Please Leave a Message at the Beep

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When I was a kid of about ten, Mr. Joseph once stole our Wiffle Ball after it landed on his lawn. All the Mr. Josephs of the world have now been stereotyped into the guy who screams, “hey, you kids, get off my lawn!” Sometimes, when it comes to communication etiquette, I feel a bit like Mr. Joseph.  I haven’t yet figured out if that means I’m just getting old and cranky or if Mr. Joseph had a point.

For example, when did it become a thing to call people on their cell phones and not leave a message when they don’t answer? Those pesky robocallers always leave messages, so why don’t you? How about not getting back to someone when promised, because you “don’t have anything substantive to report?” So irritating.  Finally, is it okay to use those stupid smiley faces in a work-related text? And for that matter, should you even use text messaging at all for business?  All joking aside, communication etiquette is important.  So, keep reading to see my “Mr. Joseph answers” to these common communication decisions.   

  • Should I leave a message? I honestly don’t give a fig what you do with respect to your friends or relatives, but I’m pretty darn sure that it’s a mistake to call someone’s cell phone on a business-related matter and not leave a message when the person doesn’t answer. What is the message you are sending in not leaving a message? So many possibilities!  Is it, “I will call you again later”?  Or, “You should call me when you get a chance”?  Or maybe, “I’m afraid you won’t call me back if I leave a message, so I just won’t leave one”?  Or even, “I’m too lazy/can’t be bothered to leave a message”?  Here’s my thought. If the person is worth calling, he or she is worth the time it takes to leave a message.  The form of that message is irrelevant. Sometimes I get a missed call combined with a text message explaining the purpose of that call. I have no problem with that.
  • Should I call if I don’t have a substantive update?  Did you promise an update? If yes, then by all means you should call, whether or not you have something to report.  It really irritates me when someone says, “I’ll get back to you with an answer by Friday,” and then I hear nothing at week’s end. To me, that’s a promise broken. On the other hand, I’m fine if the person emails and says, “I know I promised you an answer by today, but I’ve not been able to get one yet. Please be patient, I’ve not forgotten.” While eventually providing the answer is important, so too is the integrity of the relationship. Not getting back to someone when you promise to will erode confidence and undermine future interactions.
  • Is it okay to use emojis in business text messages?  First, let’s dispatch with the easy one—texts are mainstream. It’s fine to use them for business. As for whether to include emojis, well, it depends. To whom are you sending the text? How well do you know the person you are texting? Perhaps the easiest way to think about it is, “when in doubt, do without.” If you are sending a text explaining that you’ve just lost a big bid, a “frowny” face may be okay, but a higher-up may find it unprofessional, so the safest bet is to leave it out. And, of course, there are some emojis that simply will never be okay to include in a work-related text, unless you are trying to lose your job. If you don’t know which emojis I’m talking about, I really can’t help you! So, if you have a long-term relationship with your fellow texter and/or know that person well, maybe you can use emojis within reason. If you aren’t sure, forget it.

Have you run into a Mr. Joseph recently, or are you worried you might? Give us a call (301-520-9511) and we can help you navigate the treacherous path of communication etiquette. Oh, one other thing. If we don’t pick up, please leave a message! 

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