Let’s talk for a moment about Netiquette in the Professional World.
There is an ever-changing, evolving set of procedures and responsibilities that support productive and clear communications between us as we work together both in realtime and in cyberspace. As more and more of y’all who have grown up with the web as a part of your world of cyberplay and communications – something not even thought about in being inherently accepted as a part of Life – the rules that apply to our communication with one another will continue to evolve.
For this Moment, then, I offer some guidelines for successful relationship-building and maintenance in a wired and wireless world.
The first thing to remember is that not everyone in our industries is the same age; nor is everyone of any age necessarily at the same level of CyberAbility at any given time. Daily, new 40-, 50- and 60-somethings find themselves (finally!) embracing the web and relinquishing their hold on old ways of communicating. If one is younger and just entering this work force, it will support potential success and welcome to remember that what may be acceptable amongst one’s peers may seem rude or even ignorant to people with whom one might want to forge relationships or perhaps even from whom one might be seeking employment.
Take nothing for granted. Often, a few extra seconds of thought when communicating will reap bountiful rewards. Some of the smartest, most accomplished people in these industries are still just a tad intimidated by the web, simply out of unfamiliarity with it. Having put off the task of becoming familiar with the myriad tools, platforms and formats within which communication and collaboration is now taking place; there may be a part within even the most respected hero that avoids the experience of not knowing how this thing works.
There can be a sense of having missed The Moment when it was accessible and now finding oneself behind the proverbial Curve.
Everyone will get there, in the long run. But, until all y’all who are now in your 20’s are in your 40’s and 50’s, there will still be those in your sphere, those with whom you will want to work and those from whom you can still learn with whom you will be far more successful by remaining sensitive to the separate learning curve on which each may be with respect to the web.
Inherent in that are some old rules of communication that, while evolving, will be helpful to keep in mind.
In no particular order, then:
Personalize your communication whenever possible.
While using the Default Message when seeking to “LinkIn” or “Friend” someone may be acceptable amongst youthful peers; it is often seen as rude, dismissive or just plain lazy by a lot of people who receive such. Until recently, both FaceBook and LinkedIn offered “send a message” alongside the “invite” field. I notice that both of those have been removed; undermining the potential personalization of these communiqués.
My suggestion? Take a moment to shoot a message to the individual you are approaching to iBond, saying you are going to send them a friend or link request and would appreciate their consideration. Less than a minute for a sentence or two will help your entreaty shine over the pack and likely be remembered at a crucial time in the future that may involve opportunity.
Just sayin’. A simple note of a line or two that gives context to your ping. Not a “letter,” simply a line…
Full disclosure; I used to just ignore people on FB and LinkedIn who just sent the request without personalizing. These days, I tend to cut young people some slack, especially on FB. After speaking before so many academic institutions and at conferences; when I see that they are younger, I just accept the culture. I am a little less generous on LinkedIn, as it is a professional networking site. Before I give someone access to my network, I want to know where they work and how they know me.
These days, though, with the spread of “imho,” my iBook and this blog, the proliferation of the Default has become much greater. I have to accept this.
Each time I receive a LinkedIn request that says, “Because I trust you…,” though, I have to chuckle. This person doesn’t know me, how can s/he trust me?
You know who stands out, though? The ones who send me a note. One sentence: “I saw you speak at…,” “I read your post on…” Simple, easy, eminently memorable.
Find ways to personalize; it will serve you.
Stay in Communication
As you network, and as you benefit from that network, stay in touch with your contacts and especially with your mentors.
If you get advice from someone:
- Do not fail to thank them in writing.
- Remember to touch base with them when and as you apply said advice. Again; a line or two telling them, “I thought of last month’s conversation, yesterday, when I…” Let them know you aren’t a one-shot deal.
- Tell them if you can ever be of assistance to them or someone they know that you are always available.
- Keep them posted on where you are. You never know the ramifications of the impression you made. If it feels right, keep them apprised of your progress.
- Do not drop from view. Silence is just plain rude.
- That being said; don’t pester or overwhelm, don’t communicate without reason. Be sure of substance in all communication.
- When you ask for information or support or a simple document; acknowledge receipt. Don’t put anyone in the position of asking if you received something. A simple “got it, thanks” will do the trick.
- “NRN” means “No Reply Necessary.” A very handy “gift” when touching-base with a mentor or resource. You’re sending this person an update or acknowledgement; be sure they don’t feel obligated to respond, each time. Don’t add to their workload, add to their sense of good investment in you.
- I would hope that I don’t need to cite this one, but just in case: don’t use TweetText in professional communications. No “how R U 2day?” Just don’t.
Do not let communications rest idle for too long. If you’re busy, swamped, simply do not have time to give something the attention it requires; shoot a note of acknowledgement of that and let the sender know that s/he is on your radar and will get a response. You can hold your breath for the time it takes to write, “Am crazy busy, but will give this the time it deserves in a few days. Talk soon, Self.” Pay attention to that; it pays off.
I have found that, if I leave the emails that represent tasks that I need to complete or obligations to fulfill in my inbox, that serves as a powerful “to do” tool for me. If I’ve told someone I’ll get back to them, I leave that in my inbox so as to keep it in front of me.
As that inbox begins to hover around 60 “read” messages, I know I’d better make time to address it. For me, it’s a matter of integrity and professionalism.
If it is something one does not want to do or someone whom one would rather avoid (come on; we all have those and we’ve all done it); I feel quite strongly that we deal with these things, respectfully.
No human being should be ignored, ever. I say “hello” to panhandlers on the street, even when I don’t give them money. Anyone who sends me an email is worth at least that much respect.
Just as space fills a vacuum, fiction can fill the void of silence; and that fiction is usually far more destructive than would be whatever is the simple Truth. Don’t make people wonder and fabricate possible reasons for your silence. If you’ve changed your mind on something, if deadlines or circumstances have changed, if you’ve changed some course or other just let anyone waiting on you know.
Anyone who’s ever waited for a phone call after a first date knows how slowly time can pass. Responding or addressing such things with alacrity removes doubt from the other end and takes the pressure off of you.
Respect and Integrity
So, that’s what it’s all about: Respect and Integrity that grow from clean and sure communications. It doesn’t take a lot of time, it does take some focused thought. Remember that the web is populated with millions of you Digital Natives; but also by even more millions of we Digital Immigrants. We Immigrants arrive with preconceptions, habits and opinions that may be of another era to you, but are just as valid to us as are your values, priorities and habits to you.
I’m offering that, if these differences are kept in mind as we all communicate with one another, if we maintain the discipline to remember the myriad approaches to communication, out there, and that our goal is to be successful and productive in our communications across the lines of global culture and with those of, ahem, greater chronology; we will all be happier and likely be more successful.
Download the free eBook for iPad from iTunes or the iBook Library; it contains the first 20 posts of “imho,” covering the basic methodologies of Ozier’s Tenets for the Creation of Compelling Experience along with a few interactive pieces and galleries.