June 8, 2010
Collinsville, IL (June 8, 2010) By Tina Seidel, President, Sanford-Brown College – In today’s workplace, there is a variety of ways to communicate yet we seem to limit ourselves. I remember the day when folks would write formal memorandums and distribute them widely in the workplace. Fresh out of college I worked for a public accounting firm and a weekly trip into the office to get everyone’s mail was critical for the firm’s chain of communication. Can you imagine waiting a week to get information? I think it’s safe to say that email has replaced the use of formal memorandums in the workplace, but has it replaced other communication as well?
Email is an efficient tool to widely distribute information without the use of a copier. Since it is meant to be paperless, it meets today’s “green” standard. Email tends to be informal. Have we lost our ability to articulate the written word more formally? Sure, we can still study English composition and term papers are still required in our classrooms, but the art of the business communication doesn’t get practiced as much. Think back to the last time you wrote a formal email. This may seem like an oxymoron to some people, but email can be formal. Did you begin with a salutation and end with a complimentary close such as “Sincerely Yours?” Maybe you have your signature set up in Outlook to tackle the closing for you, but was the body of the email “print-worthy?” Did it have misspellings or include a smiley icon? Your email messages, even if not meant to address executives or a large audience, should still be treated as a reflection of your work ethic. You should take the time to check for clarity and correct grammar before you hit send.
Do you sit at your desk and email the person in the workspace next to you to go to lunch? My guess is that if we took a survey, of the folks who answered “no” to this question, 50% would say it was because they used instant messaging to ask the question! In all seriousness, are we losing our ability for face-to-face communication? What is often missed in email is all the non-verbal communication that occurs in person. It’s impossible to detect eye-rolling or foot tapping electronically. Maybe this is perceived as a positive, but how can someone learn that they appear to be closed off because they have their arms folded, unless they have a personal conversation with someone who observes it? Of course, someone would have to provide this feedback. These non-verbal subtleties are skills that are needed in job interviews and can help you stand out from your competition. They are also critical for customer service or in creating a proper team environment.
It seems that with an increased use of social networking, we’ve gotten accustomed to brief exchanges and might be losing the human touch. Inserting a little more civility into our daily lives can go a long way. Taking the time to pick up a phone, or visit a person’s office, can better establish a connection between co-workers.
Have you heard of the “blackberry prayer?” One evening last summer I was at a gathering with several of my friends when someone introduced this term to me. She was referring to the stance that many people take in a business meeting while they are reading their Blackberries or iPhones but are trying to be discreet. In her situation, she was hoping that the entire room would be in “blackberry prayer” mode rather than listening to her presentation. Is the art of holding a business meeting going by the wayside due to email invading our meeting time? Perhaps it is time to learn when it may be better to disconnect and focus more on the people around you.
Maybe these changes in communication methods are already entrenched in our workplace. However, common electronic courtesy can be exercised to improve professionalism.