Spontaneous conversations occur when people work together side-by-side, building trust and rapport as relationships grow. However, workplace email, text exchanges, and web conferencing meetings tend to be transactional. As more people work apart from their co-workers, some re-training may be required to ensure your teams interact in ways that preserve workplace relationships. You can train your team to be conscious of how their tone, phrasing, and intent can prevent the online conversations from devolving into unnecessary conflict.
Recognize Limitations of Online Tools
When employees learn to treat digital communication platforms as merely tools and not messages, they begin to recognize the limitations of email, text, and video conferencing, and focus on the advantages of using them to engineer more successful conversations. Paying attention, listening, and contributing without interrupting may be more difficult when employees can’t see other people’s faces. Accusing, judging, and confronting rarely lead to positive interactions. It tends to be easier to jump to criticize immediately online because you aren’t physically located with the other person. Instead, prepare your team to lead with facts and shared goals for any exchange they engage in and not tolerate any unacceptable behavior from others. This strategy builds common ground, which is even more important in online communication.”
Organizations that build digital communication policies and procedures into their operational documents prevent problems later on. As just an example, you may want to establish a standard that your team should only contact customers by email, never text. Kenneth H Johnson, Chief Growth Officer of BrightQuery had this to say, “As a leader, you should also model positive interactions to set expectations and establish a functional workplace culture that makes the most of online technology.”
Subtle digital cues can change the meaning of the most carefully constructed sentence. Poor intentions get conveyed by punctuation online, such as excessive exclamation marks, lack of periods at the end of sentences, unnecessary capitalization, and unprofessional emojis. Employees may not realize the negative impact these simple things can have. These sentiments can occur during video calls as well. Inattention, interruptions, and unintended facial expressions can signify a lack of respect. Coach and mentor your team on behaving appropriately online in the workplace.
Train your team by providing guidelines with specific examples for your business. Conduct short workshops to review how behavior on video calls can result in misunderstandings and how to mitigate them. You may also want to review policies for posting on social media and discussions on non-work-related topics. Your team will quickly see how paying attention to digital communication can improve productivity and minimize conflict.
In summary, your team can engage more effectively with one another and customers by proofreading online messages, keeping a consistent tone, and checking in to see messages get received in the manner intended. When misinterpretations do occur, recommend addressing the issue in a one-on-one live exchange to minimize escalation.