When being too comfortable at work becomes uncomfortable…
The dos and don’ts of casual workplace communication are a slippery slope. On the one hand, you want to be friendly and spark rapport. But on the other hand, you don’t want to overstep. Sure, we’re all adults here, but when does being too informal at work kill the whole vibe?
Believe it or not, this is the kind of growing pain that every scaling business faces ad nauseam. After all, everyone wants to be a culture fit, nobody wants to be a culture fool.
Today, more and more forward-thinking companies are test driving smarter communication strategies that work better for everyone, helping to alleviate the natural discord that stems from the inflexible—and often insufferable—nature of always being connected.
The uptrend in remote work continues to transform traditional workplaces, leaving many to figure out a formula on the fly. Still, the right communication tools have an undeniable impact on teamwork, it’s the wrong dynamic that can dismantle company culture.
As your company works to broker its own communication style and methodology, it’s worth considering these rules of engagement that’ll ensure you make a good impression without making a mockery.
The DOs of informal workplace communication
DO start with messenger
By far the most informal (and most effective) communication channel at your disposal is direct messaging. Modern workspaces like Flock go beyond messaging to keep your team engaged, but on chat, anything you say can and will be used against you.
As a rule of thumb: Be yourself without being obnoxious.
Opt for thoughtful dialogue that resonates but reel in chatter to avoid unnecessary distractions that can dilute substance and cause conversations to rabbit-hole or go awry. Once you develop a solid rapport and find your groove then feel free to jam.
DO continue to follow-up with email
Contrary to what the Inbox Zero elite surmise, email continues to serve its purpose as a worthwhile complement to direct messaging.
Use email to piggyback off informal chats and prioritize them for long-term precedence that taps a broader audience and strikes a more serious tone.
DO use ALL the GIFs, emojis, and stickers
Frankly, if you’re not incorporating all of the above into your daily repertoire, you’re not fulfilling your duty as a core culture renegade.
Lightening the mood is an art form. At Flock, we use playful emojis like the party hat and flame, as well as an impressive range of custom stickers to illustrate our stamp of approval for comments we admire. This adds flare to our group chats that we’ve all come to appreciate.
Just don’t let the wrong meme get lost in translation. Otherwise, you’ll have your co-workers asking “what’s the meme-ing of this?” 🙄
DO use team acronyms, but don’t make it a habit
Leveraging your team’s lingo helps frame conversations and keeps dialogue relevant, but too much jargon can peeve the wrong person.
Just ask Elon Musk.
Be conscious of your audience and make sure to define specific terms the first time around, especially when communicating to people outside the company who have no idea what you’re talking about.
The DON'Ts of informal workplace communication
DON’T be completely tone-deaf
In other words: Don’t be that guy.
Everyone enjoys a good gaff but senseless grandstanding is for comedians. Bad jokes will earn you the silent treatment real quick and being on HR’s radar isn’t funny at all.
And, of course, don’t send a terse note or public rebuke that you wouldn’t say out loud or in person. Messaging at work is wonderfully informal, but it also enables careless conversation that damages the company culture as well as your reputation.
Have a sense of humor and be a good fellow human being.
DON’T text outside of work
Chances are you don’t have a good enough reason to hit up one of your co-workers offline, especially if your team already utilizes an all-inclusive communication platform (see: Flock). Sure, your intentions are strictly professional, but it might not come across that way (the random butt dial notwithstanding).
Activate a personal or private channel on messenger or wait until you see them in person to address whatever’s been dwelling in that dome of yours.
DON’T disregard Do Not Disturb
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape; you don’t spit into the wind; and you do not—under any circumstances—disregard the Do Not Disturb protocol.
When that little dot on your co-worker’s channel goes from green to red, that’s a clear indication that he or she is too busy to be bothered. Respect the game (and their privacy) and table your conversation accordingly.
You’re not the only responsible one with an important job to do, so be conscious of time spent versus time wasted.
Jibber-jabbering or aimlessly ping-ponging over messenger can strip momentum. Rather, if your intention is to make actual progress, get your team talking in front of the screen for a group video conference or gather your flock in-person to play off each other's energy. Too many times teams suffer from informal dead-end discussions that go nowhere—don't let it happen.
While it's true informal communication channels create a sense of belonging—paving the way for authentic relationships to flourish—gossip, a lack of self-awareness, and careless distribution of information can lead to conflicts that pose a real crisis.
Get your team talking—but stay on point and don't get caught in the crossfire.
Did we miss something? Share these communication best practices with your team and drop us a line to let us know how you brighten up your team’s workday.