Keeping You Out of Hot Water!

Dear 3040 and Beyond:

I’m a new grad at a big firm and I think I’ve messed things up with my co-workers. They’ve been acting weird around me and my only office friend says I’ve been offending people in my emails. From my boss to my peers, it looks like I’ve made everyone mad. The thing is, I have no idea what kinds of stuff I could say in email that would piss people off! I’m a nice person and I haven’t had many problems like this before. Can you help?


In Hot Water

I understand the troubles of communicating to others, especially in a workplace environment. There are some undisclosed rules of the workplace that can make interacting with coworkers and clients far different than how you would hangout out with your friends. By examining and understanding these rules I believe we can create some tips and tricks for understanding how to communicate effectively and efficiently at the
workplace. While there was less importance of formality in college, the rules have changed for the workplace. Now these rules should be nothing to fear for it just takes some understanding and one will be right on their way to a happier workplace.

As we go about our day we often switch between different types of formality when it comes to speaking with others. I assume one does not speak to their professor in the same way they speak to their best friend. I believe this to be the key point of understanding why communication in the workplace may be working against you. I suggest to you, Hot Water, and for all of you out there reading, to examine when you switch to a more formal tone. Something tells me that social cues have guided us to present ourselves in a way most fitting to the situation. This understanding may have been looked over thus leading you to a situation of disgruntled coworkers.

Who’s at the Workplace?:

Consider the types of people one may have to interact with at work. There are co-workers, bosses, executives, team leaders, however many different managers, clients and more. This should display the importance of addressing formailty when writing or speaking to any of these individuals. Fortunately their are tips to solving when to be less and more formal. Sondra Thiederman, a Monster Contributing Writer, offers an awesome solution that can find out when to be formal. Her suggestion is to use a formal prefix to a name such “Mr.,” “Miss,” “Ms.,” and any other salutation mobile-1530816-1600x1200(Theirderman, Full Article). I find this very useful because one can start at a place of formality then gauge, based off of the others reaction, whether this seems too formal or not. Typically poeple will tell you if you are being too formal. In this situation one might acknowledge the formal title and then ask you to call them by name. If this does not occur you can assume using a salutation is appropriate unless told otherwise.

Picking an Audience:

Unfortunately it is impossible to know exactly how others want you to appear but I find that to be a good thing. While you may not meet every expectation of another I believe that providing an authentic self is more important than tailoring yourself towards others. That does not mean go off and do whatever, nor does it mean you have to completely transform yourself into a professional guru. I think it can be helpful to consider what the audience is looking to get from the speaker so that communication can flow in the most effortless way possible. To get people on the right path I have found three questions to help test the waters before communicating with others. The questions are: (From This Article)

  • How much do they already know about my topic?
  • What do they think about my topic?
  • What are their goals?

These questions can help conceptualize what a speaker might want to say, and how they should say it. If one is still having trouble communicating effectively in the workplace it might be time for some feedback from others. meeting-room-1-1232521-1599x1066Now this feedback should not be in the form of an email or non face-to-face interaction. I found a writer named, Micheal Lewis, who offered a great point stating, “The meaning and intent of written words without the context of a physical presence is often misunderstood, and can lead to confusion and conflict. There is no substitute for looking someone in the eye and seeing their reaction to your conversation to clarify content and assure comprehension and agreement.”(Lewis, From This Article). Essentially there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. In these scenarios it is far less ambiguous to see how your message is getting across and it may be a great place to ask for some tips specific to your work environment. I hope these suggestions help guide you to the right path in your workplace endeavors.

Photos provided by:


Johannes Raitio


2 thoughts on “Keeping You Out of Hot Water!

  1. Hi there! First off, I loved your formatting and use of pictures. I really enjoyed the notion of having three distinct questions to ask while writing. “How much do they already know about my topic” works well because it keeps you from repeating information they already know. You write differently based on whether someone is an expert or a novice at something. One would probably allow you to assume they knew the basics while the latter would suggest you might need to break down the subject matter a little bit. The question “what do they think about my subject?” is also great because again, if someone is bored or not interested in your topic you will likely have to appeal to them differently than someone who is excited about your topic. I really enjoyed your format because it emphasizes the need for customization and tailoring.Overall,great format and great post!

  2. You had a very creative layout and use of pictures which I really enjoyed. It made your post stand out among the others which is cool since they’re all blog posts, the fact that yours immediately drew attention is great! I’m glad you mentioned the formality element when addressing people. i myself sometimes struggle with finding a proper way to address people. Next, I think the three questions to focus your writing around was a great way to center your piece and help anyone in writing. I think feedback is key to growing and bettering yourself and I’m so glad you brought it up and highlighted the importance of it. overall great piece. Those were just my favorite parts

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s