Remember the hoo-ha about an employee in China getting fired because she replied with an OK emoji on WeChat? The manager thought her response was inappropriate and told her that she should have used text to reply.
In the digital era that we live in, sometimes our bosses convey instructions via text messages or WhatsApp and while you can use memes or emojis to reply to friends’ text messages, is it appropriate to use those when reply to your boss’? Sometimes, we have horrible bosses who use that as an excuse to pick on us, but when it comes to keeping your job, it’s better to be safe than sorry and learn text messaging etiquette.
We asked James Choles, Corporate Training Manager for Professional Development Centre at the British Council Singapore, on the do’s and don’ts of replying your boss through text.
Can you use exclamation marks?
“Exclamation marks have traditionally been used to show excitement or wonder but can now convey sincerity (compare ‘Thanks’ with ‘Thanks!’) or generate a sense of rapport (‘Good luck in Shanghai!’). It’s fine to use them in your text messages but do so sparingly. And never end a sentence with more than one!”
Can you use emoji?
“Emojis are great for communicating with friends and loved ones but should generally be avoided at work. Even in a very informal medium like text messaging, people might not take you seriously if end your sentences with a smiley. However, like most rules, there are exceptions. If you have a very close relationship with your boss or notice that they tend to use emojis in their texts to you, then by all means, ‘mirror’ their style.”
Can you give a one-word answer, e.g. ‘Noted’?
“It’s best to avoid one-word answers as they can sound curt and dismissive. That doesn’t mean that your texts should be lengthy but remember to be courteous and positive. So, if your boss sends you an update avoid saying something like ‘noted’ and instead use: ‘Thanks for letting me know. Sounds great!’”
Can you not reply?
“To answer this question lets flip the situation around. Imagine that you’re the boss and you text an urgent request to a member of your team. You wait for hours but they don’t reply. You’d probably feel quite frustrated, right? Bosses have got a lot on their plates and we can help them out by replying quickly. This doesn’t necessarily have to be by text message (a call might be better if the situation is complex), but at least let your boss know that you’ve received their message and are doing something about it.”