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Relationship Success: Professional Courtesy Email and Instant Message Use

By Margaret Ross
 Internet courtesy and professionalism via email Professional communications skills can build and support a positive work environment. Before you dash off a quick email or instant message to a friend or family member during a protracted work meeting, remember that your message may be monitored. Over three-quarters (76%) of US firms report that they record and review their employees communications on the job, with over half retaining and reviewing email.

The consequences of misuse can be severe. The American Management Association reports that one in four companies have terminated employees for email misuse. This might be the perfect day to brush up on what your employer says about proper use of email and IM in the “Company Handbook.” Companies large and small are implementing electronic technology policies. The primary drivers for communication monitoring are legal and regulatory. In a court of law, email, instant messages, and other employee content has become evidence. They are the equivalent of business DNA.

Professional Email Tips
1. Only put information in emails that you would not be embarrassed about if it was shown to your boss, your mom, or read at the next company meeting.
2. Consider a professional email to be the same as a memo.
3. Make sure the subject line is filled in and summarizes the content of the email.
4. Avoid writing in all capital letters - it portrays shouting.
5. Avoid smiley faces and abbreviations such as lol (laugh out loud).
6. Always reread your email for grammatical and spelling mistakes. Choose the “always spell check option” for your messages, but remember spell check misses things.
7. Use the “reply all” option sparingly.
8. Do a “jargon check.” Avoid using company jargon and abbreviations when your message is going to someone outside your company.
9. Signature information matters. Have your signature information state your name, position, organization, and phone number. You may also want to include your mailing address.
10. Remember your business email is your personal advertisement each time you click ‘send.”

Instant Messages:
Some companies encourage the use of IM on the job when it increases employee work productivity; others view it as a security risk. Check your company’s policy regarding the use of IM for business and for personal communications. As a courtesy to co-workers, when using IM, remember to mute.
© 2007 Kamaron Institute

About Margaret Ross
Margaret Ross, an education and workplace relationship expert, is President of the Kamaron Institute and the author of Making Business Work and the Good Finder series for children. Ross is also the host of the Telly Award winning television program, Success Class.
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