Remote work has quickly become the norm across much of the corporate world. Yet, with so many professionals used to in-person interaction, this shift to digital messaging has rapidly and fundamentally changed workplace communication.
With increased opportunities for misunderstandings in written text, potential overuse of gifs and emojis, plus a completely different dynamic from in-office communication, professionals need to adjust to the new digital workplace, whether that’s on Slack or communication platforms like it.
Here, eight experts from Young Entrepreneur Council offer tips for how individuals can communicate effectively and professionally on these platforms and explain why they’re so key to a productive workplace.
1. Adapt To Your Audience’s Preferences
Know your audience. Different people and personalities have different needs in terms of the length of time spent on personal connections, the amount of information they want to share and how much feedback they need in order to perform. Most people assume the person on the other side of the screen has the same needs as they have and are confused or disappointed when the other person doesn’t meet them on the same level. Managers especially often assume there is something wrong with their more quiet or introspective team members who may be perfectly engaged and happy and yet are not showing it in the way the manager expects. – Rob Toomey, Type Coach, LLC
2. Don’t Make Assumptions
As an individual, I advocate two things. Firstly, don’t read into messages and assume inflection, intonation or intent. Writing styles may differ, and jumping to conclusions that someone is being curt with you is a self-defeating process. When you believe you are being talked to with a negative attitude, get comfortable asking outright if something is wrong or bothering someone. Secondly, and the opposite side of that coin, be explicit and clear about what you mean. Know that people may misinterpret what you say if it’s ambiguous, so do what you can to make your intent clear in your messages. Asynchronous communication is enormously valuable but can be dehumanizing, so overcorrect to ensure that the sentiment behind your messages is properly conveyed. – Colin Darretta, Innovation Department
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3. Always State Context
A quick “Got five minutes?” is often the most dreaded thing a boss can write to an employee. Include context such as, “Got five minutes re: contract for client X?” The person on the other side now has a sense of urgency and importance to your note, which is often not included in communication platforms like Slack. – Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications
4. Follow A Company Style Guide
Online communication tools like Slack necessitate clear writing, and one of the best ways your office can make its own writing clearer and more productive is to adopt a company style guide. Style guides help maintain consistent communication across channels and minimize misunderstandings across departments. Take some time to craft a house style guide that fits your business and office culture. They don’t need to focus solely on grammar and usage rules, but rather best practices of professional communication as they relate to your office. Focus on objectives like tone and voice, how to communicate with less, positive and negative language examples and what merits a response. The point of any style guide is to improve communication, so be specific with your guidelines but never stifling. – Jordan Conrad, Writing Explained
5. Write Clearly And In One Message
Avoid using acronyms, abbreviations and jargon. Excessive use of these looks unprofessional and assumes the other person understands, which usually is not the case. People have different backgrounds in terms of age, culture and education. Assuming anything is not only disrespectful, but also dangerous. Try to also send your point in one message instead of sending multiple one-sentence messages. Breaking down your point into multiple messages could get confusing, especially if the conversation is on a channel with multiple people. There could be messages from other people in between your messages and that would cause miscommunication. Try to put your whole point in one message and reread before you click “send.” This will minimize miscommunication and mistyped words. – Meeky Hwang, Ndevr, Inc
6. Share Only Essential Information
To chat professionally and effectively on Slack, less is more. In communication, share only essential information so as not to pollute conversations. Be clear. Be direct. Be kind. If you don’t understand something a colleague shares, follow up asking for clarity or with language like, “If I’m reading this correctly, you’re asking for XYZ. Is this correct?” – Antonio Neves, Career Success Speaker & Author
7. Create Channels For Business And Socialization
Create specific channels to meet the needs of your team. We have channels that are strictly used for business, like addressing client needs, setting deadlines, discussing next steps, etc. The tone for those is more business-like and to the point. We also have other channels such as “Random” or “Currently Listening To” where we can discuss current events, favorite podcasts or music, etc. more conversationally. Casual interoffice communication is a big part of creating a positive company culture and shouldn’t be dismissed while working remotely. I’ve found that giving my employees the opportunity and a space to do that has helped maintain our team bond. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
8. Be Respectful Of Group Chats
Develop an understanding with colleagues and know when it’s best to have a one-on-one direct message rather than a group chat that everyone can see. I see group chats being flooded with one-on-one issues that serve as distractions to the group. Either a manager or group chat founder can lay out boundaries and communication protocols at the start of the chat, or implement them if they see the chat going off the rails too often. In-office communication is completely different, but Slack communication should place much-needed importance on actually saying what you mean. There are very valuable lessons to be learned in communication by having to write precisely what you mean without emotion or without manipulation. For us, it has been an upskilling moment as a company. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic