Any job requires communication skills. Technical skills and expertise are useless if we are unable to communicate properly. Respect workplace communication etiquette to be effective in the modern workplace.  

What workplace communication etiquette is

Workplace communication etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately and effectively communicate in the modern workplace. Such rules include:

  • How to communicate effectively.
  • Which channels to use.
  • The workplace communication mistakes to avoid.

As an employee, you should respect workplace communication etiquette to effectively communicate with your colleagues, manager, and business partners.

As a manager or employer, promote workplace communication etiquette in your team to ensure effective communication.

Communication is the result of 3 factors.1) Why. Or the goal we want to achieve.
2) What. Or the content of our message.
3) How. Or the way we deliver the message.

Workplace communication etiquette principles

Communication is the result of three factors. 

  • Why, or the goal of our communication. 
  • What we say. 
  • How we say it.

Workplace communication etiquette helps us correctly define the “why”, “what”, and “how”.

The 8 rules of effective workplace communication

Workplace communication etiquette rules

1) Communication in the workplace must be strategic

We communicate to achieve a goal. We should not communicate for the sake of doing it. Thus, we should adapt the content, the form, and the channel of communication to our goal.

Try to anticipate the consequences of your message. How will the audience react? Should you consider reaching out through another channel? Should the tone be formal or informal?

Make your workplace communication predictable

Workplace communication should build trust. Communicating in an inconsistent way is a mistake. You will look unreliable. Others may be in discomfort when working with you. 

Keep a consistent communication style. Always clarify your needs. Make clear what your goals are and why. 

2) Who is your audience

Craft your message to your audience. Know the persons you communicate to. Who are they? What is their goal? 

The style of communication within your company depends on the audience. You can use an informal tone with your peers or team members. With your manager, you may require a more formal tone. With senior managers or executives, you must be as concise as possible.

Communication with external parties, such as vendors or clients, has additional rules. It may require a more formal tone. Some information, such as internal data, may be inappropriate. 

Communicate based on your audience’s expectations

Your audience’s expectations depend on the context. Adapt your style to the context. Failing to do so is a workplace communication mistake. It makes you look inadequate and unprofessional.

Always keep in mind the key factors that distinguish your audience.

  • The industry you work in.
  • Your company’s culture. 
  • Your team’s culture.
  • The occasion. For example, the style of customer support is not the same as in sales.
  • The communication channel.

3) Understand the context

Adapt your communication style to the context. Communication during a coffee break is different from a formal meeting. The tone of an email is more formal than an instant message.

What is the communication etiquette in your company?

Each company has its culture. Some are more formal. Others may be more secretive. Be conservative when you join a new team. Observe how your coworkers behave. Understand their culture. Then adjust your communication. Use the same caution when you meet with a partner or a client for the first time.

The 7 most common types of body language.1) Facial expressions.
2) Eye movement.
3) Body posture.
4) Gestures.
5) Touch.
6) The use of space.
7) Scent.

4) Use the correct dress code & body language

Communication in person is both verbal and non-verbal. Non-verbal communication is the dress code and body language

The dress code depends on your workplace culture and on context. A bank or a high-end store may require a formal style. Tech startups usually prefer an informal one. Meeting with external parties, such as a client, always requires more formal attire. Observe how others behave. Then, adjust your style.

Body language consists of multiple factors.

  • Facial expressions.
  • Eye movement.
  • Body posture.
  • Gestures.
  • Touch.
  • The use of space.
  • Scent.

It is best to keep neutral body language in the workplace. Limit facial expressions and gestures. Avoid touching. Respect personal space. Do not get too close to others. Keep a grooming routine. Avoid strong perfume.

Body language varies between cultures. Even in the same workplace, people from different cultures may interpret body language in different ways. It is best to start with a neutral stance. Then, observe your coworkers and adjust your style accordingly.

The 4 communication channels of the modern workplace. How to use them.1) Email.
2) Instant messaging.
3) Phone calls.
4) Face-to-face meetings.

5) Communicate on the right channels

The modern workplace employs several channels of communication. Each channel has its etiquette. Thus, you should use every channel according to its communication etiquette. 

