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Text by Lew Bayer, President and CEO of Civility Experts Worldwide

— Albert Einstein

oodness, wouldn’t wise old Albert be stunned at how significant a statement this turned out to be! But, if we consider the breadth of advances in technology and how they’ve changed communication in the last 20 years alone, it really isn’t surprising that convenience, immediacy and trends often trump courtesy in our modern workplaces. Email is a great example of a modern communication tool that leaves the door wide open to misinterpretation and unpredictability. Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness, (And World Peace), says, “The biggest problem with email is that the emotional context is often miscommunicated, sometimes with disastrous results. Because of this missing context,



changed either; use greetings in email, say hello and goodbye and thank you just as you would in person. Spell the recipient’s name correctly and use proper grammar. This applies for voice mail and all other forms of digital communication as well.


Consider the likely impact of your words and actions and be sure you can manage that impact. For example, if you risk hurting someone’s feelings or potentially jeopardizing a workplace relationship when you press send, make sure you are willing to either apologize if/when needed or potentially forfeit the relationship before you send the communication. If you can’t manage the consequences, think twice about taking the action.

A key consideration when communicating in any mode is that the impact of your actions almost always outweighs the intention. In practice, this means that what you imagined would happen after you pressed send, or what you hoped or expected the person on the receiving end of your thoughts, actions or communications would feel or do, doesn’t really matter. You are accountable for what actually happens. This is why we must always consider consequences and act accordingly before we act, speak or write. RESPECT TRADITIONAL ETIQUETTE STANDARDS

It’s never been good manners to simply show up at a stranger’s office uninvited and immediately jump into conversation, but this is essentially what many people do with business email. It’s always been good manners to introduce yourself and make others comfortable. This guideline hasn’t


For example, don’t say you have a small issue if you’re really dealing with a significant problem. Be honest and be transparent. Don’t embellish and don’t pretend. Although we don’t see them written down as often as we used to, rules about workplace ethics and character still apply. FOCUS ON THE FACTS

Stick to what you know for sure, or at least be honest when you don’t know something and always differentiate between statement of fact and those that are just your opinion. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY


Reserve slang and familiar social words for social communications. For example, words like “TTFN” and “Hi all” or even “cheers” convey a casual and familiar tone that is not appropriate for business communications that may get passed up the ladder. EXERCISE DISCRETION

Think about confidentiality and proprietary concerns. Remember that with workplace

Photo: Erin Alexander Photography

“It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.”

the brain of the person receiving the email often fabricates that context, and the result is major miscommunication! It is this reason that being keenly aware during responding to email is so important.” Sadly, many people don’t realize that an inability to communicate with respect and civility at work can undermine our personal credibility, strain our relationships, damage our reputations and decrease the effectiveness of our communications. In extreme cases, uncivil communications can completely destroy the overall morale and culture of our workplaces. The good news is that when it comes to modern guidelines for office etiquette, and for communication etiquette specifically, it’s not as difficult as you might think to meet modern expectations for manners. This is because the etiquette rules haven’t changed nearly as much as the technology has. Here are some easy ways to apply age-old etiquette rules to office communication:

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Ayoko Magazine Vol. 3  

Print media continues to be an important tool for business, and Ayoko Magazine’s format, style and content, illustrates how our business too...

Ayoko Magazine Vol. 3  

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