12 min read
Jul 18, 2018

The 7 rules of business chat etiquette your team is definitely breaking

Boost employee productivity through collaboration and communication with these 7 business chat etiquette rules. You'll minimize distractions that could lead to disengagement among employees.

Ankita SinghContent Writer

A lot of companies are switching from traditional communication methods (such as email) to collaborative chat applications to boost the effectiveness of internal communication.

These apps promise improved team efficiency and collaboration and a lower volume of emails. They also aim to be easy to use and learn.

A recent survey of 513 American workers found that 43 percent use instant messaging applications at work for collaboration and communication. When we break down this data, we find that:

  • Seventy-one percent of tech industry employees rely on chat apps.

  • Sixty-two percent of American workers in multinational firms use chat apps.

  • Forty-one percent of employees in small companies (fewer than 50 employees) use Facebook Messenger to communicate with other team members.

However, only 22 percent of those surveyed say using chat apps leads to efficiency, and another 22 percent see no advantage of using instant messaging apps.

As for the drawbacks, 24 percent say that the apps create pressure to instantly respond, and 23 percent say they lead to less in-person interaction.

This means the majority of employees are feeling unnecessarily pressured, disconnected, disengaged, and/or distracted because of the wide use of chat apps at the workplace. This lack of privacy, wasted time, and difficulty concentrating could result in less collaboration on the parts of those employees.

Failure to address these concerns will increase the number of disengaged employees. With about only 30 percent of American employees being engaged at work, you have to work hard to prevent further disengagement.

Keeping all this in mind, small businesses like yours must lay the ground rules now for the effective use of chat apps to nurture a culture of collaboration and productivity.

In this article, we’re helping you achieve a more collaborative and engaged culture by laying out seven simple rules you should put in place now to get the most out of your business chat tool.

Rule #1: Send consolidated messages

Many people approach chat as spoken conversation in written format. This makes it an impromptu communication channel compared with emails, which are usually drafted more carefully.

But, we discount the fact that when we communicate verbally, we break up our conversation into segments for impact and to be comprehensive. If we do this in text messages, however, it results in a broken conversation. Such disjointed messages can distract employees and distort the meaning of your conversation.

Here’s an example:

As seen in this example, send concise and targeted chats, eliminating all the noise from your message for clarity. It’s all that matters when you’re talking business, after all, and the more clear your initial communication is, the more productive the interaction will be. You should aim to help the other person clearly communicate with you as well.

Rule #2: Acknowledge a 'do not disturb' status

When you see a closed door, you generally knock; you don’t just barge in. It’s the same rule for chats. If you see “do not disturb” as someone’s status message, consider it to be like a closed office door. The person could be in a meeting.

Wait until their status is “available” before you text them, so they don’t feel pressured to reply, resulting in a negative impact on their productivity.

Here’s a bonus tip:

So, keep in mind that you shouldn’t be the reason for your teammates’ low productivity. This will lead to low team morale, which coupled with low productivity affects everyone on the team.

Rule #3: Send chats only to relevant people

Have you ever been irritated by that one colleague that always clicks “reply all” when they only needed to hit “reply”? Of course you have.

Well, the feeling is mutual for group chats. If you have a specific topic to discuss with an individual that’s not relevant for the entire team, chat in private to avoid disturbing others in a chat room or channel. This helps to ensure that employees don’t get unnecessarily distracted and don’t lose out on their productive time.

You can demo collaboration solutions, such as Samepage, to assess their effectiveness in your team. If your team responds well, then you can consider adding a solution to your daily workflow.

Rule #4: Use each communication channel the right way

It’s really important to know the different use cases for chat, email, and face-to-face conversations. If you want your colleagues to be able to refer back to your message later, send an email instead of a chat. Though some chat apps let you pin messages, we advise that you opt for email for the purposes of documentation.

If you have important feedback or a discussion that could evoke an emotional response in the receiver, e.g., regarding their work quality, it’s best to share that in person.

And if you’re in different geographic locations, use videoconferencing (available in most chat applications). It’s always better to verbally convey feedback through positive body language and constructive vocabulary.

Here’s a list of possible scenarios and favorable methods of communication to deal with them:

This checklist should help you streamline your communication strategy for maximum effectiveness. Employees should get the right message through the right channel to understand it and take the right action.

Rule #5: Don't overcommunicate or over-emote

In chats, we tend to use emojis and gifs along with text and punctuation. Images can help clarify the tone of the message, but overusing them could irritate or distract your team members. For business-related chats, it’s best to follow this advice: Don’t go overboard with emotional responses; stick to minimal text and visuals.

Here are the don’ts of texting:

What’s great is that these tips should help you ensure that your professional and personal texts are clear, with no room for any ambiguity. Be known as a great communicator.

Rule #6: Be polite

Always start your conversations with a greeting and a “how are you?” After that, continue with the rest of your message, but don’t just launch into a flurry of questions. Be polite and pace your questions; it’ll go a long way in building a positive culture and rapport within the team.

It’s also polite to be responsive, but resist the urge to respond to every message in a channel, which can be distracting to the other members, especially if your input is not providing additional value to the conversation.

Finally, remember that in verbal communication, affirmations such as “yes,” “true,” and “sure” are helpful. However, overdoing these “nods” in a group chat dilutes their meaning, and it increases the number of messages that each member receives. This distracts everyone and results in loss of productive time.

Rule #7: Pay attention to cultural context

If you work at a multinational company, you could be chatting with colleagues from different cultures. Avoid slang language, as it’s often culture-specific and could backfire, if you unknowingly say something totally different than what you mean and offend or confuse the other person.

This could negatively impact communication among employees and affect overall productivity of the team.

Here are a few examples of slang words used in the U.S. that might confuse people who do not know the context:

A list of popular American idioms and colloquialisms and their meanings (Source)As an additional tip, avoid colloquialisms, as they’re specific to geographies. Don’t use them in a business context and stick to commonly used terms and phrases as much as possible.

Next steps and recommendations

The rules listed above will help you create a positive communication culture in your company. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you implement the rules successfully:

  • Evaluate your internal communications strategy: Identify existing gaps by holding one-on-one meetings with team members or conducting surveys and polls. Analyze the results to create a list of rules that makes sense for your organization.

  • Conduct ethics training and appoint ethics counselors: This can be done in the form of short seminars, workshops, and similar programs. Make sure your employees are aware of the company's code of ethics and values, as well as how to adhere to them. The ethics counselors or officers can help offenders understand the importance of a healthy communication culture so that employees make behavioral changes accordingly.

  • Lead by example: Top management must embody the change they wish to see in their teams, or else that change will not come.

  • Send subtle reminders: Promote and reinforce desirable behavior by sending short quizzes to your employees on topics such as data privacy and legal compliance when using chat apps at work. Make these results available to them so that they can ask HR or legal for assistance to self-correct their behavior.

Lastly, here are some more resources to read that can help you find innovative ways to keep employees encouraged:

  • Check out three of the top rated employee recognition apps

  • Explore employee retention software to reduce staff turnover

  • Reskill and upskill employees to close the skills gap

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