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Tech etiquette: Learning the rules of the (digital) road

Robert Half International

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Minding your manners matters whether you're holding a soup spoon or a Smartphone. In fact, 76 percent of managers polled by Robert Half said technical etiquette breaches can adversely affect a person's career prospects.

Following are results from other recent Robert Half surveys on digital decorum, and the lessons you can learn from them:

Gadget gaffes

The results: Fifty-one percent of chief information officers said they've seen increased instances of poor etiquette due to the more frequent use of mobile electronic devices in the workplace.

The takeaway: Be discreet. Your behavior doesn't go unnoticed. Those who continually fiddle with their smartphones and Bluetooth headsets are sending the wrong message. By appearing distracted, you're essentially telling the co-workers, customers or clients in your presence that you're uninterested in what they have to say. Use sound judgment by remaining aware of your surroundings when making and taking calls.

Meeting etiquette missteps

The results: Forty-five percent of executives confessed that they frequently do other things, such as answer e-mail or surf the Internet, during conference calls.

The takeaway: Misguided multitasking occurs at all levels, but it's rude no matter who does it. Whether you're attending an in-person powwow or connecting with others remotely, it's best to turn off the beloved BlackBerry. If you're expecting a truly critical call or e-mail that you must respond to immediately, use the vibrate mode and give the meeting facilitator a heads-up that you may need to excuse yourself.

Send button slip-ups

The results: Seventy-eight percent of executives admitted to sending someone the wrong e-mail or copying a colleague on a message without intending to. One survey respondent offered this gem: "I once sent a job offer to the wrong person."

The takeaway: Given the tremendous number of e-mails most professionals send, it's reasonable to expect that a few will go astray. You can, however, minimize the likelihood of committing major mistakes by simply slowing down. Make sure your messages (and subject lines) are crystal clear, and double check your recipient list and the names of any files you've attached. Only after running through this checklist should you hit "send."

Friending follies

The results: Fifty-seven percent of bosses said they are uncomfortable being friended on Facebook by the people they manage; 47 percent don't even like connecting with co-workers.

The takeaway: Regardless of how well you get along in the office, some managers and colleagues won't be interested in becoming your Facebook friend. Don't take it personally. Dodge unnecessary awkwardness by waiting for work associates to reach out to you first.

If you've created a separate "work" list of friends and set limits on what that group can view, periodically review Facebook's privacy settings to ensure you are aware of any recent changes.

Finally, get clarification on your employer's guidelines regarding social media, web usages and other technical matters so you don't inadvertently break any rules. Even if your company has relaxed policies, always be mindful that you represent your employer. Be extremely careful about what content you post and when you do it.

During working hours, it's generally best to limit or eliminate personal usage of social media sites. You'll only set yourself up for problems if your Facebook and Twitter accounts are full of time-stamped tweets, status updates and comments that have nothing to do with your work responsibilities.

Interested in additional technical etiquette insights? Robert Half's new guide, "Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age," covers the finer points of successfully using online networking sites, social media, mobile devices, e-mail, instant messaging and tools for professional purposes. Download a free copy at

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at

Last Updated: 08/03/2011 - 4:28 PM

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