In an article about maintaining a professional attitude at work, the first thing I mentioned is that you should think before you hit send on emails, texts, or making phone calls. Communication can be really tough, as intention can’t always be read, and when you throw in time and distance from the person you are communicating with, it becomes that much more difficult.
Stop. Think about your actions and the message that you are trying to convey. Also think about what message you are actually conveying by sending a particular message. It can be so easy to just let a text message fly, or respond quickly, but thoughtlessly to an email or text. You can also regret it for a very long time. There are so many ways to really screw up communications in the workplace, that you need to tread carefully. Sometimes, a quick response is appropriate, and you should do so. In other cases, it really does require stopping and counting to 10.
You get an email, accusing you of doing something wrong. What do you do? Do you fire off an email immediately? How do you handle it? I suggest that you read the email the first time. Put it on your to-do list to handle, and walk away from the situation for a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the urgency of the email. Then come back to the email and re-read it. Think about how you should answer. Chances are, if you’ve done something wrong, you’re going to have to cover multiple bases here. First thing- own it, apologize, and offer some solutions to it. Make sure that you cover all of the people affected, as well as your boss. Best bet is to talk to your boss in person, if at all possible, and give them a heads up of what’s going on, and what you plan to do. You may want to call the person who emailed you, and talk to them. Whatever you do, you need to put together a damage mitigation plan and be as pro-active about it as possible, rather than burying your head in the sand.
You need to plan your response, then execute. Don’t just start typing away, and fire from the hip. A moment coming off your fingers may very well result in loss of your job.
You get a message asking you to take on a new project. Stop. Think about it. Think about how this project fits in your overall workload, and career plans. This also requires time to think about it, and develop a game plan. How you respond is highly dependent on what you want the outcome to be. Understand that nearly every job assignment is negotiable. Plot out your response, and stick to it.
When You Should Hit Send Quickly:
- Acknowledge receipt of an assignment.
- Letting someone know that you are thinking about an answer that may take a couple of days.
- Answering simple questions.
- Anything that takes less than 2 minutes to deal with sanely.
In general, when an email is inflammatory, upsets you, or really requires thought, then you should delay response. If it is something that is easy to do, quick, and can be quickly gotten off your plate, then do it quickly. You should aim to answer most calls, emails, and texts within 24-48 hours. Anything more, and people think that you are ignoring them, or worse. Give them a positive impression of you and your communication skills by being careful about intent and what you convey.
What do you think? How do you handle tough communications?