Snail mail, pagers, fax machines, e-mail, text message. Technology has changed work communication drastically. We evolved from waiting days to receive a letter to waiting milliseconds for a reply to a text. These inventions are quick and helpful, but the use of text apps for work infringes on our separation of personal and work life. You probably have a work e-mail, personal e-mail, and personal spam e-mail account (where you send all those 10% discount welcomes), but it’s not very common — or wanted — to carry separate work and personal phones. So alternatively, we are finding texts from our managers and coworkers sandwiched between conversations with parents, significant others, and friends. When an employee is unreachable through Slack or their e-mail only updates every 15 minutes, questions and project status updates leak into iMessage and Whatsapp. While many of us have come to accept that modern technology comes with a price, it leaves us with questions on the unspoken rules of text-based communication between work personnel. Gifted is here with a guide on texting coworkers and managers.

Is it appropriate to text a boss/coworker/employee? 

Work gets hectic; looming deadlines stress everyone out, and people want to talk on an app that you regularly look at. So the easiest way to contact someone is via text. It doesn’t require the same formalities of typing out an entire e-mail (keep reading for the formalities it does call for). The level of appropriateness for texting someone you work with should be measured using your own company culture. If it was established when you were hired that texting is the best way of communication or attention-grabbing, then that’s what’s been made okay for your team. If you’ve been working for quite some time without needing to go to personal communication methods, then you need to check on the urgency of the situation. If it’s really urgent, you might be forgetting that you can actually make a phone call on that phone! While it’s easier for older generations to just dial up a contact, the younger part of the workforce might feel like that is too intrusive and prefer to shoot off a text. Just be sure to read over the other tips before hitting send. 

Do I need to use e-mail etiquette in my texts? 

Texting removes context. It’s easy to interpret short sentences and abbreviations as being rude or unhappy. It’s also easy to offend someone if you don’t say hi first and jump right into your request. Many of us have fast thumbs, so typing a quick intro “Hey Luke” won’t take up much of your time, and it’s nice to address someone first. As for the message, if you’re using text, you want to keep it concise (otherwise you’d write an e-mail and just text the person to read that book). And no matter if it’s a request or question, just add a thank you, or some note that shows you appreciate their time. You are going into their personal text inbox. 

How many texts can I send in a row? Can I text like I talk?

Ding. Ding. Ding. 

Keep the number of messages to a minimum. Think of all the things you want to say before you text, add line breaks if you need, but don’t blast your recipient’s notifications. You can add words that you would if you’re talking in real life to add some personality to the words, but don’t overdo it. 

Is it acceptable to use emojis? 

Emojis should also have a purpose. Like we said earlier, it’s hard to decipher the context of a text, so a smiley emoji or clapping one will help up the mood of it. Don’t use an emoji that could have any inkling of a double meaning, and don’t overdo it. Emojis should just be supporting what you’re saying and not the main star. 

Emojis can also be misinterpreted if you send a message devoid of anything else. A “thumbs up” emoji could feel cold, or passive-aggressive. Words work just fine in that case. 

However, the usage of them depends on who you’re texting. Odds are if you’re texting someone above you, wait to see if they use them. If they don’t, maybe keep with that trend. Coworkers are more likely to send emojis since they feel equal and a stronger kinship, so see if they warm up to it as well.

Gifs are another story. They usually are just another notification and can be quite obnoxious. We recommend keeping those for your friends.