Category Archives: Emails

Work it

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I’ve recently started working at a fantastic new start-up company. I realised that, after not working in an office environment in over 10 years, that things have changed. And I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure.

I consider myself an organised person, a lover of people, and someone who enjoys learning, even if it’s a challenge.

My role, as the office manager, gives me the opportunity to apply all my talents. For this, I am very lucky.

But, here’s the thing… there are definitely new work behaviours, and yes, etiquette, to learn. It’s a minefield, and if you get it wrong, it can have a lot of humourous or embarrassing consequences.

My very first day, I had to learn how to work in an open seating plan environment.

A friend who works as in-house counsel to Microsoft, and they had moved too, to an open plan working environment. He found it very challenging to take sensitive phone calls, with so many people, and ears, around him. Suffice it to say, they reverted to private offices for those positions in key, and sensitive, roles.

I, on the other hand, sit inthe heart of the office. I am surrounded by talented professionals, each bringing their own expertise to a growing company. Communication is possibly the key tool that each person must master to make sure that the work flow assists the company’s growth. Herein lies the challenge. How do you communicate, if 40 people are in the same room, at the same time. Yes, you guessed it, online.

My first day, I was sitting at my desk, when my computer pinged a skype message. I was surprised to see that the girl sitting right beside me had sent me a message. Yes, right next to me.

My immediate reaction was to answer her, so I looked over at her, and waited for her to look back at me. This did not happen. She continued busily working on what she was doing. I waited, a polite moment or two, to see if she would look back at me. But to no avail.

So, I gently spoke her name, at which time, she turned her head, and met my eyes, and I replied to her question, and said a few pleasantries.

I, quickly understood, that disrupting a person’s workflow was a no-no. The company memo read;

“Internal communication:-

-for urgent communication, that requires a response within the hour, use Skype

-for communication that is less urgent, send an email

-avoid disrupting an individual who is busy working”

This happened to me several times in my first month. It still happens now, but less often. I have learnt that my workflow is also valuable to the company, and my colleagues also send me messages.

Communication… skype, then slack. What ever happened to making eye contact with each other, talking with words, sounds, and facial expression. I think a lot more can be said when you look at my face, than when I text you. Just saying

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Emoticons, acronyms and communication between generations

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Emoticons, though considered a form of communicating your emotions, really are the very simple version. I can’t remember when I left a friend’s company with a simple happy (or sad) face to something she said. How very one-dimensional.

So when is it appropriate to use them, or more importantly, when is it not a good idea?

It’s simple really, only use emoticons with friends and those friends that understand them, ie, not all family members get them, even if they try, and your new boss definitely won’t think you’re serious enough for a promotion if you send him a happy face after a good business meeting. Unless of course you work for Mark Zuckerberg.

They should not be used for official work communication, either by email, or phone texting. Think of the hierarchy in your office. If you want to go up the business ladder, then do not send emoticons, or acronyms, to your superiors.

When mobile phone texting was first launched, the sender was limited to a maximum number of 260 characters (or thereabouts), and anything over that would be charged another unit by one’s mobile phone provider, so it was often important to maximise the usage by minimising the number of characters used. Hence, the creative invention of emoticons. Today, we have limitless texts, so it’s just really brevity or an effort to be funny to insert them at every text.

Teenagers use them amongst themselves with acronyms and all other sorts of abbreviations to speed up the communication process. It does make this mother of two teenagers wonder why they don’t just pick up the phone and call their friends. They remind me how old I am, and tell me that it’s not cool.

I’ve thought this over dozens of times. It makes me think of the language that we use in our lives. I believe that there are three languages… all english;

1) the language we use with our elders, with superiors, or professionally, ie always polite, respectful, without cursing, always taking care to be as articulate as possible, lots of active listening;

2) the language we use with our children and those we feel we need to be a good example, also polite, without curse words, with a tone of confidence, respect and often extolling the correct behaviour; some active listening, lots of “ah ahh”, “yes, I see”;

3) the language we use with our friends and peers, where obviously anything goes. Yes, the most relaxed form of communication. Some cursing may figure here depending on the individual.

I daren’t send emoticons or acronyms to my elders for fear to offend them if they didn’t understand them. I don’t send them to my children either, and ask them not to send them to me. I have told my children that as their parent and teacher of life lessons, I would like to give them the purest education that I can, that of common courtesy, and of course, etiquette, so I ask them to respect the roles we have, and within those roles learn, and practice, good communication skills. They also have all their friends with whom they can 🙂 or LOL.

Funnily enough, I rarely send emoticons or acronyms to friends. I do think it’s generational. I just seem to want to practice complete and coherent sentences with my friends. Nowadays, it’s easy to use your voice recognition to speak/write your texts for you with just a quick perusal to check mistakes. Oh, and I also do pick up the phone and enjoy having full conversations with them too.

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