Does your boss send rambling email messages? Do employees’ memes make you want to scream? Do you drive co-workers crazy with texts?
Yes, yes and – as much as you’d like to think you’re innocent of communication gaffes – the answer is, yes. We’re all guilty of communication habits that drive co-workers crazy.
And the last few years, when we’ve seen less of each other, have only made it worse. We text, Slack, ping, email and DM more than we actually talk to people. And many people aren’t doing these things well.
“The scope of what’s considered acceptable at work has changed,” says Tessa West, author of Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them.
While almost all employees agree that electronic communication is essential and preferred for the workplace, nearly 85% agree it causes a lot of miscommunication issues, according to a report from LiveCareer.
Beyond miscommunication – or perhaps contributing to it – here are six communication habits that drive co-workers crazy, plus ways to eliminate them.
Annoying email wordage
If you open any of your email messages with these phrases, you drive employees and colleagues batty:
- Not sure if you saw my last email
- Sorry for the double email
- As per my last email
You know why? Because what you’re really saying is, “I know you saw my other emails and I want you to respond now. I don’t care what else you have going on!”
Alternative: If you really need an immediate response, talk to the person. If it can wait, then you wait.
The wrong signal
When it comes to Instant Messaging (IM), nearly 90% of employees use Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat. But something in this channel annoys colleagues: dishonesty about where you are.
They dislike it when co-workers set themselves as online and available when they aren’t working. And, almost equally, they dislike when colleagues set themselves as offline and unavailable when they are able to communicate.
Both cases make it seem like you want to avoid communicating with colleagues.
Alternative: Send the right signal. If you’re online but don’t have time to interact, put that in your status. If you’re out, fess up.
An unexpected video call
While we’re on the IM subject, let’s jump to video calls. See how I warned you we’d go to a call? In the workplace, it’s a courtesy that’s expected.
So employees hate it when colleagues start a video call without giving some kind of notice.
It could be vanity – no one wants to be caught on camera looking their worst. But it could legitimately be professionalism. People prefer to be prepared for business (unlike a couple of the attendees in this Saturday Night Live skit).
Alternative: IM, text or email your intentions for a video call – and wait for a response – before you initiate one.
GIFs can be fun with friends. But about 80% of employees call them unprofessional and a waste of time (to read or bother sending) in work communication. Still, many employees think emojis are helpful to decipher emotions in written communication, the LiveCareer survey found.
Alternative: It seems OK to send an appropriate emoji – one that truly reflects what you’re feeling. But, stop short of sending memes and GIFs that aren’t related to work just for the sake of getting a rise or laugh out of colleagues.
Email after hours
There’s a lot to love about email. In fact, 49% of employees say it’s their preferred form of workplace communication.
But they don’t want to hear from you via email when they’re not working. About 30% of employees think it’s a bother to receive work email at odd hours. And nearly the same percentage don’t like non-work-related messages coming in from colleagues.
Alternative: Send emails to employees only during work hours. If you draft a message after hours, put a snooze on it so it’s released when the next workday starts.
Too many words
Whether it’s email, chat or text, too much is too much! Written communication is convenient and allows us to work asynchronously, but it’s not always the most efficient or reader-friendly way to handle business.
Employees in the survey said rambling messages and long paragraphs in electronic communication are annoying and ineffective. People tend to scan that kind of information, rather than soak in what they need to know, respond to or act on.
Alternative: If it’s a long message, follow the style we usually use here on ResourcefulManager: short paragraphs, bullet points and several subheads to break up copy. If the message is complex, sensitive or information-heavy, try a conversation to at least get the communication started.