In today’s workplace, technology affords us more opportunities than ever to make a good impression on our coworkers. With the rise and ubiquity of team chat apps, our interpersonal skills are being stretched to meet these challenges on an ongoing basis.
Unfortunately, making an unfavorable impression online, as in real life, is bound to happen. But there are steps you can take to remedy these types of missteps.
Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is an essential reminder of how to make a good impression, no matter what the medium. Apply these lessons to your online interactions, and you’ll see your work relationships improve in no time.
Give honest and sincere appreciation
While you may think showing appreciation is a simple gesture, a study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that showing gratitude improved employee output by 50%. Appreciation doesn’t just make people feel good; it improves performance.
The key is to be genuine with your thanks. Insincerity is easy to spot, and petty office politics make most people wary of phony compliments in the workplace. When giving team members your sincere appreciation for their work, be specific, don’t exaggerate for effect, and make sure you appreciate the small things — not just big wins.
There should be no difference when communicating online. When the opportunity arises, praise people for a job well done in the appropriate team chat topic or even a private message. Recognizing your coworker’s efforts in writing will solidify your appreciation and put people in a more positive mindset for future messages. From excellent research to closing deals, each person’s role has room for accolades.
If you’re not sure where to start, see if you have any “unsung heroes” on your team. Public appreciation for even tedious tasks can improve morale and make people feel more empowered in their role.
Carnegie also recommends that you praise improvement. Use your chat topics to commend young workers for their improved skills. Do the same for struggling workers when they turn a corner. A kind word can do wonders for esteem and performance.
Talk to other people’s interests
This strategy applies differently to three key chat areas:
- When requesting team participation
- When discussing work topics
- When using off-topic threads
No matter your likability, it’s challenging to get people to respond to messages during the workday. The key is playing to your coworker’s needs and wants. In the case of making a work request, speak to their role and goals.
When crafting your chat messages, rather than merely asking for people to do something, illustrate how the task is good for their department, team, or the company at large. For example, if you want everyone to share the latest social campaign, you could showcase metrics about how sales improve when internal employees share. For individual requests, remind the person how this request serves a higher purpose or team goal. Whenever possible, promote synergy between departments, teams, and individuals.
To ensure that people are invested in responding to work messages, make sure each person feels like a valuable contributor to the project. Include colleagues at various levels of the decision-making process. The more personally responsible they feel for a project, the more likely they’ll be responsive to ongoing messages.
For off-topic threads, memes, gifs, and emojis let you show your personality a little more. Find common interests in pop culture and other current events, and use your less formal threads to share relevant news and insights. Avoid controversial topics like politics unless you’re sure you’re not going to offend anyone. Having your own opinions and interests is great; telling people what they should think or be interested in isn’t.
In any scenario, always message in moderation and post wisely. Choose times that won’t derail productivity, and make sure you’re posting to the appropriate topic or person.
The only way to win an argument is to avoid it
Arguments tend to occur on chat apps due to the lack of context usually provided by body language. How one person interprets a message may be entirely different than what you meant when you were typing it.
While healthy debate can lead to more creative ideas, you should avoid flat out arguments whenever possible. Use Carnegie’s “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain” approach to decrease team hostility.
Unfortunately, disagreements still happen. If you sense yourself heading into this scenario, heed these two other Carnegie lessons:
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. Use constructive criticism when highlighting a mistake. You can point out an error while still being understanding and offering solutions to the problem. Sometimes it’s best to address these issues in private messages so as not to add another level of embarrassment to the situation by making the critique public.
- Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. This measure helps disarm any potential tension. By demonstrating self-awareness and humility towards your own shortcomings, you show your teammates that everyone makes mistakes. People are much more likely to take responsibility for their actions in a compassionate environment.
After you’ve resolved a tense situation, try to frame moving forward in as positive a light as possible. Show that moving on from mistakes is a normal part of work life.
Consider your audience
As noted by the University of Washington, “In order to choose the most effective language, the writer must consider the objective of the document, the context in which it is being written, and who will be reading it.” It’s crucial when messaging your team to consider all the elements that might affect how it’s perceived.
To avoid saying the wrong thing in the wrong place, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the goal of this message?
- What context is there for this message?
- Is this a private or public chat?
- If public, how might the recipient feel about others seeing this message?
- Am I making any assumptions? Are those assumptions valid?
Understanding your reader’s point of view will go a long way in avoiding any unforeseen negative responses. The time, place, and way you deliver your message can make all the difference in how someone responds.
If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
Accountability is vital to work. Admitting our errors shows humility and also indicates that we take ownership of our actions.
Whether good or bad, owning your work goes a long way on a team. When making an admission, skip the weasel words. Own up to what went wrong, repair what you can, and then move on. Admitting mistakes isn’t fun or easy. But the effect of an unequivocal, sincere apology will surely be worth it. Unless the situation is severe or recurrent, it will likely be forgotten quickly.
Much has changed since Carnegie first published his book. Yet, you may be surprised to discover just how applicable it is to today’s communications. Consider his lessons and see if it improves your standing with the team.