By: Eric Thorn
While an office harmonica may be unnecessary (not to mention unsanitary), office harmony is very important. Everyone prefers to work in a place where everyone gets along. Conflicts with people at work can grow and make an otherwise pleasant environment less so. Unnecessary conflicts can be bad for everyone’s morale. The following tips for office communications will help avoid misunderstandings and can help keep you and the people you work with in a positive place.
In today’s business world due in part to time pressures and that it’s just so efficient, much of our communication with the people we work with is done electronically through email and text. This usually works great. However, because of not having the ability to see facial expressions, hear the tone of voice or other cues to the intended meaning, sometimes misunderstandings occur.
Benefit of the Doubt
Sometimes an email can be interpreted in more than one way. Humor sometimes comes across in unintended ways if the person receiving the email doesn’t realize that the sender is being humorous or sarcastic, etc. Sometimes the same exact words can sound mean or helpful based on the context of the situation. So, before firing back a reply, make sure to always give the sender the benefit of the doubt. Assume that the sender is coming from a place of professional cooperation and teamwork and ask yourself if it is possible to read the communication in a positive way.
Hold the Phone
With the preferences for written communication in many workplaces, all too often we just don’t call. People now use their cell phones more and more for email and text and much less for voice communication than they used to. Sometimes quickly written or poorly worded emails or texts can communicate things totally unintended by the sender. Most of you have seen some of the humorous texts that were the result of a phone’s voice recognition or auto correct feature gone awry. If you are still not sure and have questions about a sender’s intent make sure to pick up the phone. It’s amazing how often tone of voice or a quick conversation can clear things up.
To Send or Not To Send
Occasionally you may receive an email the does contain unkind or unprofessional content. You may be compelled to respond right away, directly refuting the offending email. It’s okay to draft up the response (may even help you vent) but you may want to hold off on sending until you’ve had a chance to consider the situation. This is especially true if it’s late in the day when you may be tired, hungry, grouchy, etc.
After sleeping on it, when you are well rested and more objective you will find more often than not that you will want to substantially edit your original response. You may receive additional communication from the sender or other information that will change the context of the message. You may want to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the sender to see if the email was misunderstood, etc. In some situations you may still want to send a response but you are likely to find that the response you ultimately send will be much more professional and well considered than your initial draft from the day before.
Working Relationships Matter
Not all of you will be working in a place like me where everyone is awesome, and fun, and hardworking. However having good professional relationships with the people you work with is important. Good working relationships can help you get your job done, grow professionally, lead to advancement, and make your daily life more fun and rewarding.
Your relationships with the people you work with, like all relationships, may take some work. These tips may not instantly transform everyone in your office into “shiny happy people holding hands”, but at least these tips will help you to avoid some common but unnecessary misunderstandings that can work against office harmony.