Navigating the Work Group-Text

Navigating the Work Group-Text was originally published on HigherEdJobs by Mónika Sziron | Friday, October 18, 2019

More and more, group-texts in the workplace are becoming a primary mode of communication. It is not uncommon to receive text messages before and after work hours, sometimes even over the weekend, from these group-texts. Some office group-texts are very formal spaces and include only workplace info, and some are more informal spaces, including dog pictures, weekend festivities, and life updates. Navigating these group-texts can be blurry, like deciphering when to text back, what to send, what not to send, and when to silence the group-texts. Beryl Greenberg, executive career coach, who specializes in work-life balance and leadership development, provides several suggestions for when these questions arise. Whether you are an employee or supervisor, there are several ways you can navigate your office’s group text.

What to send. Whether you are an employee or a supervisor, when sending a message in the group text, ask yourself “Is this something urgent?” Does the message need a timely or an immediate response? It is also important to consider how complex and detailed the information you are sending is. The more complex and detailed the information, the more likely it is that it could be misinterpreted, or parts of the information could be missed. Group-texts should be used for quick updates and simple information exchange.

Set boundaries. Setting boundaries on your engagement with the group-text is also important. For supervisors, Greenberg suggests, “It can be very helpful for everyone to be on the same page for boundaries of the group-text. When ground rules are clear, it is a more effective means of communication for everyone.” She also suggests, if you start to feel like the group-text is intrusive or obnoxious, set your own boundaries and don’t feel bad for setting those boundaries. If you don’t want to respond to a non-vital text message at 9:30 on a Tuesday evening, don’t respond. Set boundaries for yourself, but don’t assume that everyone in the group-text shares those boundaries. Be respectful of your boundaries and others’.

You can verbally state your boundaries within the group-text, or show your boundaries through actions. Greenberg says, “Simply not replying is a boundary. Turning your phone off or on mute, or ‘do not disturb,’ is setting a boundary.” As an employee, Greenberg says, there should be no guilt in not texting back if the information is not vital.

Set expectations. Supervisors should set the expectations of why the group-text is being created. Is the group-text for keeping in touch and updating each other on office work? Or is the purpose of the group-text only for emergencies or vital information? Whatever the purpose is, supervisors should remind employees of that purpose when the group-text is muddied with texts that don’t pertain to the purpose. Not addressing the texts that digress from the purpose of the group-text could lead to employees not taking the group-text seriously or ignoring it more often. Greenberg reminds us that, when setting up the expectations of your office’s group-text, it is important to remember that texting is an immediate form of communication. If a text message is not seen in the moment, it’s easy for it — and the information it contains — to get overlooked. She also advises supervisors should communicate whether being an active member of the group-text is an employee responsibility or not.

Group-texts may also run into the clash of generational expectations. Junior members of the group-text may text more often, or in the eyes of senior members, over-share in the group-text. A recent example includes a junior colleague sending pictures and text messages to her office’s group-text on a Saturday evening from a wedding she was attending. This kind of scenario may be welcome in some office group-texts and frowned upon in others, thus stressing the importance of setting expectations in the group-text.

Remember. The work group-text is a dynamic environment that needs to be managed. As an increasingly common form of communication for many offices, the boundaries and expectations will need to be established for each individual office. These boundaries and expectations may change over time and whenever changes are made, they should be communicated in-person whenever possible. As an extension of the office, an office group-text should follow and maintain the environment of your office. Keep in mind, that with so many forms of communication available (e-mail, in-person, by phone, etc.), think about whether the information you are trying to convey is an appropriate ‘text-able’ moment. It is also important to remember that respecting the boundaries of employees’ and supervisors’ work-life balance is an important priority.

By Hayden Duplechain
Hayden Duplechain Career Development Specialist Hayden Duplechain