A Failure to Communicate: E-tiquette Needs to Evolve


We live in a world where technology has evolved so much that the things that used to take hours can now done in mere seconds, and previously complex tasks have become conventional and easy to manage.

I remember when I was in a junior class at a boarding school and email was just becoming a thing. Our school had a person who used to go door-to-door to deliver office notices to staff members; imagine how long would it take him to visit more than 100 staff members to deliver those notices, and how now — in a single second with the press of a send button — an email message is delivered to millions.

Although technology has evolved and we humans are increasingly interconnected through various communication channels, the question remains: does this solve our problems of clear communication? For the vast majority, the answer is “no.”

However, we are learning to reconnect with the essence of communications in an era of constant, if not always consistent, interconnectedness. Now that we can get updates about through Facebook and other social media channels, many rarely connect with people on a personal level. The same has happened in the workplace, where we are connecting ever more over platforms like Slack, virtual meetings and teleconferencing; thus the personal touch and conversations have been reduced.

These days, and at any given time, you can see people glaring over their phone screens, whether walking or eating, checking late night texts and getting right back into the phone when they wake up first thing in the morning. I hear a lot of complaining from friends that their managers are sending them emails even at times like 9 p.m. or even 5 a.m.—well beyond their work hours— yet expecting a response.

In a world of constant communication, something is still being missed, and it may be as simple and human as good manners and intent.

Diversity & Inclusion Need To Be Taken Into Consideration

Today, Canada is one of the most diverse countries in terms of the workforce in the world, and every year thousands of people from different countries are moving to Canada, thus in the workforce, different people will have different notions and preferences in terms of communication.

As a result of this, and the plethora of technologies at our disposal, communication etiquette (or e-tiquette in our online world) needs to evolve to create better and more personable exchanges based on inclusivity and clarity.

7 Tips for Effective Communications – E-tiquette 

Below are a selection of means for bringing communication to the forefront in an era of non-stop information:

  1. Select the Method of Communication: Managers should hold a meeting with the employees to understand which communication methods work for them and which don’t, and then incorporate that feedback into the current channels of communication.
  2. Simplify the Communication Channels: Managers also need to ensure that they are not using different channels to send the same message to all parties. The opportunity exists to simplify by minimizing the number of channels of communication (i.e. managers can streamline emails to urgent and ongoing work-related communications and use instant messages channels/slack for daily correspondence).
  3. Set up Boundaries: Managers and workers need to work together to set up boundaries regarding timing and respecting each others’ personal space regarding when and how to communicate. Unofficial rules need to be set regarding this so no one’s personal time and space is invaded; those rules need to be made official otherwise.
  4. Tailor to Different Perspectives: Nowadays, teams are more comprised of a greater diversity of ethnicities and backgrounds, and this needs to be taken into consideration in all communications—as words which work in one individual’s context may offend in another (i.e. in some cultures direct negative feedback is considered offensive). While a common workplace culture of mutual respect is always the goal, managers need to tailor their communications and feedback to the employees accordingly.
  5. Provide Inclusive Space for Communication: Managers need to understand their employees’ dynamics and personalities to find ways how they can create an inclusive space for all—one that encourages people encourages to speak up, share ideas and participate. As such, we need to find communications’ middle ground so that the extroverts are not overshadowing introverts, and all voices feel welcome. Techniques might involve encouraging everyone to share at least one point on any agenda item or creating an anonymous survey for people to share feedback.
  6. Build Trust and Openness: Do small things daily to create a culture of trust and openness. Have an open-door policy to create opportunities for employees to show up and share their view and concerns. Check in with employees on a regular basis apart from monthly meetings and reviews with the aim of genuine conversation. Even a daily good morning and hello can go a long way. Listen to your employees, what’s happening in their life and how you can provide them support and help while staying in boundaries.
  7. Set Clear Expectations: One of the key problems that arises today stems from an overabundance of information being communicated, while lacking clarity of purpose. This results in confusion, particularly on projects where deliverables are often omitted or obscured amidst much else. Ensuring the desired message reaches the right individual takes a bit more time, but can save more time than imaginable—all while building a better culture of communications.

Communication Conveys Culture

So while the means of communicating continue to proliferate in our current context, what becomes increasingly apparent is the need for a merging of some fundamental communications etiquette with the tools and teams at our fingertips.

For HR professionals the challenge is to pass the wisdom to all levels of management to ensure communications are building culture versus courting discontent. Managers need to have a clear communication channel with employees, and to remain open to change, while fostering the same throughout an organization. This fosters genuine leadership throughout—something which always communicates with employees.



Ali Najaf, CPHR candidate is a recent graduate from Beedie School of Business with a BBA in HR, and is now an active HR assistant with ICBC. He believes life is not made by the number of days you live, but the number of lives you inspire.

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  1. Doug Turner August 21, 2019 at 8:37 am · · Reply

    Ali: well said! particularly your points 1,3,5,6 are very concrete and relevant, and really resonate with me. Perhaps you read my previous articles on yogurt, trust and introverts, but if not you have independently reinforced the importance of these issues. How do we teach HR how to teach others?

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