Formal communication should always be via email. If you need to keep a record of your message, send it via email. Email is preferable with human resources. With partners, vendors, or clients for offers or requests. With your manager, for requests such as time off or budget. Also, choose email if your message may be forwarded to others. Meeting minutes are an example.

Instant messaging is informal. Examples are Slack or Whatsapp. They are perfect for short and informal syncs. Move longer discussions to a meeting. Do not use an instant message if you may need a record of that message.

Phone calls work well to discuss routine topics. Face-to-face meetings are best for one-time topics. Examples are personal issues, promotions, or working methods.

The 7 Cs of communication. How our messages should be.1) Complete.
2) Concise.
3) Considerate.
4) Concrete.
5) Courteous.
6) Clear.
7) Correct.

6) Craft your communication with the 7 C’s

The 7 C’s of communication are the traits of the ideal professional message. They define what professional communication should look like.


Include all the information that your audience needs. Avoid the need for a follow-up.


Go to the point. Keep communication brief. Avoid filler words, redundancy, or repetition.


Make your message easy to understand. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Imagine how they will receive your words. Simplify. Explain every concept.


Make your message specific and vivid. Avoid general or vague ideas. Your audience should not need to interpret your words. 


Be polite. Follow the common etiquette rules. Be empathetic to your audience. Avoid insults or a disrespectful tone. Do not be passive-aggressive.


Say only one thing in each sentence. Form clear, short sentences. Your audience should not have to read between the lines.


Avoid misspelling or grammar errors. Check more than once the name of the recipient before you send an email. Stick to simple words that you know. Check facts, data, and any technical terms.

Why the 7 C’s are key to workplace communication etiquette

Business speaking has its rules. Your communication must be fit for the workplace. Otherwise, people will think that you are unprofessional.

Speak and write in a structured manner. Simplify concepts. Avoid jargon or too technical terms. Be concise. Do not overtalk, as it confuses the audience. Use consistent vocabulary. Avoid synonyms, as they may create confusion. 

Imprecise or vague content ruins your personal brand. Thus, you should never give an imprecise or fluffy answer. Instead, if you do not know the right answer to a question, state it. Commit to following up. Then, get back with the correct answer.

7) Keep personal and professional separate

We all are persons. We have our identity and values. However, at work, we are our roles first. We have duties that we must fulfill. Thus, it is best to keep a clear separation between our personal and professional lives. 

In the workplace, it is best to communicate in a professional, neutral tone. Focus on work topics. Avoid controversial topics. Politics or lifestyle topics should only belong to your personal life.

A personal touch is often appreciated. However, make sure to set and respect boundaries. Apply your judgment.   

The 3 capital sins of workplace communication.1) Be disrespectful.
2) Antagonize.
3) Communicate negative content.

8) Avoid the 3 workplace communication capital sins

Do not be disrespectful

Pay full and exclusive attention to any person you are communicating with. Listen more than you talk. Moderate the volume of your voice at any time. Use a tone of voice and body language that is not offensive. Make sure your dress code is appropriate.

Do not interrupt. Let others finish their sentences. Ask questions instead of making statements. Ask for clarification or additional detail when needed.

Do not antagonize

It is best to avoid open confrontation. Thus, try your best to not start a feud. Never embarrass others. Avoid negative words, sentences, or remarks. Avoid starting a sentence with a “no”. Do not openly antagonize others. Instead, ask probing questions. Be patient and show empathy.

Avoid negative content

Do not make negative comments. Avoid derogatory terms. Avoid personal topics with people you are not familiar with. Ensure that your words are not discriminatory, sexist, or racist.

The worst workplace communication mistakes. How to avoid bad communication at work.

Workplace communication etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

workplace communication etiquette mistakes

Avoid the worst workplace communication etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Making derogatory remarks.
  • 9/10. Disrespecting your audience.
  • 9/10. Antagonizing others.
  • 7/10. Communicating in an unstructured manner.
  • 7/10. Using the wrong communication channels.
  • 7/10. Mixing personal and professional.