With dozens of communication methods available to us today, it’s necessary to consider the protocol. As information generators and consumers, we have many more options for getting our voices heard, our opinions shared, and our thoughts expressed.
Beyond the more traditional forms of communication, like face-to-face, telephone, and written, we now have other, more creative communication forms available to us. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Instagram, and Pinterest, to name a few, offer us ways to communicate our message to hundreds or thousands of followers. Each form of communication follows certain protocol.
Before you speak it or push Send, ask yourself an important question, “If I were on the receiving end of this message, how would I like to receive it?” Here are a few examples:
Let’s start with a big one. Firing someone. What’s the best method of communication when you have to let someone go? Face to face, of course. Why? Difficult as it may be, it’s personal. Sharing this news in person allows the recipient to process the information, ask questions if needed, and receive any other instructions. People who dislike sharing bad news often resort to an electronic medium because they think it’s easier or more efficient. Could you imagine receiving this news via e-mail, text, or worse yet, Twitter? Don’t do it. It will label you as heartless, cold, and unprofessional.
Sharing personal opinions. Countless stories about employees “behaving badly” through electronic communication have made the national news, like the new employee who complained about her boss on Facebook, or the employer who discovered inappropriate employees’ posts on Twitter. It’s difficult to retract a public message. Scrutinize every post by asking the question, “Is this appropriate?” If a “no” or “probably not” crosses your mind, resist the temptation to rant or do something you may regret. It could cost you your job. Instead, say nothing and punch a pillow. Just don’t kick the cat.
Sharing confidential news. The most discreet form of communication is face-to-face, live and in person. Runner-up is a real time telephone call (make sure you are not on speaker phone). These types of conversations usually begin with “I wanted you to be among the first to know that…” “…I am being promoted to…” “…you are being promoted to…” “…I have just accepted a position at the XYZ Company, and I would like you to join me as…” And so it goes. This type of conversation is worthy of face-to-face communication. When that is not available to you, then phone is an appropriate alternative. What’s most important is the real time connection.
Confirming or rescheduling an appointment. Whoever you are meeting, wherever you are meeting, reconfirm your appointment a day or two in advance. Also, make sure you have the person’s mobile phone number in your address book. It comes in handy if you get lost, are running late, or need to reschedule. If you do need to reschedule, and it’s the day of a meeting, call or text. Ask for confirmation. Do not send an e-mail. If the person you are meeting is on the road or in a meeting, calling and texting are the quickest forms of communication for any last-minute changes. Nothing is worse than sitting, waiting for an appointment, only to receive the message, “Didn’t you receive my e-mail? I’m slammed today so I need to reschedule.”
Being overly efficient. I have heard this complaint many times in my communication workshops. Team members who work in the same building, on the same floor, schedule a conference call. Really? You can’t walk 30 steps to meet face-to-face? Sometimes we work so hard at being efficient, we become inefficient. A short face-to-face meeting allows you to reconnect with team members, and even get messy with flip charts and markers if you need to. That whole kinesthetic experience is lost because you were trying to be too efficient.
Within your organization or your work team, openly share appropriate communication methods for specific tasks. Discuss what’s appropriate and what’s not, and how those behaviors can impact your relationships with major stakeholders.