There are more ways than ever before to communicate with one another. 

You can talk to someone in person, over the telephone, through social media, or by e-mail or text message.  With all these modes of communication, a message can easily get lost or misconstrued.  It’s harder to mince words when talking to someone in person or over the phone, but a simple statement may be perceived in different ways by different people when used on social media, or through e-mail or text message. 

For example, what does this mean? When_In_Doubt.jpg

Does it mean “I understand?” Does it mean “Yes?” Or does it simply mean “Message received?”  One unassuming photo with multiple meanings can become the cause of confusion or trouble – for the person sending it, and the person receiving it.

This is also true for IM-speak, which is the name for frequently used acronyms.  Consider the following: You ask an employee, or co-worker, a question over email or text message.  The employee responds with “IDK,” or “IMO, it will be done Tuesday.” A few questions should come to mind because of this response, but the most important answer comes from the question of whether the employee’s response was appropriate.  Is it your business’s policy to allow communication that includes IM-speak?  Does your business even have a policy addressing such communication?

Modern methods of communication have diminished the use of face-to-face interaction, inviting ambiguity and confusion in the work place.  With the likelihood of being misunderstood by employees and customers alike, it is paramount to provide employees with guidance concerning proper communicating.  So, what kind of guidance should be provided? How does a company fix this problem or prevent it from happening?  What are some of the more important considerations in solving the problem?

  1. Upon hiring a new employee, provide that employee with information on the expectations for internal and external communication. A company handbook or employee handbook that details acceptable and unacceptable communication is key.  Training employees on proper communication leads to more stream-lined operations.  If all employees know what is and is not acceptable, then a customer or client can go to any employee with a question and it should be answered with the same standards no matter who answers.
  2. Consider what mediums are used the most for internal communication. Is it normal for employees to send a quick email with the expectation that a response will soon follow?  Or is a quick office visit better?  Setting out internal best practices for communication will allow for employees to become better accustomed to how the business operates, and what is considered acceptable.
  3. Consider what mediums are used the most for external communication. Are customers or clients going in and out of the front door all day?  Is the phone constantly ringing?  Or is everyone’s smart phone constantly dinging with a new email or text message?  Determining what is the most effective way to communicate with clients based on your business’s services allows for more focused employee training.
  4. Reconsider if your company is using the best mode of communication. Although everyone seems to be wired to a phone that has access to social media accounts, email accounts, and text messaging, there is something to be said for a phone call or a face-to-face meeting with a co-worker or customer.  If confusion continually arises, or the ball seems to get dropped more often on projects, it is worth reconsidering your business’s communication preferences.

Most businesses can agree that the use of emojis and IM-speak does not have a place in business operations (unless your business operates solely on social media websites).  No company wants an employee or customer to be confused by IM-speak or emojis.  Having the proper communication protocol in place can address these, and many other potential communication issues.  Established policies for professional communication, both internal and external, will resonate across your business’s culture and will become a staple of your business operations.

Are your company’s communication protocols up-to-date with the evolution of IM-speak and emojis?  If your business needs a review of policies already in place, or needs to implement policies related to internal and external professional communication, contact one of our Sioux Falls attorneys, Omaha attorneys, or Sioux City attorneys!


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