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5 Ideas to Tame Unruly Electronic Communication Behavior


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We have been talking about culture and its influencers. The next one I would like to explore is “electronic communication”.

While I’m sure there are written “rules of engagement” for smart phone usage somewhere on the internet, there are some behaviors that seem to jump to the top of my list of “not-to-do” because they feel somewhat disrespectful.

Of course, we will not all agree on what warrants “disrespect” and we will each have different opinions from my list below. So I hope you take the time to add a few pet peeves of your own in the comment section.

The point of my list is to hopefully get you thinking — I only ask that you consider the impression the behavior gives or how it makes the other person feel as you use “electronic communication”.

Remember, this is all about culture and what drives culture – not efficiencies. It is about how we are treating others, the examples we are giving as leaders and how we are perceived by our teammates.

1. Fiddling on your smart phone at a meeting. Arrrgh!!

  • If you have not told people you are taking notes while they are talking (instead of using paper), they will assume you are not paying attention.
  • They can be put out since they prepared to present and you are not listening, why did they bother
  • They could assume you are not doing work, sending the impression that you are not dedicated
  • They could assume you are doing work, and that their work is not important. Thus, why should they care to engage
  • If you have told people you are taking notes – they will know that you value their input and the work they do
  • If you have to keep an eye on texts or emails – be respectful. Tell everyone that you are waiting for something – and apologize for the disruption. Their time is valuable also.

2. Answering the phone when someone is talking to you.

  • If you are waiting for an important call, or are in a job that requires immediately answering – be polite and tell people they may be interrupted
  • If people know that an important call is coming in, they will be more understanding
  • The person speaking to you believes they are should get your attention. You wouldn’t let just anyone walking by interrupt, why do you let the phone?
  • The great thing about phones is that they all have voicemail. Most (not all) but most phone calls can be handled right after your conversation with the person in front of you
  • If you are in a meeting and the phone rings, AND you have to take it – step out of the room. Staying in the room just disrupts everyone

3. Texting is a great, fast way to tell someone something – better than a phone call as it is quick and easily readable in meetings – if done quietly and respectfully

4. Emails are great for basic information sharing – they are not great for complex discussions. Face to face are the best.

  • Don’t copy the “world”, but do copy anyone that needs to know the basic information. You need to be intentional on “who”
  • Use emails for “summing” up conversations or minutes from meetings – they can be great historical documents

5. Whether texting, emailing, twittering or other – remember it is still the written word. There is no body language or voice inflection to give context. You have to use the right words and enough of them for clarity.

Culture is all about people’s behaviors. Behavior is driven by what people think about each other. How they communicate with each other can change cultural norms for the better or for the worse. Electronic communication, used correctly, can help create healthy business cultures. When in doubt, the rule of thumb should be:

  • Show respect to those around you when using your electronic devices.
  • Be intentional with the communication you do over the device.
  • When possible, communicate in-person complex issues.

Be intentional,