The Rules of Business Texting
In January, the Academy of Management released a study revealing that people who receive texts after work are generally angry about those communications. Yet texting and other forms of electronic communications are on the rise. So, when is it appropriate to text a colleague, and how can you reduce unwanted electronic communications outside of work hours?
Around three years ago, I decided that I was done taking unwanted calls; now, I don't listen to voicemails at all. In fact, my voicemail says to "text me." And because I recently offended someone with this stance, I decided to do a little bit of research and teach everyone what I'd learned.
Texting a colleague generally depends on how casual your relationship is, what you're texting the person about and what this person's seniority level is. Texting is fairly personal. Indeed, our phones have become an extension of our personalities to some degree, and texting a form of direct messaging. The problem with texting, however, is that it can lose context. Consider the following rules of etiquette.
1. Texting your boss
Texting your boss has become increasingly necessary, especially when an issue is urgent or needs to be resolved quickly. When you do text, you should be communicating simple messages such as meeting times and places. Or text when the message requires an immediate response or requests a coffee meeting. Never text bad news about a contract, an important decisions ("Quitting. Sorry!") or a message that includes abbreviations. Everything should be kept professional. Of course, you should always respond to any inquiries the boss texts to you.
If the manager is younger (under 35) and/or running a small business, texting language may be more colloquial. If you're not sure, refer to your corporate communications policy.
2. Texting your team
In general, you should be cautious when texting team members. These messages may depend on age, gender, personal relationship and even hours. Everything you write might be relayed to other team members and to leadership. Screenshots can be taken of everything you write and passed on, then taken out of context. When in doubt, be professional.
Take into consideration your recipients' relationship status and emotional state, and remember that texts lose context. These messages can also be misconstrued by your significant others and cause problems at home, even if they're an inside joke.
Try not to text team members after working hours unless you have a personal relationship with them outside of work. If you feel like you want to text them about work after 5 pm, use email.
Texting your prospect
This is a hotly debated topic in the sales community. Texting your prospect is dependent on the type of rapport you have, whether this individual has given permission and where in the sales process you are. Never cold-call through text messaging. Many people believe that text messaging is still a personal communication that requires urgent attention, and that texting people you're soliciting business from when you don't know them is considered gauche.
If, however, you have a good rapport with your prospect, texting during business hours can be appropriate if it's about finding a meeting place, notifying this person that you are running late to a meeting, following up to a question or providing something of value. Being pushy about closing a deal using a text is not recommended.
Texting networking colleagues
For the most part, networking colleagues whom you're exchanging business information with can be fair game. Starting with email is traditional, typically. But people who are networking may be excited about helping each another with business development. So this relationship often escalates to texting fairly quickly. Once again, your texting relationship depends on gender and age. Younger members of the same sex are more likely to find it appropriate.
How to encourage less texting
Is texting making you or your colleagues angry? Want to encourage fewer texts to your phone after hours? Here are some tips to decrease texts and keep your mobile phone free of business during your personal time:
- Stop including your mobile phone on your business cards and Linkedin profile.
- Convey your own communication policy in your email signature. Exclude your mobile phone and add a line specifically requesting, Please send all correspondence via email.
- Ask those contacting you to communicate only during business hours, and if they need to send you work, to send it only through email. Entrepreneurs and freelancers may forget that others aren't working at their odd hours.
- For major offenders, start using the Do Not Disturb feature on your cell phone during the weekends and evenings.
What rules do you have for texting people you do business with? Do they work and how do you apply them to your life? Please post your observations in the Comments section below.