Having your phone blow up with texts from your boss is enough to get your heart racing.
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Text messages tend to carry a heavier sense of urgency than an email or instant message – whether that’s the intent or not.
While you might be comfortable texting in your personal life, not everyone is open to using it for workplace communications.
Managers and their employees should set expectations of how they prefer to communicate in and out of the office. Some workers might find texting easier than emails or phone calls, while others might find it too invasive.
“Have a conversation to determine preferences and reach an agreement on when you are going to use what form of communication,” said Marie McIntyre, a career coach and author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”
Should you text your boss?
First check to see if your company has an official policy on texting. If there isn’t one, and your boss has given you her cell phone number, use texts only for very short and quick communications.
For example, sending a text to let your boss know that you’re running a few minutes late might be considered acceptable, but texting a long-winded explanation of why you’re behind on a big project might not be the best idea.
If a topic requires more context or will likely lead to follow-up questions, an email or in-person meeting is a more effective way to communicate.
“Texting is great for quick questions: It’s the difference between popping into the boss’ office with a question or comment versus having a formal conversation about a business issue,” said McIntyre.
Should the boss text you?
When it comes to managers texting employees, McIntyre suggested evaluating whether there needs to be a record of the conversation – either for legal reasons, or record keeping purposes.
Texting can open a company up to various legal issues, so employers need to be cautious.
“A lot of the sexual harassment cases I investigate, a high percentage of them deal with text messages,” said Karen Elliott, a labor and employment attorney with Eckert Seamans.
Texting at all hours can also violate an employee’s personal time and lead to burnout.
“If an employee is expected to make their number available for text-based communication, it runs the risk of blurring the boundaries such that the employee can get the message they are expected to always be on,” said Monique Valcour, an executive coach.
Because text messages can be deleted, Elliott said employers have a duty to preserve text messages related to work. She added that companies should also have a policy employees agree to that allows the employer to gain access to a personal device for any information that relates to the business.
If you do use text messages for work purposes, take it slow. With texting becoming such a common form of communication, most people fire off texts a little more quickly than emails.
“People are sloppier and lazier when it comes to texting,” says Roy Cohen, a career coach in New York City. “I get a lot of texts from clients and every once in a while they are incomprehensible…or use a short hand which makes it challenging for me to read.”
Take your time when crafting your text, and avoid autocorrect mistakes by proofreading the message carefully before hitting send.
And be patient when it comes to responding. “Watch for the dots, wait until they are finished,” said McIntyre. “Don’t zip back a response based on text number one when there’s second thoughts in text number two.”
Finally, skip the use of emojis, advised Elliot. Emojis can be interpreted in different ways and can make employees feel threatened or harassed.