Six Ethic Tips for Internal Communication
The importance of internal communication has been recognized for the timely dissemination of information, update of team goals, tracking of team tasks, effective crisis management, and maintaining team spirit. Many teams use various internal communication tools such as Slack for teleconferencing and messaging, Microsoft Office and Google Docs for document transfer, and other tools like email or instant messaging apps.
But with the global crisis, virtual internal communication has gained new prominence with the ascendancy of remote work over traditional methods of work. And while this is a relief to some, for others it is a challenge. It can be harder to communicate virtually, because one does not have the liberty of explaining in detail, using the right non-verbal cues. On the other hand, some just don’t know how to conduct themselves appropriately, either as a result of their own ignorance of ethical behavior or a blatant refusal to adjust to the new normal of work. This article is for those who simply don’t know.
I’m going to share six ethic tips to help you to be on your best behavior and further your communication skills...
1. Be on time
Show up at the right time, especially for video meetings and webinars. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it the same level of importance you would a physical meeting. If you won’t walk into an office meeting late, please don’t do so for a virtual meeting. Don't leave it up to your colleagues to send you reminders. Respect people’s time.
Respond to instant messages on time, understand that the sender awaits a response that is crucial for action.
2. Understand the mode of communication and use it appropriately
Learning new, or unusual modes of communication can be awkward and maybe frustrating at first, but it’s doable. Take some time to understand the platform you’re working with. Try chatting with a colleague via the medium, or hosting a video meeting with a friend, just to see how things work and what could prevent you from being a useful participant or a successful host. If you're using Microsoft office, communicate clearly. If you're using Zoom or Slack, please practice muting yourself and know what camera angles will keep you from looking odd on the screen.
Don’t forget to copy everyone in a message, if it is a text platform, it can come across as rude if colleagues have to wonder why they have been cut off from a conversation. Also remember to keep information flowing in a thread. Reply messages directly and don’t begin another thread except you absolutely have to.
3. Be prepared
Have your slides and screen ready when it’s your turn to speak or take over the conversation. Don’t slow down the discussion trying to get folders open or launch a software. Have everything ready and waiting for your turn. Not only does this maintain the flow of the conversation, it gives the impression that you are professional, proactive, and serious-minded.
4. Stay on point
Keep to the purpose of the meeting or communication. Don’t ask irrelevant questions or be too informal. A simple, ‘hope you had a restful weekend will do’, I don’t think it is necessary to ask about a religious celebration or how everyone’s kids are doing. It is also not the place to gossip about a co-worker. The key to staying on point, is delivering a request or answering exactly what was asked. If your team lead has asked for slides, don’t suggest that they listen to a podcast on the subject matter too. Simply send the slide and ask for the necessary feedback. Read every communication carefully, so you don’t end up answering the wrong question or asking an already answered one.
If you’re on a video platform, make sure you’re not rambling. You may crave human interaction, but an official communication platform is often not the right place to find it. Don’t start out your session talking about your plants or your fighting neighbors. You may crack acceptable jokes (and I think this depends on how well you know your team members), but it’s safer to just stick to the purpose for which you have been asked to speak. It's just as serious as a physical meeting, so keep it brief. You don’t want to bore others, simply get to the point.
5. Be courteous, don't lose your cool
A lot can be implied from the tone of your words, so make sure that you’re not coming off as accusatory, dismissive or condescending. It is probably easier to get frustrated with someone you cannot see, because you’re not able to communicate with them verbally or tell from their own non-verbal cues whether they understand what you have communicated or not. So even though you feel frustrated, make sure you keep it out of your tone. Yes, irritation can show through brusqueness and choice of words.
Take some more time to explain, if you have been misunderstood. Use examples to buttress your point. Be specific in your requests. If you want someone to deliver something to you, don’t use words like ‘as soon as possible’, especially if you’re the team lead, rather say, ‘by Thursday morning’, or ‘by the close of business on Friday’. Don’t give room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. Say what you want, and as clearly as possible.
If you’re on a video platform remain professional, don't pop gum in your mouth or have music playing in the background. Keep it as quiet as you possibly can, it’s hard to hear important information while trying to block out distractions. If you have the floor, please endeavor to keep your voice low but audible. You don’t need to raise your voice, or talk over someone else to be heard. You’ll either be too loud or downright rude.
When you’re sending media, use appropriate ones. No memes please, especially none which are discriminatory or inappropriate.
Dress up for the occasion. It’s amazing that one has to say this, but please put on a shirt and take the rollers out of your hair. Try to be considerate of your fellow members. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re distracted by the appearance of a co-participant.
6. Don't forward official messages or make official meetings accessible to others
Confidentiality is the word to remember here. Keep formal communications private, as they should be. Don't take screenshots to post on social media, no matter how funny you think it is. That would be a major breach of trust. Don't record office meetings (except of course you’ve been asked to or you’re doing so for official purposes), or screenshot office chat room messages for the sole purpose of revealing them. Don't forward official messages, it’s called internal communication for a reason.
If there has been some inappropriate action by a team member, direct these evidences to the appropriate quarters, such as HR or law enforcement.
Checklist for effective internal communication:
- Be patient.
- Be concise, but make clear explanations.
- Use examples to buttress vague points.
- Be polite, where appropriate, sprinkle your communication with ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘apologies’.
- Be punctual and responsive.
- Avoid jokes, keep it professional.
- Be considerate, be decent and use decent language.
- Read communication clearly, understand what is being said.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity if you need it, this is better than delivering the wrong expectations.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- Manage crisis through the proper channels.
- Understand communication tools, ignorance is not an excuse.
Speaking of communication tools, no doubt you are familiar with the problem of endless email chains, annoying CCs, and accidental Reply Alls? While emails have a certain charm, they’re not the best tool for internal communication. In a dedicated team chat app, you’ll save time by seeing all the conversations and documents about a project in one thread or channel - much easier to find and follow.
About the author:
Nikola Baldikov is a Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix, specializing in SAAS marketing, SEO, and outreach strategies. Besides his passion for digital marketing, he is an avid fan of football and loves to dance. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @baldikovn.