Communicating in the Age of Chats and Texts

Joe Weinlick
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Before digital communications reigned, there was a clear consensus that emojis and chatspeak have no place in business emails. Now that messaging tools are the most common ways to connect, reshaping language and etiquette rules can help employers iron out communication hiccups. Embrace the advantages of fast, flexible communication while setting boundaries to keep exchanges in a professional tone.

Focus on the Benefits

Traditional employers have a tendency to resist new tools and communication styles simply because they're fearful of change. But taking a blanket stance is a mistake. Although informal language can creep into texts and business emails, messaging tools let your team communicate instantly and remotely.

Waiting around for responses and coordinating schedules was a constant obstacle in the days of faxes, meetings and phone calls. Key decisions had to travel up and down the chain of command, slowing productivity and collaboration. The concise format of business emails and texts encourages your workforce to be brief and proactive, sharing the most vital details with people in a position to get results. Digital communication can also create a more open environment and remove hierarchical barriers, making employees feel comfortable reaching out to managers.

Match Expectations to the Environment

Many businesses use collaboration apps that include emojis and other messaging features, further blurring the lines between casual and professional. Employees are used to speaking informally in chat environments, so it's easy to let humor and emoticons slip into professional conversations.

Setting expectations for different media is crucial, says Dennis Collins, senior director of marketing at West Unified Communications. For example, it makes sense to restrict informal language in business emails. There's always a chance business emails may be shared with people other than the original recipient, so it's wise to avoid questionable etiquette.

On the other hand, emojis and emoticons add context in messaging apps, Collins points out. Employees are better able to interpret the tone and inflection of a message and react accordingly. Not to mention, using less formal language builds familiarity between teammates.

Establish Boundaries and Accountability

Instead of blaming digital tools for communication mishaps, it's more effective to create clear guidelines for behavior. Let employees know which communication styles are appropriate for each channel, and hold managers to the same standards. Make it clear that internal messaging apps are only for work-related topics and not personal chat and gossip. Leaving communication rules open-ended can lead to bigger problems, such as information leaks or discrimination and harassment claims. When you define proper conduct, employees are less likely to behave offensively or spam others with online content using internal messaging tools.

Businesses have to adapt to technological changes to stay competitive, and it's counterproductive to stifle innovation. Business emails are an invaluable tool for remote collaboration, as long as company leaders educate employees on the right and wrong ways to communicate. Taking ownership of digital communications in your workplace allows you to influence the behavior of your workforce and manage potential sources of conflict before they develop.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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