Q. I come from a country where text messaging is very much ingrained in everyday living. When it comes to texting bosses or supervisors, however, where must one draw the line?
A. A., Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
A. Unfortunately, there’s no single rule that defines whether to text a boss or not. Each boss and each company has different expectations. To answer your question, you’ll need to understand your boss and how he or she prefers to communicate. If you don’t know, err on the side of safety and use more traditional means of communicating—phone, interoffice memo, or email. Another option is to ask colleagues or your boss’ administrative assistant if texting her is acceptable. The best option may be to be direct and ask your boss yourself: “Ms. Smith, since you’re traveling today, should I text you once I have submitted the report to the client?”
First and foremost, remember that texting is a public form of communication. That means a text message can easily be seen by or forwarded to someone other than the intended recipient. Think of it this way: if you could post the message on a bulletin board for anyone to read, then it’s probably okay to send the message. If it’s confidential, don’t text it
Because texting is a staccato and very informal form of communication, it’s ripe for the kinds of spelling and grammatical mistakes which could reflect poorly on you when texting to a boss. Be sure to proofread any text to a boss before sending. Sloppy mistakes in something even as simple as a text can lead bosses to think your other work might be sloppy, too. While friends might overlook a mistake, your boss is left with an unprofessional impression of you
Take care using text-speak—those abbreviations that make it quicker to compose a message. While it may be quicker to compose a text message with abbreviations, your boss won’t thank you while she’s trying to puzzle together what you meant. Sending a message in code defeats the purpose of the communication. While your friends may enjoy decoding your abbreviations, your boss may be frustrated that she can’t understand what you’re saying. Along with text speak, avoid sending emoticons to your boss—this looks unprofessional.
Finally, texting during a business meeting or presentation is a sure way to signal that your attention is elsewhere. Unless they’ve been given the okay by the meeting leader, it’s best to turn off smart phones and other communications devices before the meeting begins.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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