Messaging Your Co-Workers Without Driving Them Batty

Kirk Loftin

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of a big project and you are interrupted by a phone call that goes on forever. When you hang up, all you can think is “that could have been an email!” There are some unwritten rules about office communication that maybe should be written down.


How important is your communication? Do you need an instant answer? Or is it something that is ‘no rush’? Popping your head in their door or a quick message online can be great for immediate feedback. An email may be better otherwise, so they can answer at their convenience. Consider if your message is important enough to interrupt what they’re doing.


If you need to send a thousand word set of instructions to your employee, do not text them! Ignoring how hard that is to read (and how likely it won’t show up in order), you’ll also drive them batty with all the notifications. A one sentence question is great in online chat or text. A long explanation is better as either a conversation or long-form email (or memo).


Working in an office once, I got a memo in my box that told me to go to a website, something that ended with something like .com/date-01-02-2014/asxp/7Rkl129bjK02whs82sx8 . If the boss emailed that, it would have been a clickable link. Instead, I had to spend time trying to type exactly what the paper said, figuring out if that’s a capital letter O or the number 0, or if it’s a lowercase L or the number 1. This was a completely avoidable waste of time and paper. Also, before you call a meeting that stops what everyone is doing, please make sure it’s actually necessary.

For the most part, good office communication just needs common sense. Consider the golden rule: don’t send a message in a way that if a co-worker sent it, you’d be angry. As long as you pause and consider what’s needed and appropriate, it shouldn’t be too difficult to exchange information with your colleagues in a way that won’t make them daydream about putting super glue on the seat of your desk chair.

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