Workplace Communication Sins


The endless stream of work messages is annoying at the best of times. Still, in today’s world, digital workplace communication is a must. Emails and instant messaging applications dominate our working lives more than. And no one can escape it.

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s experts, companies can raise productivity by 20–25% by implementing social technologies. On the one hand, social tools enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. On the other, with remote work as the new office normal, we can feel overwhelmed with all that buzz.

Last month, LiveCareer conducted a study on top business communication pet peeves. They surveyed over 1000 employees to uncover the greatest communication sins. Keep on reading to find out more about email and instant messaging etiquette.

It turned out that 4 in 10 research participants spent approximately 2–3 hours a day checking their work mailboxes and replying to emails every day. Let’s do quick math. With 260 working days in a year, it gives us 4 in 10 employees spending approximately three weeks to more than a month (520–780 hours) on work email correspondence.

A lot, to put it mildly.

Let’s not make things even worse by annoying each other with our irritating communication habits. We’ll all be happier and more productive.

Let’s see what are workplace communication dos and don’ts now.

Email Greetings, Sign-offs, And Common Phrases: The Best & The Worst

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Keep that in mind and be sure not to mess with email greetings.

LiveCareer’s experts checked which email greetings evoked positive emotions and which were better to avoid. The top 5 highest-rated ones included:

  • Good morning/afternoon
  • Greetings
  • Dear [Sir/Madam]
  • Dear [your name]
  • Happy [day] (e.g. Happy Monday)

Stick to the correspondence classics. It’s easy and safe in business communication. Also, you can feel free to address people by their first names. 81% of research participants claimed they liked it.

Let’s move on to the worst greetings now:

  • [no greeting]
  • Hey
  • Hey there
  • To whom it may concern
  • Hi

Time to focus on top-rated email sign-offs:

  • Thank you
  • Have a great day
  • Sincerely
  • Best wishes
  • Best regards

Again, communication evergreens. Don’t be too casual, don’t be too formal. Try to find a happy medium.

And here’s a quick look at the worst email-sign offs choices:

  • [no sign-off]
  • Warmly
  • Regards
  • Love
  • Thanks
  • Thanks

Let’s investigate respondents’ attitudes toward common work-related email phrases now. The top 5 best included:

  • Hope this email finds you well
  • I hope you’re having a great [day/week]
  • I hope you’re having a productive day
  • Hope you’re well
  • Per our conversation

Conversely, the top 5 worst were the following:

  • Not sure if you saw my last email
  • Sorry for the double email
  • As per my last email
  • As discussed
  • Let’s take this offline

As you can see, kindness wins over pushy, passive-aggressive email tones.

That’s a good lesson to learn. Word choice matters more than we may think.

The study also revealed that younger people and small companies were more informal when it comes to workplace communication. The older and more corporate you are, the more formal you’re likely to be, it seems.

Email Etiquette

Email etiquette time. Research participants were asked a series of questions about acceptable email communication behaviors. Below, you can see a percentage of respondents who considered a given option as acceptable:

  • Using all capital letters for a whole word, sentence, or whole email—70%.
  • Having a blank subject line in an email—70%.
  • Choosing “Reply to all” option if the issue doesn’t involve everyone copied in—72%.
  • Using a vague subject line in an email [e.g. FYI or Hey]—73%.
  • Sending a work email at unsociable/odd hours  [e.g. 3:00 a.m.]—73%.
  • Using the urgent marker for non-urgent emails—74%.
  • Using slang—74%.
  • Sending your colleagues non-work related messages—74%.
  • BCC’ing (blind copy) recipients on work emails—75%.
  • CC’ing the recipient’s manager if they’re not involved in the conversation—75%.
  • Sending an email without proofreading—75%.
  • Using emojis—76%.
  • Requesting read receipts—80%.


Last but not least. According to 39% of participants, a response to a work-related email should take 3–6 hours at most. No excuses.

How about instant messaging etiquette? Is it also a savoir-vivre minefield? Let’s find out.

Instant Messaging Etiquette

What instant messaging behaviors did research participants consider acceptable then? [The given percentage means how many respondents viewed certain behavior as acceptable].

  • Spamming with non-work related matters—71%.
  • Starting a video call without any notice—72%.
  • Overusing emojis—72%.
  • Switching off a camera in a team meeting—75%.
  • Setting yourself as online/available, although you aren’t working—75%.
  • Setting yourself as offline/unavailable when you are working—77%.
  • Lack of greetings—77%.
  • Not using emojis—78%.
  • Sending a bunch of short messages instead of one bigger—81%.
  • Sending messages outside normal office hours—81%.
  • Not responding quickly, although being available—82%.

Digital communication for work purposes changes all the time. So does the labor market. Make use of LiveCareer’s research findings to communicate effectively without being a pain for others. We’re in this together.

Final Notes

Mental health goes first.

If you find the flow of workplace communication really overwhelming, you can always mute some notifications. Especially when you receive them both on a computer and on the phone. Even with muted notifications, you can be up-to-date with work-related stuff. The only difference is that you need to check mailboxes, chats, and texts without any reminders. Keep the balanced approach, though. Consider which notifications are helpful to you, and manage the flow of communication effectively. Good luck!

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