the workplace, especially when you are friends/friendly with the person..

    It can become all too easy to get relaxed..

    Any tips for making sure we stay professional (I know you mentioned a few above but any more would be awesome).

    Cheers and check out my new website 90Million @ let me know your thoughts :)