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Etiquette at Work

6 rules to keep you out of trouble when texting

My wife and I send our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, and the people of Boston. The resilience and strength of the community is ­inspiring in the face of such a tragedy.

Texting is growing as the preferred means of communication, most certainly in our personal lives but also in business. When used appropriately, it benefits sender and receiver with ever quicker communications. For instance, if I know someone is busy at the moment, a text is a great and a discreet way to ask them to call me when they are available.

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But, when used inappropriately, texting has the potential to harm your image and your relationships. In business, that co-worker who sees you texting friends may one day be promoted and become your boss. Not a good image for him or her to have of you.

What and when is it appropriate to text? Here are six tips for business texting.

Don’t text friends on the job. It may seem you can get away with it. After all, you’re not on the phone, so a little surreptitious thumbing isn’t going to get noticed. Yes, it is. By colleagues and bosses. Use your break time or lunch break to respond to texts just as you should use those times to respond to voice messages.

Watch out for autocorrect. Inane mistakes abound. Avoid getting caught in an autocorrect mistake by always rereading your text before sending it.

The bulletin board rule applies to texts as well as to e-mails. If you wouldn’t put the message on a bulletin board for anyone to read, then you shouldn’t send it in a text. For sure, the time you send that private text is the time it suddenly goes viral, at least ­viral within your office, and you’re stuck trying to do damage control.

What is acceptable content for a text? Apply the “Who, What, When, Where” rule. If it’s something factual about who, what, when, or where, it’s fodder for a text, but if it’s about why or opinion, then it may be time to pick up the phone or meet in person.

Focus on the person you are with. Whether you are meeting with a client or having lunch with a colleague, put your phone away and on vibrate so it won’t disturb your conversation. Your colleague or your client will appreciate that you think he or she is more important than your phone.

Finally, no texting while driving. Period.

Follow Peter Post on Twitter at @PeterLPost.
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