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Shld U txt yr boss?

It's great for family and friends, but co-workers? Business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter shares the do's and don'ts of work texting.

Jen Weigel

January 24, 2011

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So you're in a sticky situation with a co-worker, and you know you need to apologize. Do you text the person, or call them and have a conversation?

"Texting is the easy way out," says Barbara Pachter, business etiquette expert and author of "Greet! Eat! Tweet!: 52 Business Etiquette Postings To Avoid Pitfalls and Boost Your Career." "With any difficult situation, if you're not face to face it's less difficult. But you have to watch out for your texting habits."

Pachter says in business, there's a right time and a wrong time to use your handheld device.

"You need to make sure you don't use it in a way that will offend someone," she says. "If you have a meeting and you place your phone right there on the table, that basically says to other person, 'I am SO ready to drop you.' "

And beware of typos when you're texting on the fly.

"It's fine to have words spelled wrong when you're texting your friends, but what if it's your boss or potential employer?" says Pachter. "One woman e-mailed her thank-you note after a job interview from her phone, and inadvertently used abbreviations. She didn't get the job as a result."

Pachter says another faux pas is texting under the table during a meeting.

"It's so disrespectful to the entire room," she says. "Do people know it's wrong? Yes -- but every time I ask whether or not people do this, they all raise their hands."

Here are Pachter's texting do's and don'ts at the office.

1. Don't text negative feedback. "You can send good news via text, but nothing negative. This way the person receives the information immediately and they won't read into your words without hearing the tone of your voice."

2. Never change meeting times or venues in a text. "The attendees may not check their phones in time. Call them if you change a meeting or location so you know you've made contact."

3. Don't quit your job in a text.  "Speak to your boss. You don't want to burn your bridges. You may need a reference in the future."

4. Chose your words carefully. "You may sound harsher than you intended. Sarcasm is tough to get in person but it is really almost impossible in writing. And be sure you aren't using abbreviations inappropriately. 'U' might be fine for a friend, but it might not be right to use with your boss."

5. Don't drink and text. "You have no filter when you've had too much to drink. But you don't even need to be drunk -- maybe just one more than you would normally have. The next thing you know, your guard is down, and you're typing something you might regret."

Have any texting-at-work stories you'd like to share?

jweigel@tribune.com