Business Communication Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Be Employed

A man speaks into a tin can to communicate his message

Communication is an integral part of success in the workplace. Sometimes words are taken out of context or they don’t fit the situation. Although some communication situations are challenging to navigate and interpret, there are just as many when you can obviously do the right thing and guarantee success. Start with accuracy and authenticity and you can’t go wrong!

Spell names correctly

When in doubt, just ask someone how to spell his or her name. Even if they’ve been asked a million times, it’s still better to get it right. Don’t say those annoying things like “Oh, you spell Sara the weird way, without the ‘h’.”

If someone emails or messages you, and you can see the exact way the name is spelled, don’t respond back with “Julie” when the person’s name is clearly “Juli.” When it’s right in front of you, there is no excuse for messing it up; it looks lazy, inconsiderate, or both. Those aren’t qualities employers want in their employees.

Pronounce names correctly

It can be tricky, especially when you have a diverse, international team, to know how to pronounce every name. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask, or to ask again. Repeat it back and don’t have an ego about it. Sometimes it’ll take you a few tries.

Use people’s preferred names

When you’re working with people for the first time, you may only see their names in an email or meeting invite. Email addresses are usually set up with people’s full legal names, but people often prefer a shortened version or nickname. Don’t assume either way, because there are some people who really don’t want to be called “Jenn” instead of “Jennifer.”

A good way to know their preference (other than asking) is to see how they sign their email messages. If they sign with the nickname, you can address them with that going forward.

Make sure you’re directing your message to the right person

Spelling names wrong is bad enough, but just flat out directing a message to the person is even worse. You can blame how people set up their autoresponders for this. I actually had a recruiter that sent me three messages that started with “Hi Kayla.”

My name is not Kayla.

I’d ignored the first couple, but it was just irritating, so I sent her a message back saying that if she really wants to recruit people, she should fix that.

Get your facts straight

If you don’t remember someone or you don’t remember the details of a meeting, don’t fake it. Another email I received from a recruiter started like this:

“The last time we met…”

We’ve never met.

Get the company name right

I worked for a consulting company that did a lot of work for Procter & Gamble. I should’ve counted how many times I saw people spell the company name wrong (often “Procter” was autocorrected to “proctor”).

Be authentic

Don’t be a sycophant by spewing out generic statements about how much you love someone’s books or talks or whatever. Do list some true statements you enjoy about the other’s work, or what you’ve noticed as the company’s strengths or opportunities are from your research on their website.

Don’t just spam people by telling them you have a great offer they should take advantage of so you can fix their career or company. Do offer partnerships when you’ve already spent some time looking at what they do when your product or service can complement it.

Avoid big blunder typos

I almost typed this recently to my manager “I look forward to being a prat of this.”

Um, yikes. I don’t want to be a prat. I want to be a “part” of it.

I also graded a paper recently in which the student said they “severed” the community instead of “served” it. Ouch.

This is a fairly lighthearted look at communication blunders, but know that if you make them, it might be enough to not get a job, a promotion, or a customer.