Communications is one of the most important human acts. As with any human act, there are expectations for communications etiquette. People who don’t meet these expectations will find difficulties in their professional and personal lives.
Some of the communications areas where rules of etiquette are most prominent include:
- Acknowledge communications: When someone communicates with you, respond in a way that indicates you heard the message and will act appropriately. In some cases, the response will simple be a thank you.
- Provide follow up on previous communications: When you have had a communications, there is an expectation of something being done. You take the action as communicated. The remaining thing to be done is to communicate what has been done.
- Be respectful in all communications: There is never a time when you should be disrespectful of those you communicate with – even if you are responding to communications that were disrespectful to you.
- Communicate new information to those who need the information: Whenever you obtain information that is generally not known by others, provide people with this information. The key is to think of who needs to know the information and what parts of the information would be useful to these people.
- Communicate through the appropriate media: Tough sensitive issues should be communicated in person. Information that is primarily factual can be communicated electronically. Communications that require discussion don’t work well electronically.
- Communicate through channels: You should rarely communicate directly to those above your functional leader or client unless approved by the person above you. The only time when skipping of your boss might be appropriate is when there is an ethical or similar issue where your boss is uninvolved.
- Use the correct titles: You need to learn how to address different people. Some will have titles. Some will prefer to be addressed formally (Mr., Ms).
- Be careful on who is copied: you need to think carefully about who should also get copies of what you are communicating. You want people to know what is going on but you can overdo this as well. In many organizations, there is a standard practice for this.
In general, communications etiquette rests on one basic principle: accept the responsibility to let others know what you think is important..