We’re living in the Digital Age. Technology has become an extension of ourselves, our second skin. Technology is, in many ways, a double-edged sword. It can facilitate faster and more efficient communication and simplify and streamline many of your daily tasks. Yet, when improperly leveraged, technology can eat into all of your personal time, undermine your professional image, and limit your chances for career advancement. As an executive, it’s essential that you keep technology in its place, and practice proper technology etiquette in the workplace. You should devote at least the same level of attention to proper technology etiquette as you do to dining etiquette.
1. Maintain a professional social media profile
As an executive, your social media profile is often more impactful than your resume. You never know when an unflattering Facebook post floating around in cyberspace will hurt your professional image. Do an audit of all your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts. Delete any that could prove compromising to you, now or in the future. Exercise extreme vigilance whenever you’re posting on social media. No matter what your social media account settings indicate, no post is private.
2. Be aware of your image at all times
We’re constantly surrounded by technology. The mediums of technology enveloping us project us in different, often unanticipated, ways. Oftentimes, the images that our audience see are not the ones we think they are seeing. Video conferencing platforms and live conference room monitors can broadcast every nuance of your image, often with impeccable detail. It’s important to always evaluate how your body image, facial expressions, and other movements are being perceived by others. Comfort monitors and other assistive technology can prove enormously helpful.
3. Use the Reply All button sparingly
One of your colleagues sends a congratulatory announcement to the entire office. Inevitably, a flood of "Horray!", "Congrats", and "Great work!" messages quickly wreak havoc on everyone’s inboxes. These irrelevant emails, while well-intentioned, lead to unnecessary distraction and cause lost focus.
Rarely is the Reply All button necessary. According to sales and marketing systems provider, HubSpot, you should ask yourself 5 questions when determining when the Reply All button is warranted:
Is the email addressed to me?
Does more than one person need to know the email was responded to?
Will the other recipients be confused if they don’t see me respond?
Does the email impact 70% of people on the chain?
Do the others need to remain on the chain?
It's good practice to set your default setting to Reply instead of Reply All (Reply All is the default setting in several versions of Microsoft Outlook).
4. Exercise discretion when using emoticons
Emoticons have become a new form of language and have started to infiltrate the workplace. Just like any tool, emoticons can be used productively or destructively. A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that individuals who include smiley faces in emails are viewed as more incompetent. On the flip side, emoticons can prove beneficial in more casual conversations, especially when leveraged as part of Slack and other chat messages. A study by Atlassian found that 62% of individuals reported feeling closer to their coworkers as a result of using emoticons in their chats and conversations. In fact, researchers have determined that when we look at a virtual smiley face, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a human face in a face-to-face setting.
As a general rule, it’s best for executives to avoid using emoticons in strictly professional emails, especially when the recipient is a superior. As well, ensure emoticons don't thwart the meaning of your messages. Don’t replace complete words and sentences with emojis. Don't leave room for misinterpretation. Take cues from your co-workers to gauge whether the use of emoticons is acceptable. In some situations, emoticons can lighten the mood and help you develop stronger connections with others.
5. Limit noise pollution
With the shift to open office floor plans, many executives have found themselves frustrated by a lack of sound privacy. A 2013 study by the University of Sydney found that a lack of sound privacy represented the biggest drain on employee morale. To add insult to injury, a 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lose up to 86 minutes each day as a result of noise distractions.
As an executive, keep a close watch on noise pollution in the office. Mandate that your employees wear headphones, avoid using noisy keyboards, mute devices, and keep office chatter to a minimum.
We're tethered to our devices. A study by Voxbone found that 25% of employees have participated in a conference call in the bathroom. Executive coaching, as well as media training, can assist you in developing strong situational awareness and enable you to determine the most effective modus operandi for email, chat, social media, and other conversations. Executive coaching can also assist you in determining when you're experiencing technology overload and stealing your private time.
Hint: If you're taking conference calls in the bathroom, a technology detox may be in order.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner