10 Office Communication Oversights and How to Avoid Them

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We all want to be liked. This desire originates from our primal instincts. When humans lived in tribes being liked by the group meant a better chance of survival. Though most of us no longer live in small nomadic cliques, we still strive to fit in. Today, tribes of hunter-gatherers have been replaced by coworkers and office politics.

You interact with a group of 10, 20 or 30 people for the majority of the day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year. You want these people to like you. It helps your performance, makes your job easier and affects your happiness. Building healthy, productive relationships in the workplace starts with solid office communication. Whether you’re a classic extrovert or a professional wall-flower, here are 10 common office communication faux pas and how to avoid them.

Stop Doing These Things 

1. Gossiping  

Just don’t do it. Nobody likes a gossip. Leave the rumor mill to the middle schoolers. Avoid spreading rumors and badmouthing your boss, coworkers or the company as a whole. You’re not hurting anyone but yourself when you do. Gossiping portrays you as someone who isn’t trustworthy or someone who isn’t a team player. Neither of which will help you reach your professional goals. 

It can also be harmful if it gets back to the target of the gossip. You never know how others may feel about the person you’re gossiping about, they may be friends which would increase the likelihood of your comments getting back to the person in question. Under the worst circumstances, you could end up with a serious HR violation. If you need to blow off steam, take a lap instead of opening your mouth. 

2. Using a Speakerphone in an Open Office 

Hey buddy, you’re not the only person here! Roughly 70 percent of employees think using a speakerphone in an open office is annoying. If it’s a call you need to take, use a headset or find a private area. If you have to take a personal phone call when you’re at work, try moving away from your desk where others can’t hear you. Most workplaces have conference rooms for phone calls; if that’s not the case, it might be a good idea to step outside. Having a personal conversation at your desk is distracting to coworkers around you. Plus, it may be a conversation you don’t want others to hear. Obviously this office communication faux pas is not for the work from home crowd. The “WFH” rules differ from an office. But, when you’re back in a shared space, remember to treat it as such. Don’t be disruptive or a nuisance to your colleagues. 

3. Ignoring Virtual Office Etiquette  

Even though you’re not seated next to your coworkers, there’s still a proper way to behave. The virtual meeting space is the new office. When you’re at home working from the couch in your sweatpants, please remember you’re still at work. Attempt to make some effort. When you join a virtual meeting, turn on your camera, use attentive body language, don’t make weird gestures and don’t let your eyes wander… like to your phone. 

virtual etiquette

Speak up when someone addresses you, but try to not interrupt when someone else is talking. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking so your coworkers aren’t distracted by your screaming child or barking dog. Also, consider eating before or after your meeting. Your teammate might find it annoying if they’re presenting and you’re chowing down on last night’s leftovers. 

4. Using Undermining Phrases in Virtual Meetings 

Language is important, and the way we speak to each other in our meetings can influence office communications. Phrases like, “We’re going to wait five minutes for everyone to join,” “You’re on mute,” and “I’m going to give you 10 minutes of your life back,” are counterproductive to an organization’s agenda. 

A meeting host who waits for stragglers disregards the time of those employees who were on-time for the scheduled meeting. It says, “We accept tardiness,” and it doesn’t promote a culture of punctuality. Abruptly telling someone they’re on mute is direct, but it’s also harsh. It’s you making the person receiving the comment feel silly, or like they don’t know how to locate the button with the microphone. Instead, try saying, “If you’re speaking, I can’t hear you.” Simple rephrasing shows them that you want to hear what they have to say. And telling people they can have however many minutes back makes it seem like the whole meeting was a waste of time — or life. Changing the way we speak in meetings can set the tone for the rest of the day, week or quarter, so why not make it positive? 

