Did You Get The Message?

Business etiquette in the age of technology

Admit it. You sometimes read. the faxes addressed to colleagues as you wait for yours to be transmitted. Your secretary might be retrieving your voice-mail messages, unbeknownst to callers.
In today’s business environment, e-mail, voice-mail and faxes have become commonplace. Despite the quick pace that has electronic communication revolutionizing the workplace, the rules of “netiquette” lag behind, according to Marilyn Pincus, author of Everyday Business Etiquette (Barron’s Educational Series, Happaugue, New York; $12.95).

With face-to-face meetings a distant memory, it’s easy to forget that there is a real person on the other end. Be conscientious and respect the rights and space of your colleagues.
Another point to consider: Your company e-mail may not be as secure as you think “With the growth of network systems, be mindful that any information you submit is insecure and can be viewed by a third party while in transit,” warns Timothy E. Butts, board member of the National Association of Black Telecommunication Professionals in Washington, D.C.

Below are five tips for maneuvering through today’s office communication channels:

  • In your voice-mail greeting, inform callers who will be listening to your messages, for example, “After the beep, you may leave a confidential message,” or “Your message may be retrieved by my assistant.”
  • Faxes are mail: don’t read it unless it’s for you. If printing a confidential document, send it to a private printer or retrieve it immediately.
  • It is disrespectful for your cellular phone or beeper to go off during a seminar or meeting. When necessary, be incommunicado.
  • Don’t use a birth date or a child’s name as your password. Butts suggests using the first letters of the words in a sentence, for example, The end of the day = TEOTD.
  • Keep in mind that “unlisted” phone numbers may be a thing of the past as more companies–particularly those in customer service–employ Caller ID.
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