7 Deadly Sins of Professional Communication

Whether digital or verbal, stay away from these common vices

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Whether you realize it or not, your name reflects a brand. Every single time you use Twitter, speak to colleagues in the office, or send an e-mail, you are telling the world not only how you should be treated, but what you value.  “Communication is key” and “It’s not what you know, but who you know” are all popular clichés, but they have stood the test of time for a reason. Many commit office communication sins that could lead to major problems in your workplaces when it comes to productivity and efficiency, which can ultimately mean a loss of client, revenue or brand credibility. Try steering clear of these seven communication vices, ensuring your successful career advancement:

GLUTTONY: Thou shall not not overindulge in embarrassing behavior. Social gatherings with bosses or colleagues give you an opportunity to stand out and impress. When going out to happy hour cocktails or attending catered meetings with clients, always remember: everything in moderation. For better or worse, being overly casual or eating too much food is marker of immaturity, particularly for young professionals just starting out. When networking off the clock, Joi-Marie Mckenzie, an entertainment producer for ABC News and creator of TheFabEmpire.com, says ordering food is always a strategic decision. “Remember you’re in a room with colleagues, potential bosses or former bosses who you may need for a recommendation,” she says. “When at a networking event, I tend to go for the food that won’t make a mess or potentially stain my outfit, which could make for a bad impression.”

PRIDE: Thou shall not focus conversations and dialogue solely on self. Taking a lead on a team project? Be prepared to check your ego at the door. Nothing undercuts your authority or ownership worse than poor listening skills. Constantly interrupting others or cutting off colleagues mid-sentence will ultimately isolate you from learning important information. Indigo Johnson, CEO of Career in Transitions, a human capital firm, says that fine-tuning your listening skills will help you avoid drama and steer clear of office politics. “Most of us know how to look like we are hearing, but very few take the time to listen,” she says. “It takes practice. Sometimes it can be harder than actually thinking. When you become a better listener, you become a better decision maker.” When coworkers depend on you for advice, it gives you an opportunity to establish yourself as a leader. “If you don’t want to listen, you can’t just close your ears. The universe does not give you that option…that’s how important [listening] is,” Johnson adds.

SLOTH: Thou shall not be lazy with response time. We live in a hyper-connected world. The time lapse between sending a FedEx package or responding to a client in another country can be virtually nonexistent. Taking too long to respond to an e-mail, or ignoring a phone call can be costly. Remaining inactive for even a few hours on social media platforms can hurt your brand of professionalism, says Mario Armstrong, a digital lifestyle expert. “It’s all in real time. If you aren’t part of the conversation, you might be the conversation and that’s not a good thing. Immediacy shows you are current with technology and that is an indicator of your personality and your business.”

Armstrong also recommends the response time on social media outlets should not exceed 12 hours. “You need to decide if your social media profile will be about you the person [or] your brand as a business professional.”

ENVY:  Thou shall not participate in or obsess with hater or gossip chatter. A little competition doesn’t hurt anybody, but obsessing over what your colleagues are doing via Facebook or the water cooler will ultimately sabotage your career development. “It’s a feeling of ‘I am not happy with you because you are doing what I desire.’ You are essentially experiencing these feelings because you haven’t figured it out,” says Carl Jefferson, board chairman and CEO of the National Association of African Americans in human resources.

A true communications professional can discern the difference between constructive criticism and just plain hate. When the latter happens, Jefferson suggests to let your actions speak for themselves. “When you work, you are in a business relationship and that relationship is supposed to produce a positive outcome,” he says. “I always tell people to approach competition like a game of golf: It’s just you and the turf. Focus on your own skills. When you sabotage [out of jealously] or withhold information, you are really just hurting the company overall.”

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  • Day

    Very informative article. I really enjoyed this series.