Society, in general, has become more casual. This has changed the workplace in numerous ways, from the way people dress to the way they interact with one another.
While some of this is positive – arguably, it’s preferable to address your manager as Jane as opposed to Ms. Smith – there is danger in taking casual too far. When casual becomes unprofessional, your company runs the risk of being viewed as immature, ineffective or worse.
So, when does casual cross the line? It occurs during day-to-day communication, with job candidates, colleagues, and others.
Oftentimes it’s innocent enough. People opt for what they think is friendly instead of formal. However, although should nix the “dear sir,” you don’t want to go too far in the other direction, particularly with someone you don’t know.
Here are a few tips to help ensure that doesn’t happen.
Communicating via Email
When emailing a colleague or prospective job candidate for the first time, begin the email with a greeting, also known as a salutation, and the person’s name: “Hello Jane” or “Hi Jane.” Then, introduce yourself and explain the reason for your message. At the end of the message, include what is known as a complimentary closing, such as “Best regards,” followed by a comma, with your full name on the next line and relevant information on subsequent lines.
Once you know the person better, you can skip some of the formality. Nevertheless, you still want to make sure your communication is respectful and in keeping with the business relationship. For example, while it may be fine to address a colleague with whom you are in regular contact and have a friendly relationship as “Hey Joe,” you shouldn’t address Joe’s boss the same way, unless you have that kind of relationship with her. Similarly, not every job candidate will view such familiarity as friendly.
Communicating via Text
Texting is somewhat trickier, because messages are short. Even so, it’s possible to come across in a way that is considered acceptable by all.
Using words and phrases like please and thank you when texting sets a certain tone. Politeness helps you come across as professional.
Also, avoid emoticons, unless you know the person well.
Interacting on Social Media
Conversations on social media are more casual, largely because of the way the platforms are structured. This doesn’t mean you can’t remain professional when interacting with colleagues and job candidates.
People sometimes assume that professional means stiff while casual means relaxed. However, you can be relaxed and still be professional.
Don’t feel that you have to keep your personality under wraps and that you can’t display a sense of humor. This is real life, after all. Where you’ll get into trouble is if you become too friendly too fast and act familiar when you don’t really know the person or people with whom you’re interacting.
Talking on the Phone
Speaking with colleagues and candidates via telephone, video chat, and teleconferencing is somewhat different. Inflection, laughter, and other cues contribute to and further messaging.
At the same time, because of this, you may be even more inclined to become too familiar too fast. Again, if you don’t know the person well, proceed with caution.
Like it or not, your professionalism or lack of is perceived by some as indicative of your ability. And remember, for better or worse, your image is tied to your company’s brand. By maintaining a level of professionalism, you and your company will remain above reproach.
|Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.|