Informal aspects of the workplace: Should we clamp down informal communication?
Over the past few years, many people replaced office cubicles for the comfort of their homes and strict office attire for pyjama bottoms and sweatpants. Many people replaced spoken word for instant messages, laughter and frown for emojis.
Instant messengers became the main way how we communicate in the office on a daily basis. They make communication at work much easier and quicker since communication via chat apps resembles spoken words.
By using instant messaging, we can solve problems much quicker, since we don’t have to beat around the bush and deal with formalities to get the information we need like we’d do if we used email, for instance.
However, even though it brings a wide array of benefits to an organization - such as closing the gap remote work has brought, increase in employee engagement, and higher productivity rates - instant messaging at work can be damaging too.
Due to its informal nature, instant messaging in the office can quickly turn South. We might forget we’re at work, and bring up some less desirable conversations that might not be inclusive, leaving some of our colleagues offended.
Furthermore, due to its informal nature, instant messaging at work can make us abandon the usual office etiquette we would use and quickly forget where we are: at work.
With that being said, many of us wondered about the informal aspects of a workplace and where to draw the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Remote work can make us feel pretty lonely.
Remote work can make us feel lonely and isolated, especially if you’re an extrovert wishing you’re surrounded by people. Casual interaction is the heart of workplace culture and the prerequisite for a great collaboration. It helps us get to know each other better, enabling us to understand our co-worker’s motivation and behaviour which aids the collaborative process.
But how casual conversations should be, and what are the informal aspects of workplace communication we should be wary about?
Here, we decided to share a few instances in which informal communication can be damaging to the workplace.
Informal communication can lead to confusion.
When we communicate with our co-workers informally, we usually don’t follow any set of rules workplace communication should be followed by. A danger of informal aspects of a workplace may hide in disclosing information that is sometimes confidential and important without fear of the consequences. This is how vital information may leak via less formal channels of communication creating confusion and discontent.
Let’s say that your co-worker might hear there might be some raises in the following month. You might get ecstatic and take this piece of information for granted, only to be disappointed if the expected rise doesn’t happen. You might be, then, disappointed with the management because they failed to meet your expectations, while they never did something to make you believe you should be expecting it.
Informal communication can lead to discrimination.
When we’re talking with our friends, we’re communicating with a group of people that share the same interests as we do, and usually have the same sense of humour. We’re hanging out and communicating with people that are like us.
However, we cannot choose our co-workers and it’s normal to have colleagues combining from different backgrounds and mindsets. With that being said, office jokes, even if they were made without malice, can be misinterpreted. This is how some of your co-workers might be offended because they find themselves in a joke you made, or you may have just brought up a stereotype that makes your fellow co-worker hurt.
The bottom line is informal communication in an organization is tricky, and you should definitely pay close attention to what you’re saying. Clamping down informal communication might be useful to avoid such situations.
Informal communication can lead to discontent that can stall the collaborative process.
As we’ve said before, informal communication can be damaging to the collaborative process. If we communicate informally in the office, we might forget that we are at work and that people we work with might have different opinions from us. This is how we may end up sharing some politically sensitive opinions which might be offensive to others and end up ruining the relationship with our co-workers which can result in a lower collaborative spirit.
Informal communication in an organization should have its limitations, and we should be wary about what we say at work.
Informal communication can be damaging for the business.
When we communicate informally with our co-workers, we usually don’t follow any procedures and limitations we usually would if we spoke in a more formal way. This is how we might disclose sensitive information that can be damaging to business. It might happen that some of the important information leaks and makes businesses liable.
Informal communication can lead to grapevine communication.
Grapevine communication is a form of informal communication in an organization that makes a network based on social relationships, rather than a title or job description. And even though grapevine communication can be beneficial in some cases - as it makes people get to know each other better, it can be damaging too.
For instance, grapevine communication can promote office gossip which can be damaging to the employee’s morale, make some employees feel left out and alone. It can also stall productivity since one message can be transmitted repeatedly to the same people via different channels of communication, and it can be misleading since fake information can spread much faster and some messages that are sent via those channels might be contradictory, leaving others confused.
Informal aspects of the workplace are a double-edged sword.
Informal aspects of the workplace are a double-edged sword. Informal communication in the workplace might be helpful when it comes to increasing employee engagement, productivity and motivation. However, if we don’t take care and relax too much, we can fall prey to all those traps we’ve talked about. The bottom line is work, and we should be wary about what and how we communicate with our co-workers, regardless of the level of closeness we have with them.