How NOT To Sound Like Donald Trump: When In-Person, Phone or Email Responses Are Appropriate For Professionals

Clinton is in trouble over private e-mail, Trump over past person-to-person conversation. Nobody is safe in today’s modern world where technology records every detail.

This year’s U.S. Presidential elections are highlighting the importance of tactfully crafted communication—even when you think such communication is confidential.

For any employee, knowing which type of communication tool to use (and under which circumstances) can be difficult. Law firm professionals know more than anybody that the way you choose to converse—and the type of language used—can one day be used against you.

Here’s a quick guide for legal conversation that hopefully clears up any conversational etiquette problems for the modern professional.

  1. In-person conversations

Nobody wants to bother the boss. But, sometimes it’s important to put in face time. For important conversations—urgent casework issues, problems with coworkers, quitting, or promotion requests—an in-person conversation is a must.

It can also be helpful to pop-in a supervisor’s office if you haven’t seen them in awhile. Although there are some benefits to remaining invisible at work, it’s also a sure-fire way to stay invisible during year-end bonus allocations or promotion opportunities.

However, don’t be an annoying brown-nose. Also, don’t pester superiors with minor issues (like you need a new office chair). A quick “I got your email, the answer is yes,” merits an in-person interaction; a long-winded (and likewise costly) conversation detailing your every move for the week does not.

  1. Phone call

First, to be clear, unless you are friends outside work (i.e,. you have nicknames for each other like “buddy” or “Big Tex”) or operate in a small company, always introduce yourself with your full name. This clears up any confusion and also establishes boundaries for the phone conversation: work related, professional, and brief.

Second, even in today’s electronic world, many people prefer in-person visits—they’re more personal. Still others choose the efficiency of email. Phone calls lie in the gray area in-between.

So, conduct phone calls wisely. Phone calls can be useful between colleagues in offices in different geographical locations. Phone calls are a friendly way to contact clients.

Within the same office, phone calls are useful to schedule a time for in-person meetings (to avoid back-and-forth email chains). Be aware of the norms and routines of your particular office. For some, calling a colleague in the next room is considered time-conscious and productive. For others, it’s just plain lazy.

  1. Email correspondence

 Finally, email is the primary method of communication these days. It’s quick, immediate, and sensitive to other people’s time and work priorities.

However, be sure you follow proper email etiquette: don’t put the body of your email in the subject line; practice high-tech politeness; stop calling every email and task “urgent”; and don’t be so efficient with your words (and abbreviations) so that all meaning is lost.

These days, you usually can’t go wrong with e-mail.

At the same time, don’t forget the power of handwritten letters. Special occasions, thank-you notes, and anything important is worth the wait.

-WB

What’s the most difficult conversation to have with employees? Communicating Compensation. So, use C4CM’s essential guide to facilitate the conversation. Communicating Compensation to Employees will provide your firm with a powerful resource that gives you clear communication guidelines to manage difficult conversations and improve existing systems.

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