New Technology Etiquette - Your Guide to Using Gadgets in Public and When It's Right to Email
Dear April Masini,
Here's the thing, during business meetings, a fellow co-worker of mine is always on his laptop, PDA or cell phone. I feel it's completely inappropriate and rude. Even if we go on a friendly lunch break, he is always scribbling on his PDA or answering his cell phone in mid-conversation. Am I wrong in thinking that this is totally disrespectful?"
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Mechanical Manners,
PDA used to mean public display of affection, but no more. Now it means something else -- however, it's another public display that isn't always appropriate. Etiquette is necessary for affection or workplace habits that are inappropriate, and technology has given us new turf to cover. Here are the rules for technology etiquette:Think of technology like smoking -- if you don't want smokers in your workplace or your space, you have to let them know by posting a No Smoking sign. The same is true of keyboarding, cell phoning, and other technology usage. Many public places like post offices, post signs telling customers not to use their cell phones while making transactions. Do the same with your space -- there will be no misunderstands.
As far as business policies go, there MUST be clear cut E-mail policies clearly communicated to everyone to avoid any problems. Many businesses don't have e-mail policies because e-mail is still considered new to many. But it's here to stay, and making rules now, is a great way to insure clear communication without problem.
Businesses should communicate limits:
*No porn or inappropriate jokes. Sexual harassment can happen by e-mail just as easily as it can in person, so don't send anything you wouldn't say or do in an office.
*Personal e-mail limits should be made as clear as possible. Personal e-mails are a lot like personal phone calls. It's pretty hard to have happy employees who aren't allowed personal phone calls or e-mails. Just be clear on how much is too much and what is inappropriate on a business e-mail account.
E-mail is incredibly quick, efficient and accessible. It's changed lives around the world because of the way it's made communications easier. But e-mail etiquette is important!
When Not To Use E-mail
- Never tell anyone about a death, using e-mail. This kind of announcement should be done in person or by telephone. Even a written letter sent by snail mail is better than e-mail -- as long as time is not of the essence.
- Never break up by e-mail. It's just plain rude because it doesn't allow a response. It also invites an angry one way response, as an alternative reaction. Either way, it's not a very humane way to convey what is usually a painful message.
- Never use e-mail to say "I love you" for the first time. Cowardly is what that is. Those three little words are important -- especially when uttered to a loved one for the very first time. If you are the recipient of that first time message by e-mail, look out for commitment issues ahead!
When To Use E-mail (and Tips On How To Use It)
- Make plans by e-mail. Meetings, play dates for children and family get-togethers can all be communicated best by e-mail. In fact, having details in writing -- especially when a bunch of people are involved -- can cut down on miscommunications that may happen with phone calls, missed calls, phone tag, and messages left.
- Convey good news. Unlike bad news, good news is well suited to e-mail. Of course a person-to-person visit or phone call is best, but sometimes, like when a new baby is born, a celebratory mass blast e-mail is the best way to get the news out to everyone fast. It also eliminates anyone's feelings being hurt by getting the phone call announcing the good news last in the phone announcement list.
- Wrap up. Reiterate feelings after an in person meeting by e-mail. The follow up e-mail eliminates a phone call or a letter and while the written thank-you note is irreplaceable as a landmark of good breeding, there are times when an e-mail thank-you is fine: like when you and friends meet at a restaurant where no one of you is the cook or the hostess for the night. A quick "Great night last night. Thank-you for inviting us!" by e-mail is perfect. If you are a guest at someone's home, however, call or send a handwritten note.