Whether you’ve just scored your first real-world job or are well into your blossoming career, there’s one form of professional communication that you always have to be on top of: email. But with our iPhones and other tech blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives, it can be difficult to make sure we keep up with the etiquette for each world. How do we avoid potentially offensive emails? How do we handle awkward email encounters without resorting to an app? We caught up with Kristi Daniels, a career coach and business strategist with Thrive 9 to 5, LLC, to get her insight on these questions and more.


1. Know the rules. When you start a new job or have questions about your company’s policies, it’s best to start with the resources your company has provided. Kristi says, “First, find out if there are boundaries already in place. Read your company’s email policy in the employee handbook, or ask your HR director if one exists. Know that your company can monitor any communication you send from a company-issued device and/or a company-issued email address, at anytime. The same holds true when you log onto a personal account through their Internet connection.”

2. Keep it clean. “Never use profanity and never generate online conversations that you’d be embarrassed of when your boss reads them, or if the IT department finds them in a keyword search,” says Kristi. It’s also important to take your personal brand and goals for your career into consideration when conversing online in a professional setting.

“How you communicate online is a direct reflection of your integrity. Take pride in your conversations. I encourage my clients to go further, and look at where they are whining, complaining, over-apologizing or using weak language in email conversations. Step it up a level or two, if you’ve been slacking.”

3. Separate your personal life. Most companies will allow for some personal correspondence, but Kristi suggests drawing the line yourself. That means sending any personal emails, whether to your boo, your mom or your doctor, from your personal device. Kristi adds, “You also want to be sure you’re not sending work-related emails from your personal account. For example, say you’re home having trouble logging into your work account and you send from your Yahoo or Google accounts. Distributing proprietary information outside of the company email account could violate privacy and confidentiality clauses. Don’t do it.”

4. Stop the gossip. Easier said than done. We know it’s tough to not inquire about the latest office hookup or chat with your colleagues about recent promotions, and you may think conversing digitally is better than face-to-face, but it’s better to avoid taking part in these conversations altogether. “When something juicy happens and you can’t contain yourself, take your hands off the keyboard and breathe,” says Kristi. “Think about this: Gossip destroys.”

5. Just say no. When in doubt, don’t send it. If you ever find yourself wondering if an email is sounding too sassy or could come off wrong to the recipient, avoid. Especially in high-stress or emotional states, stop and take a breath. Kristi adds, “There’s a difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is a knee-jerk, emotional comeback. A response is a calm, professional reply. Think of the emotion that comes up as pure energy. Use it wisely. For example, instead of sending a snarky email, get out of your seat and go talk to your colleague in person.”

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