Once upon a time we had land line phones… a home number and a work number. If you knew someone really well, chances are you had their number memorised. Anyone still able rattle off a number from the 1980s better than your spouse / partner / significant other / best friend’s current mobile!?
Then along came the mobile phone… instant contact anywhere, anytime.
Which is great if there is something truly urgent.
Which is not if you want to have some modicum of work / life balance and a certain degree of… ahem… privacy.
But here is the thing… somewhere along the way it became rude to just pick up the phone and call someone… like a guest landing up unannounced at your doorstep while you are still in your PJs, haven’t brushed your teeth or hair and generally growling at the world.
“Did you ‘book’ this time?”
A few months ago I called the ‘concerned person’ after an introductory email (where the next step expected was I would speak with him), and clearly made a mis-step in not ‘booking’ an appointment to speak. Which is my normal approach however in my enthusiasm with a flurry of exchanged emails, boldly dialled with the hope of a 1 min hello to decide when convenient to speak further or a call back.
Instead I had someone completely miffed that I dared to call. Serious oops!
In fact, til date this particular person declined to respond to very polite follow-up requests for a call / meeting… To the extent that we missed even being considered for one opportunity where the solution we have is ideally suited.
Sure, he was perhaps extreme in being taken aback by my ‘gaff’ of calling without an appointment, but was he out of synch with the current business etiquette? Probably not!
Random calls which are not pre-scheduled are frowned on. Even for me, if I receive a call ‘out of the blue‘ it sometimes takes time to ‘click‘ the context and shift gears to either go ahead with the call or request another time to continue in further detail.
And with how bad the mobile network is in India, half the time it is more effective to connect over Skype or arrange to be next to your old-fashioned land line as a back-up. Try to have a 30 minute ‘call’ using a mobile? Expect to redial about 4 to 5 times… and do a lot of “Hello! Hello?! Can you hear me?!!”
WhatsAp vs Email
Conversely sending a WhatsAp message is eminently acceptable. Generally, it actually get’s a response. In fact several companies I know actively use WhatsAp groups rather than email or internal chat networks to get things done.
That said, with all the New Years greetings received via WhatsAp, I had to check quite a few times “Erhm… happy new year too but… regret I don’t have your number saved… and you are…??”
In some cases, it was terrific to be updated with a known contact’s new number. In other cases, the connect was so randomly distant, one had to wonder… and when you start getting from such parties ‘Good night dear’ messages… well… that is just creepy and you start re-thinking keeping your number on your business card!
And where does email fit in this whole equation? Heck, I’m old school. I like emails for more detailed communications… I just wish Mac & Microsoft would play nice together and let me set a delay send to better time my emails to ‘polite’ business hours and not when I tend to actually write!
I also think emails deserve a response… Whereas completely ignoring an email is ‘business as usual’ for some. One CEO I know openly admits he never responds to emails – no point even sending to him.
Have something important with details that needs a reply? Sure you can send the email… but then follow-up with a short WhatsAp message after some time and you may actually get somewhere.
Expect a response to that email? You may never hear back…
Is this a sign of the times in Asia? What about N America, Europe and other places?
Any other tips or ‘business etiquette’ changes you’ve noted?