Question: Is it appropriate for a boss to text an employee?
- Sam in Pa.
Answer: Once upon a time, I may have answered no, but texting is such a go-to form of communication now that my simple answer is yes. But that means a brief text with information you need to know. A boss shouldn't text, "Hey, what are you up to this weekend?" But a text on a Sunday telling an employee that an early-morning Monday meeting has been canceled, or that the company president is making a surprise visit to our branch today? That seems fine to me.
It also depends on the culture of the company and if there is an employee handbook specifying forms of communication. I checked in with Kathleen Morris, senior counsel for Towers Watson in Philadelphia, and she agreed. "Another consideration is whether it is a company-provided phone," Morris said. "I wouldn't think twice about a text from my boss on a work cell. I agree that it should be work-related and there should be a reason for it. We often text when we are traveling and need to meet up at a restaurant, hotel, or airport. Texting is a very familiar form of communication, so it isn't off-limits, but with any boss/employee relationship, there are boundaries that should be observed."
I know situations where people have worked together a long time and their bosses are family friends. And texting is fine in those cases, too, in my opinion. But inappropriate or harassing communication is wrong whether it's by phone call, e-mail, or text.
Q: When should you leave a voice mail and when is it better to just hang up? And do you have to listen to a voice mail or can you just call back?
- Ellie in Pa.
A: Anyone else remember when phone messages came on little pink sheets of paper? Well, enough reminiscing.
First, a confession: On my cellphone, I rarely listen to the message; I often just call the person back. That being said, I would leave voice mail anytime you have a piece of information to leave, or in the case of friend or family member. You want the person to know you called. I know some people who don't like to leave or listen to messages, but voice mail isn't at all rude or intrusive and often is the most convenient way to communicate. I think a message left on one's phone is better than five missed calls from the same person.
Q: I am a stay-at-home mom of teenagers and I'm active in my community. I also have been a caretaker for some of our elderly relatives. It upsets me when people say, "You don't work." I feel like I work very hard.
- J. in N.J.
A: Unfortunately, some people think "work" has to include a paycheck every other week. I have also heard people call preschool teaching or child care "not real jobs." Those people must never have participated in any of those tasks.
It is rude to say, "You don't work" or, "You don't have a real job." The next time someone pulls that line on you, sweetly say: "Oh, I work. I just don't get a regular check, benefits, or paid vacation. In fact, I don't seem to get vacation at all." It will give the person something to ponder.
Q: Are there any manners words to live by?
- Nan in N.J.
A: I'll let a reader answer this. From an e-mail I received this month:
On my desk calendar, there is a quote today that immediately made me think of you, and I wanted to share it with you: "Graciousness is more than good manners. It is more than courtesy. It is the etiquette of the soul. True graciousness has such a divine quality we feel it is something that comes through us and not from us." - Fred Smith
To that I say, always be gracious, even when someone cuts you off in traffic. That's good manners.
- Lilyan in Pa.
Recently, we discussed "How many selfies are too many?" I agree with what one reader had to say:
I don't see social media as being too different from a party in real life, and I think it helps to consider your Facebook posts and comments the same way. You wouldn't talk relentlessly about yourself (or the minutiae of your life) at an event you're attending, would you? And if it's not something you'd say aloud in public or would mind being overheard, don't say it at all. As for the numerous kid photos and updates, some friends and family can't get enough. Learn to judiciously use your privacy settings to avoid overwhelming those who do reach a limit.
- Tracy in Pa.