Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reader Question: Office Etiquette

Etiquette at the office is a large topic and an important part of the efficiency and atmosphere we all share during our busy work days. From time to time I’ll touch on certain aspects of this dynamic as questions arise. I recently received the following email from a gentleman in the northern part of the province.

Good morning Mr. Remer,

As I looked forward each Saturday to your column, it occurred to me that perhaps, with your training & experience, you might be able to solve an inter-office conundrum. It's not exactly driving me crazy, but probably putting me on the designated pathway.

I am from the "typewriter age", in which the efforts put into my correspondence are done in respect of my recipient’s intelligence and accuracy requirements. Alas, within our company are two secretaries who clearly have grown up in the "instant message" age, where acronyms are common and spelling, grammar, etc. are not. I have tried being humorous, returning notes which I have horribly misspelled and/or made grammatically incorrect, as well as an occasional low level of teasing, with no change whatsoever.

Would you have any suggestions as to corrective methods, short of calling them illiterate?

Thanks, Dwayne.

Good Morning Dwayne.

I understand your dilemma. I would handle this by reminding them that clients do not appreciate misspellings and incorrect grammar. They should never send a memo or any correspondence without using spell check and grammar check first. Oddly enough, they are probably aware that they can't spell and simply don't care. Such an attitude has been known to cost people their jobs. I have no idea what your position is relative to theirs, but whoever their
supervisor is should know how to handle this.

Regards,

Jay Remer

In fact this is just one of many annoying practices that have evolved in today’s lightning fast paced business world. Good communication is very important and this includes both verbal and written skills. Just because we have the ability to send messages around the globe at warp speed doesn’t mean that any less care should go into crafting their content. On most computers today, in the office software, there are spelling and grammar check options. I suggest using them all the time, but remember that many words slip by spell checks If a word is spelled correctly spell check accepts it; spell check does NOT put in the intended word and so proof reading is still very important. If you are sending an important document, it is advisable to have another set of eyes check it for this very reason. Be careful when you select which mode of communication to use when sending a message. Emails are fast and efficient and work well in most cases. An actual letter received in the mail is likely to get more attention and provides the receiver with
something to reference back to and to file. A hand written letter will receive the most attention and should be reserved for personal and thank you notes.

In many instances, cubicles have replaced offices. Because the new spaces are not totally enclosed, the conversations one has with clients, while on the phone or while speaking with colleagues can be overheard. Verbal communications should be carried out keeping in mind that others can and will hear much of what you have to say. Respect for one another’s space is so important in these instances. If you are having a conversation which should be confidential, make sure you have it in a private office with the door closed. Hearing only a glimpse of a private conversation can set off the rumor mill around the water cooler like gas on a fire. But another aspect of showing this respect is that the noise from conversations, much like the news bulletins coming from a colleagues computer, are very annoying to listen to. It distracts one from concentration and is a source of stress. In a word, it is rude.

Speaking in a loud voice on the telephone or on one of the many hand held devices is also very distracting. I notice this in offices, in airports and in walking down the street. Frankly I am not interested in details of one’s private life, nor am I interested in listening to how authoritative one is or is going to be the next time so and so steps out line. I am less interested in their views on politics, religion and their private sex lives. But for some reason, since the very introduction of cell phones, many people seem to think that we all want to share in their personal stories. Guess what? We don’t! Speaking in public about private matters is generally a symptom of one’s insecurity and complete lack of consideration for others. It is a reflection on one’s own self respect. The sooner we practice these respectful ways of communicating, the sooner they will become habits and the sooner the office will be a more productive and stress free environment in which to work.