“Hello. You’ve reached [insert name here]. I’m away from my desk at the moment. If your inquiry is urgent, please call or text my cell at…”
This is a voice message I heard a few months ago, and I was utterly baffled. Do I text this person who I have never met before, or do I take my chance she will return my message or emails? Do people text strangers hoping for a business meeting? Is this a trend?
It’s happening more and more often — professionals using digital platforms for daily communication rather than in-person or over-the-phone conversations. While email has become a standard and expected form of digital communication, the most recent form of interaction between clients and employers is through text messaging. This is an odd trend, as studies have shown the use of Smartphones within the workplace decreases productivity. According to a survey taken by OfficeTeam, employees spend 56 minutes per day using their cell phone at work for non-work reasons. On a weekly basis, this adds up to almost an entire work-day lost.
At the same time, it is the age of technology. People are using text and social media more often to communicate with clients or employers, because the effect is instantaneous. No need to wait until that person is out of a meeting or in the office — a text can be answered at any time.
Is is possible to professionally text a colleague or client in the workplace without blurring the professional lines? The answer is yes, but there are some things you should know. Here are four tips for communicating with your boss, client, or coworker via text message:
Don’t text first: Texting should be used as a last resort to get a hold of someone professionally, unless that person has clearly indicated that text messaging is their primary form of communication. This rule can be complicated if you are presented with a voice message similar to the one above. If someone says in an automated message that it is okay to text them, should you? No. Texting is still considered a very personal form of messaging; therefore, first contact should always be made either in person, on the phone, or by email if necessary. If you are discussing a time sensitive issue and the person you are trying to reach is in media relations or acts as a liaison to another, it may be appropriate. In this case, make sure your text clearly indicates who you are and why you texted.
Don’t abbreviate: Texting your boss or a client is different than texting a friend at two in the morning asking if they want to go to the pub. Don’t use abbreviations or shortcuts like “np” (no problem) or “sry” (sorry). Write complete sentences and always use a ton of respect. It may even be prudent to include a signature at the end with your full name. ASAP or RSVP are the exceptions to the rule, as they are terms often used in conversation.
Hopefully I don’t have to say this, but do not use emojis either.
Keep it professional: Just because you are using text, doesn’t mean your language should be anything other than professional. Keep your communication short, concise, and professional at all times. Remember that texting was not meant for serious discussion. This form of communication is great if you need to get someone’s attention and request they call you or check their emails, but that’s about it. It’s also important not to text too often. Reserve this right for emergencies, for example when you are going to be late to a pre-scheduled meeting.
And in the case of emergencies, try not to break bad news over text. Instead, simply send a message asking the receiver to call you to discuss an urgent issue.
Always read over your message: Even in the case of an emergency, it is important to re-read your texts before pressing send. Autocorrect is not what it used to be. Too often people are the victim of the dreaded autocorrect, who transforms the simplest greetings (hello) to something sinister (hell).
Would you use text messaging to communicate with your employer or client? Let us know in the comments below!