Life at work is often hectic, so hectic in fact that many of us are not strategic when it comes to communicating with other members of our team. We worry about impressing clients and customers and don’t always consider that effective communication within an organization gets translated into better products and more sales.
First and foremost, it is important to be respectful of your fellow team members. Be considerate of their time and be considerate of their wishes when it comes to how you communicate with them. Each of us has our own communication style and preferences, so take the time to get to know how to work best with your colleagues. Then let them know what communication mode works best for you overall and in specific situations.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to follow when it comes to communicating with members of your team.
Although e-mail is a relatively new communication tool, many of us can’t remember what we did without it. We have used e-mail for years and feel quite comfortable with it. This can make e-mail dangerous as we sometimes become less than careful about what we write. We also tend to use e-mail when we should pick up the phone or set up a meeting.
E-mail is best used to announce, inform, or inquire about something that is fairly straightforward. You should take a moment to review an e-mail you are about to send, not only for style, but also for subject. Make sure the topic is appropriate and that it is one that the recipient(s) will understand immediately. Your e-mails do not have to be dry, but take care with any humor or exaggeration you include because these sentiments are easy to misinterpret.
Don’t send e-mails with confidential or sensitive information
Don’t use e-mail to clear up a misunderstanding
Don’t hit “Reply All” without reviewing the list of recipients
Do check your spelling and grammar
Do write a concise and comprehensible subject line
Do think carefully before using cc (carbon copy) and bcc (blind carbon copy)
Telephone and Voicemail
A telephone call is more personal than an e-mail, but not as interactive as a face-to-face meeting. As is the case with any other method of communication, we can get informal when using the phone to talk to colleagues. Even when you know your team members well, it is important to remain professional. Always answer your phone as if an important client is calling. And when you call team members, treat them the same way you would a client.
Treat each phone call as if it were a meeting. You should know exactly why you are calling. You can start a phone call with the same kind of pleasantries you would exchange in a face-to-face meeting, but don’t forget that you have business to conduct.
Don’t call without a specific topic in mind
Don’t multitask or space-out during a conversation
Don’t forgo a standard greeting
Do speak clearly and slowly
Do consider a colleague’s schedule before calling
Do agree to continue a lengthy discussion in person
A communication tool that goes along with the telephone is voicemail. You may not think of it as a communication tool in its own right, but it is. If you’ve been away from the office for any length of time, you know what it is to return to find that you have a slew of voicemail messages, some of which you cannot decipher.
Many people use voicemail when they hope to avoid speaking with someone by calling when they know that person will not be present. This is not recommended. Voicemail is a communication alternative when the person you are trying to reach is unavailable. If you need to, you can hang up when an outgoing message starts; collect your thoughts and call back to leave your message.
Don’t leave angry voicemail messages
Do include pertinent information in your message
Do let the recipient know how soon you need a response
As its name implies, instant messaging or IM is a great tool for a quick question. It is not, however, a good mode of communication for conversations. Think of a time when someone said they had a quick question or comment for you: was it a brief query or was it an intrusion? Before you get ready to send an IM make sure that it is the right way to communicate your message.
Don’t use IM for detailed or complicated inquiries
Don’t forget the instant messages can be saved by either party involved
Don’t use an unprofessional screen name
Do ask if the recipient has a minute to correspond
Do change your status to “Away” if you don’t want to be disturbed
Do spell out words-IM is speedy, but you are still in a work setting
The value of this time honored method of communication is sometimes ignored in our rush to get things done. Or it is avoided when we would rather not take the time to sort out an issue. Nevertheless, there are times when you really need to speak with your team in person-whether you sit down with one person or organize a meeting for several people.
Don’t let anyone monopolize the conversation (not even you)
Don’t start or end late
Don’t let the meeting go off-topic
Do have an agenda
Do avoid arguments
Do end with a summary and steps for follow up
With all of these methods of communication, it is important to remain polite and courteous at all times. That however, doesn’t mean that you cannot be pleasant, friendly, and even encouraging. Don’t forget that in addition to communicating information, you can also use IM, e-mail, the telephone, or a meeting to congratulate and show gratitude to team members for a job well done.