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Manners Matter

You know how to use communications technology to maximize productivity and profit, but make sure you’re not stepping on everyone else’s toes when you use it.

By Marjorie Brody

Business etiquette encompasses much more than simply knowing how, when, and if to hold a door open for someone. It is increasingly vital to polish and hone your technology-related etiquette skills. One gaffe or misstep could mean personal embarrassment—or, worse, the loss of a client. It’s amazing to me how frequently people forget that there are people on the other end of the wires and computers.

You see, courtesy counts, especially as it relates to communication technology. I usually break down business communication technology into five primary areas: cell phones, speakerphones, conference calls, voice mail and fax. Here’s a handy checklist to help you mind your manners.

Cell phones and pagers

  • Do not use cell phones in public places where they will disturb others, such as in meetings or restaurants or on elevators.
  • Remember that cell phones aren’t always private: Sometimes other cell phone users can hear your signal and listen in.
  • Don’t call others on their cell phones without permission.
  • Pull over to use the phone behind the wheel—or at least use a hands-free device.


  • Only use the speakerphone for conference calls.
  • Let people know who else is in the room.
  • Don’t use a speakerphone to listen to your voice mail if others can overhear it.

Conference calls

  • Those who are participating in a conference call should identify themselves when speaking.
  • If you need to leave the room during a conference call, let others know.
  • One person should act as a meeting leader during the conference call.

Voice mail

  • Change your outgoing message regularly so people know when you are available. This is especially important for those frequently on the road.
  • When leaving a message, say your name and number slowly at the beginning and end of the message.
  • Don’t say your message is urgent unless it is. Some voice mail systems also give you the option of sending the message with urgent delivery; before selecting this choice, consider if your message is that time-sensitive.
  • Be specific and concise when leaving a voice mail message. Don’t ramble!
  • Remember that voice mail is not private. Someone else in the office may access or hear the message.


  • Include a cover page with your fax with the number of pages being sent and a phone number where the recipient can reach you.
  • Call to let people know a fax is coming, especially if it’s time-sensitive material.
  • Check spelling, etc., before sending faxes—treat them as though they were letters.
  • Remember that faxes are not private—it’s very likely that anyone in the recipient’s office has access to the fax machine and can see faxes received.

Although it’s not rocket science—we are all in the people business. Courtesy does count and manners do matter!

Copyright 2006 Marjorie Brody. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Marjorie Brody, CSP, CMC, PCC, is a speaker, coach to Fortune 1,000 executives and the author of more than 18 books, including Help! Was That a Career-Limiting Move? and Speaking Is an Audience-Centered Sport. For more information, call 800-726-7936, or visit


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