We live in a new digital age where communication has never been faster or easier and it has streamlined any number of everyday tasks, but it also means the work day does not always end when you leave the office. Now you can get, or send, a work message at 2:00 in the morning while wearing your pajamas, but as in so many other areas of life and business, just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you consider responding to that middle of the night, work related text message.
Consider your audience
You wouldn’t address a letter to the President the same way you would a note to your college roommate so you probably shouldn’t text your boss using the same LOL and emoticons that you use with your children, husband and friends. In fact, depending on your boss you might not want to text her at all. The numerous forms of communication now available means that people are bound to prefer one over the other. Clarify. When you make a new business contact or move to a new office find out how people normally communicate and stick to that.
It is also important to remember that because texting is so fast and convenient, you can’t just think about yourself when you hit send. It may be easier for you to shoot off a text to a colleague when you have a thought about tomorrow’s meeting but if it is 8:00 at night they probably do not need to be notified immediately. If you think you will forget send a timed email to go out the next morning or write yourself a note, don’t just insert yourself into someone’s free time without cause.
Consider your message
Texting is great because it is a fast and easy way to get in touch with someone, but that means it should really only be used for simple messages that are somewhat urgent. For instance, texting your boss on the day of a meeting that the time or location has changed is a great way to communicate important and urgent information. Debriefing your colleague about the particulars of a meeting they missed on the other hand is probably still better suited to an email, phone call, or face to face conversation.
Consider your medium
Unfortunately in a business setting, it is also always important to keep in mind how any permanent form of communication could be used against you and texting is a particularly vulnerable area. Screenshots are possible with the click of a button and SMS communication also falls under the umbrella of written communications that could be used against you in the unfortunate event of a lawsuit. All electronic communications are subject to production if you are sued and reproducing those texts can be a costly proposition. In addition, because texts also tend to be brief and condensed the message can easily be taken out of context. Again, a face to face meeting, an email, or a phone call are all safer and more sensible choices for more sensitive or complicated business conversations.
And perhaps most importantly: Always Proofread
If you do use text in your day to day business operations don’t forget the golden rule: The days of the paper dictionary may be over, but proofreading will never go out of fashion. There are entire websites devoted to disastrous examples of when autocorrect was neither helpful nor correct. Avoid any catastrophes with a simple re-read.
Like all technology, modern forms of communication like texting can be very useful, but only when used appropriately. Keep these few things in mind and you’ll be texting like a professional in no time.