Vol. 3, Issue 4September 2011


Avoiding Technology Etiquette Breaches

There is no question that technology has been a huge boon to doing business. However, it also can create many opportunities for blunders that can damage or derail your career.

For example, if you pay more attention to your phone than to your colleagues at a meeting, you come off as rude and you can miss hearing something important. More serious breaches, such as posting something offensive on Facebook or sending an email to the wrong person, can cost you your job, according to Robert Half International, a specialized staffing firm with more than 350 offices worldwide.

In a Robert Half International-sponsored survey of human resources managers in the United States and Canada, 15 percent say such technology-related etiquette breaches can greatly affect a person’s career prospects, and 61 percent say they can somewhat affect a person’s career prospects. Only 23 percent of respondents say such breaches would have no effect.

But there are ways to avoid pitfalls when using professional networking sites, social media, email, mobile devices and other technologies, according to Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age, a new guide published by Robert Half International.

The guide identifies the top five types of etiquette offenders and provides advice for avoiding these labels. They include:

  1. The venter. This indiscreet individual never misses a chance to document a bad work situation. He or she splashes job-related gripes and groans across Facebook, Twitter and a personal blog. This person’s emails also feature a negative tone. Advice: Look on the bright side. Post positive information. Discuss sticky or unpleasant situations privately offline.

  2. The noise polluter. This person makes and takes calls whether he or she is in a meeting or at a colleague’s desk. When this person is nearby, it’s impossible to concentrate because of noisy ring tones and loud personal conversations. Advice: When you’re at the office, put your phone in silent mode and hold personal conversations behind closed doors.

  3. The cryptic communicator. This individual uses texting shorthand for every type of correspondence. Punctuation, spelling and grammar mistakes and unusual abbreviations confuse recipients, who must seek clarification. Advice: Slow down, and limit abbreviations. Spend a bit more time on your correspondence to make it easier for recipients to understand.

  4. The pop-up artist. This chatty person sends you a flurry of instant messages while you’re trying to wrap up a project or an assignment. These messages can subject you continually to the pings and pops of incoming IMs. Advice: Don’t get carried away with instant messages, which are fine for quick volleys of conversation but are not appropriate for extended discussions. Email is immediate enough for many people, so don’t expect that everyone will want to IM with you.

  5. The conference call con. This multitasking individual pretends to pay attention during teleconferences but doesn’t really know what’s being discussed because he or she is busy checking email. This problem is common: Forty-five percent of executives acknowledge that they do other things during teleconferences, according to Robert Half International. Advice: Make sure to pay attention to relevant conversations when you’re on a conference call. At these points, turn away from your computer monitor so email does not distract you.