To Text or Not to Text

Guidelines for When It Is and Isn’t Appropriate to Send Text Messages

Aug 27, 2017 | ARTICLE

By Cheryl Hyatt

We live our lives in an increasingly digital age, with shifting social customs. With more connectivity, come more questions—and gaffes. These days, this question can be asked: Is texting work colleagues perfectly acceptable or extremely uncouth?

Here are some guidelines for when it is and isn’t appropriate:

1.     Consider the organization. Texting, for example, is going to be much more acceptable at a tech-savvy start-up than at a law firm. Regardless of the organization, consider any privacy and disclosure guidelines. Take your cues from longer-serving coworkers. Follow norms rather than forging them.

2.     Consider the relationship. Texting peers, particularly ones you interact with frequently, is going to be much more common than texting your team leader or supervisor. Realize that texting is inherently a more informal and familiar medium and use it accordingly.

3.     Consider the situation. Are you getting together with the team after work? Text away. Maybe you want to discuss the office bracket. The more social the communication, the more texting is appropriate. Most of us don’t want our phones inundated with work- and project-relevant texts. That’s what e-mail can be used for.

4.     Consider the location. When traveling, texting serves as a convenient way to coordinate time- and location-sensitive details. A text to your coworkers to let them know you’re in the lobby and ready to head over to the convention center will be much more efficient—and welcome—then calling each of them individually as they try to get out the door.

5.     Consider the tone. Negative messages should never be texted. Going to be late for an appointment? Do the other person the courtesy of calling. Feel like venting to a coworker about the e-mail your department director just sent out? Resist the urge. Know the limitations of texting. It can be tempting to try to sidestep uncomfortable conversations by using a text, but it is never a good idea.

Err on the side of caution. As with most things in life, if you have to ask if it’s a good idea, it probably isn’t. Have your texting habits ever gotten you in trouble at work? 

Cheryl Hyatt, partner, Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, Conway, Pennsylvania (http://www.hyattfennell.com).

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