It’s true that technology has drastically changed the rules for the workplace, but that doesn’t mean there are no rules—expectations about common courtesy still exist.
Guidelines for Basic Etiquette
Respect screen privacy. When approaching someone’s cubicle, stand to the side until they acknowledge you. Or come back if they seem busy. Avoid standing behind them—or hovering while they finish phone calls.
Keep email and instant messages professional. Don’t write your message in all CAPS, use correct punctuation, avoid slang (and abbreviations unless they are widely used by your company), and don’t forward offensive or chain emails. Always assume that your messages can be read by someone outside of the organization.
Adhere to branding guidelines. Your work email is not the place for personal expression. Use proper color, fonts, layout, and formatting in your emails.
Confidential matters should remain confidential. Avoid discussing personal or sensitive information via email—either call a meeting or use the phone.
If possible, turn your phone off during meetings or set it to silent. If you must check email during the meeting, try to do so during breaks when the group is transitioning between topics. Or if you need to deal with an emergency, excuse yourself. Remember, it’s distracting to your colleagues if you aren’t paying attention—and double the work for them when they need to repeat themselves to bring you up to speed.
Remember: Nothing is private. Your company has the right to monitor your online activities and terminate you if you do not adhere to its policies. It’s a good idea to know your company’s policies on the use of electronic devices.
The guidelines for digital etiquette are still evolving. Do you disagree with any of these rules? What other rules do you think would be a good idea?
--by Krystal D’Costa, MA