Online Etiquette Rules: How to Avoid a Digital Disaster

We've all had moments of frustration at work – some leading to hastily crafted emails, thoughtless Twitter posts or Facebook rants. But in today's age of digital connectedness, it's critical to always take a step back and think before you type.

The rules of online etiquette are more important than ever, as evidenced by a recent LinkedIn scenario gone wrong. This is a prime example of letting your emotions get the best of you.

It's also a good reminder that one flip comment in today's digital world can go viral – quickly damaging a career and sabotaging a hard-earned reputation. So before you hit send or share, consider these six online etiquette rules:

1. Don't vent. The first thing to remember is that while frustration, stress and anger are natural emotions, your first priority should be to remain professional. Nothing you share online or in an email should be considered private; anything you write could be forwarded. Digital trails aside, keep in mind that all work emails are, by law, saved, stored and recovered as needed – another reason to always keep comunications professional. 

2. Be considerate. Never say anything rude or inappropriate about your company, colleagues, clients or other business contacts – even the competition. You never know who might see it or who you may need assistance from in the future.

3. Be selective. Create different lists of friends on Facebook, so that work-related contacts are granted different access to information than close friends. That said, always remember tip 1: Nothing you say online is ever private, even when you think it is.

4. Pause before hitting send. If an incident or conversation leaves you heated, stop and take a breath to gain perspective on how to respond. If you do compose an email or post while emotions are fresh, clear your head before you send or share. At work, you may even ask your manager to take a quick glance at your message to ensure what you say and how you say it are appropriate.

5. Pick up the phone. In certain situations, it may be better to pick up the phone or meet face to face than shoot off an email or IM to resolve a sticky situation.

6. Acknowledge your mistake. This is PR 101: The best way to recover from a mistake, digital or otherwise, is to own up to it and make amends if you've offended someone.

For more online etiquette tips, check out our guide, Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age.

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