5. Hitting “Reply All” to Emails 

Many of us have made this mistake before. But let’s not make it a habit. Before sending an email, ask yourself, “Who needs to see this?” If it’s not something that the entire organization needs to know, there’s no reason to copy everyone. Be selective when sending out information to coworkers.

reply all

Understand the difference between hitting “Reply” and “Reply All.” Consider whether you should include everyone who received the initial email in your reply. Maybe your coworker doesn’t want 40 “congrats” emails in their inbox when they receive a promotion or additionally, by “replying all,” you may embarrass yourself if the entire organization reads something that wasn’t meant for their eyes. If you feel the need to reach out to a coworker why not send them a direct message rather than blowing up their inbox. Always keep emails friendly and professional. As a general rule, make sure that the information you share is appropriate for the time, place and people involved. 

6. Using All Caps

PLEASE STOP USING ALL CAPS. Doing so signals an aggressive tone or a lack of digital awareness — neither of which your coworkers appreciate. The only time caps are acceptable is when you are sending “CONGRATULATIONS!” to celebrate an achievement. Even then, are you that excited? 

Communication etiquette discourages the use of all caps when sending emails or messages. While you can use all caps as an alternative to “bolding” for a single word or phrase to express emphasis, repeated use of all caps can be irritating and take away from what you’re trying to convey. 

7. Incorrect Use of Styles and Grammar

Using incorrect styles in your communications could convey an unintended tone. Bold and italics have a tendency to draw the eye, so if a random word is bolded or italicized it can distract readers from your message. See what we did there. The same goes for misspelled words and misplaced punctuation! It’s good practice to maintain good grammar when communicating with coworkers. You never know what could lead to digital miscommunications

grammar

Be aware and intentional when crafting your communications. Work emails don’t need to be all serious all the time, but try to maintain a sense of professionalism. 

8. Discussing Politics 

Humans are social creatures. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that coworkers have non-work related conversations from time to time. But while it’s fun to discuss your weekend plans, a new pet or engage in some light sports-related trash talk, bringing your staunch political views into the workplace is usually a bad idea. 

Not only are politics a personal matter, but discussions around them tend to get lively. You don’t want to create a hostile atmosphere or any bad blood because you and a coworker don’t see eye to eye on who is running Washington.  

9. Sending Late Night Communications 

The pandemic blurred the boundary between work and personal life. We send work emails 24/7 and many of us feel a need to answer them, even after traditional working hours. Don’t underestimate the impact of sending late-night communications on your team members — especially if you’re a manager. Sending an after-hours work email can cause a cascade of negative effects for you and the recipient of your message. 

late night

Studies show some employees experience increased anxiety, decreased quality of sleep and lower relationship satisfaction because after-hours emails promote the constant feeling that a message from work could arrive at any moment. So, before you hit send on what seems like “One quick question,” ask yourself if sending that question after-hours is more important than your colleague’s quality of life.

10. Sending “Joke” Communications to the Entire Team 

This one depends on the culture established in your workplace. If the standard is “let the jokes fly,” you might be safe sending something out to all employees. But remember: just because you find something funny doesn’t mean someone else won’t find it offensive. More than a third of employees think it’s poor workplace etiquette to send out joke emails to the entire office. 

If you find something funny and want to share it, try sending it to your small, personal team. In-office communications differ from out-of-office communications. Maintain a friendly and productive workplace by measuring your words. Think before you speak; and if you’re worried that a joke might be offensive, it’s better to keep it to yourself. 

Become an Office Communication All-Star 

There you have it, 10 tips to becoming an “A+” office communicator, and avoiding the habits everyone hates. Stay away from gossiping, taking personal calls at your desk and sending out after hours emails. Brush up on your grammar and leave those political jokes at home. Your coworkers will thank you. And if you’re looking for even more brownie points, why not recommend UC tools for your organization? Stay in touch with employees and coworkers with our cloud solutions.

Meaghin Hornsby is TelNet's in-house content writer. She is an avid believer in proper grammar and writing for quality over quantity. When not researching or writing, Meaghin is an outdoor enthusiast. Find her mountain biking, hiking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or kayaking one of the Mitten state’s many lakes.

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