Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Texting at Work: What’s Acceptable?

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Texting on Blackberry

AP Photo/Matt Sayles

There’s little doubt that new technologies and communications tools are changing the way we live and work. And, like any form of progress, the changes we’re seeing have both good and bad sides—often depending on where you sit within any given organization.

One such example is with communication barriers. It’s now easier than ever before to make contact with people who matter within companies. That can be great news for job seekers as they attempt to directly influence the people with the power to hire them. It’s arguably more of a headache, however, for those tasked with recruitment—especially if they’re finding individuals bypassing them within organizations and making their own hires and recommendations.

Things are also changing on a day to day basis, with younger generations of workers increasingly expecting to have access to tools such as Facebook and Twitter at work. Indeed, a generation that has grown up interacting with one another digitally—even when they’re sitting in the same room—may well end up reshaping the concept of workplace communication completely. Consider the following results from a survey conducted by free texting app textPlus, which suggest that future generations of workers could end up handling even the most sensitive and delicate workplace issues via text message. According to the survey:

When it comes to college kids and recent grads (18-24 years old):

  • 11% think it’s appropriate to ask for a raise via text
  • 32% say it’s ok to “call in sick” to work via text (22% have actually done it)
  • 11% think it’s alright to quit a job via text

Of course, there’s a strong chance that those opinions will change once younger workers become more firmly established in the workforce, and come to accept some of the realities of the workplace. But the perceived acceptability of more informal modes of communication seems to embed itself more with each successive generation. Consider the results for the next age group down in the same survey:

  • 18% of 13-17 year olds think it’s appropriate to ask for a raise via text
  • 51% think it’s ok to “call in sick” to work via text
  • 20% think it’s alright to quit a job via text

Now, again, the majority of 13 to 17 year olds are unlikely to have held the kind of jobs where texting your boss to let them know you won’t be coming back will pose problems for landing another one. But the striking thing about the results is the incremental shift in perception of acceptability from one generation to the next.

The jury is still out on whether the opinions of these future workers will change as they make the transition to actual workers. Until then, however, let us know what you think: will future generations reshape what’s acceptable to communicate by text or email in the workplace? Where will it end? And what are the good and bad aspects of the changes suggested by the survey results above? Let us know in the comments field below, or via some of those new-fangled communication tools, like Facebook and Twitter.


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