Work Texting – The Etiquette And When You Need to Respond

August 3, 2016

Let’s be real – few of us have fully mastered work email etiquette, and that’s been around for 20 years. Now, more and more of us are venturing into a whole new frontier of work communication, the dreaded work-related text message.

The result?

Mass confusion. Can you write LOL to your boss? How quickly do you need to respond to a work text? Is it ever okay to text a colleague a work question?

Well, we are here to help. Specifically, Productivity Expert Suzanna Kaye, in her Lynda.com course on business etiquette, answered the major protocol questions we all have, when it comes to work-related text messages.

Let’s jump right into it with the most common question:

Is it okay to send a work-related text message to a colleague?

You shouldn’t text a colleague unless you’ve asked that colleague ahead of time if that’s okay, or if the colleague said it was okay, Kaye said. But even if you do have that approval, there’s some protocol to follow for work-related texts.

Specifically, you should send a text only if you need a response within 12 hours, Kaye said. Otherwise, if it can wait longer than that, send an email. If a matter is truly urgent – like, you suspect someone might have hacked into your business – it’s time to call, she said.

Do I have to respond to a work text message?

Yes, according to Kaye. And within 12 hours, ideally.

If you feel like the text isn’t urgent, then you should tell the person so. If, for some reason you don’t have the information on-hand, text back and let them know when you’ll be able to respond (and then actually respond when promised).

Can I send a follow-up text if someone doesn’t respond to my work text?

If truly necessary, but only after waiting a full 12 hours, according to Kaye.

Can I use “LOL” or other text shorthand in a work text?

Sometimes, according to Kaye. If you use that in emails with the person previously and have a more relaxed relationship with them, sure. If it is someone you don’t have that sort of relationship with, not so much.

How about emojis?

No, according to Kaye.

Do you need to use proper grammar and spelling in work texts?

Yes, according to Kaye.

How long should a work text be?

No more than two sentences, Kaye said. If it is longer than that, send an email. If it is urgent, you can send the email and then send them a text asking them to check your email.

Some other things to remember when texting for work

In her course, Kaye added in some warnings about work-related texts. They include:

  • Remember, a text message is an electronic record of your conversation. Worst case scenario – imagine you are involved in a work-related lawsuit and your work-related text messages become public record. Are you going to be embarrassed?
  • As you probably know, when you send a text, usually it pops up on someone’s phone. That allows people who are sitting around the person to potentially see the text. Something worth remembering (i.e. don’t send a text to a person commenting on the person they are sitting next to).
  • Don’t send confidential or illegal information over a text message.
  • When texting a colleague for the first time, write who you are. Otherwise, chances are you’ll get back the time-wasting “Who is this” text.
  • Most importantly, absolutely don’t text and drive. There’s evidence out there that suggests texting-and-driving is actually more dangerous than drinking-and-driving. So while that work text might feel important, it most definitely is not more important than the lives of yourself and everyone else on the road with you.
Parting thought

More and more people are texting for work. Just be careful.

First off, be mindful of what you write. Even though it is texting, it is still business, and you still have to be professional.

Perhaps more importantly, be mindful of your own time. If you start texting people regularly for work, it provides yet another intrusion into time that you could be spending with your friends and family. So text when absolutely necessary, but for day-to-day business, it’s probably better to keep it on email (and during work hours).

Kaye’s business etiquette course covers far more than just work-related texting, including best practices for handling all work-related communication. Check it out here.

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