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How to Master Online Communication,
and Why It Matters for Your Career
Great workplace communication is critical to your success as you develop your career. In fact, because of poor communication, one in three employees are ready to leave their job, according to 2018 data from Dynamic Signal. Communicating effectively not only makes your co-workers lives easier, but it benefits your career.
However, you can no longer only focus on face-t-face communication skills. With 4.7 million employees in the U.S. working from home at least half of the time, you have to be as good at communicating online as you are offline, especially in management roles when you’re leading a team from across the office or potentially across the world.
To improve online communication, you need to start with the connection between communication and what it means to be an engaged and successful leader. Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets explains how this has worked in his experience:
“It’s important to me that my team members feel they can reach out to me with questions, ideas or to shoot the breeze. Likewise, I don’t want to micromanage them. I know I have strong, talented and capable people on my team, and I trust and encourage them to take ownership of projects and plans and reach out to me if they need to.”
Now, consider that you have to be able to do all of that online. However, there are many pitfalls and disadvantages of online communication. Engagement experts at Bang the Table suggest some of these potential challenges include:
Lack of physical cues, which means emails and messages can be misread.
“Information overload”—it’s hard to follow and keep track of too many messages.
Time lag. Waiting for someone to reply, or not replying fast enough so someone is waiting on you.
Inefficiency; it can take longer to write an email and have an online conversation than to simply talk in person.
Isolation for those who don’t like to participate in online conversations.
If you struggle with these challenges, or simply know you’re not great at online communication, now is the time to hone your skills. Don’t let these pitfalls be an issue as you grow in your career. Instead, show your boss that you show up, connect with co-workers, and are able to clearly give directions and guidance to others, so that you get that promotion you’ve been waiting for.
How to Master Your Online Communication
We talk online all day long, but that doesn’t mean we’re great at doing it. This is why emails get misread, text messages are misunderstood, and small issues get blown out of proportion. Avoid any of these potential pitfalls of online communication using these simple tips to master your craft.
Write better emails
There were 281 billion emails sent and received in 2018. We send a lot of email—especially at work—and a misspelled word or wrong wording could be the difference between getting something done and embarrassing yourself. Luckily, you can easily get better at writing emails with these simple tips that I recently shared in an article for Hubgets:
- Ask someone to read your email before sending.
- Be clear with your words.
- Be clear with your ask.
Online communication is convenient, but it’s also easy to ignore an important message when you’re distracted by your phone or other work. That’s why you may need to make an effort for this one: be responsive during normal working hours. If you get distracted and forget to respond to a message, you risk leaving a co-worker hanging when they need something from you. This is especially important as you move into leadership roles. Employees are counting on you to help them with what they need. If you accidentally ignore their messages, you may not be leading effectively.
Keep messages short and to the point:
When writing via chat platforms, keep messages short. If you need to send a more detailed message, with information about a meeting or feedback about work, for example, do so via email so the recipient can easily find that information later.
Keep your tone neutral
It’s easy to misunderstand what someone is saying when communicating online. As someone looking to grow in their career, it’s best to avoid any of these issues, which would likely get escalated to a manager. Re-read your message before sending to make sure that you’re striking the right tone. This means using simple and clear language and requesting an in-person meeting if you think the message will be misconstrued online.
Don’t respond when you’re upset
It’s easy to send an angry email because you’re not talking directly to someone’s face. Instead of falling into this trap, walk away and respond when you’ve returned to a calm state of mind. Remember: online communication is permanent—don’t send something you’ll regret later.
Keep an open dialogue
You should be leveraging online communication for its greatest benefit: the ease of maintaining consistent open dialogue. Whether you’re a manager or an entry level employee, using chat and email to continually check-in, stay in touch and monitor progress allows you to stay up to date. In that next status meeting, you’ll know exactly what’s going on and can effectively contribute to the conversation—something that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Know when it’s time to chat in person
Some conversations are meant to happen in person. Being great at online communication means that you know when to stop an email thread and instead have a video or in-office meeting. This is especially important as you grow in your career and begin managing people. You may need to have tough conversations in person, and knowing when that becomes necessary is an asset.
Master Online Communication
In our digital world, online communication is the norm. Though we use online chat and messaging all the time, bad manners can affect your career. Sending vague emails or ignoring messages from your co-workers, makes everyone’s lives harder and reflects poorly on you. Improve your online communication skills and leverage the benefits of these tools to stay connected with your team and show that you have what it takes to be successful in this digital business world.
About the Author
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more.