Etiquette for Using Modern Communication Tools

Modern communication tools such as pagers, cell phones, and speakerphones have inundated the workplace. And why not? The cellular phone, for example, is convenient, handy in emergencies, and a productivity booster. Yet, if abused, these tools, and the people using them, can quickly incur the rage of their work mates.

Like writing and the telephone, modern communication tools such as the cell phone, the pager, and the speakerphone require a certain etiquette. To use these tools effectively, you can apply the principles of the CAGE etiquette model.

The three elements of the CAGE model are the culture of the group ("C" for culture), the audience that will receive the message ("A" for audience), and your communication goal ("G" for goal). Therefore, you can think of the CAGE model as culture + audience + goal = etiquette (C + A + G = E). When using the CAGE model, you assess the culture of the company, department, or group; evaluate the audience you're targeting with your message; and identify the goal you hope to achieve with your message to determine the proper communication techniques to use.

Experts claim that there are currently more than 200 million users of wireless communication devices worldwide. Is it possible that any one set of etiquette rules applies to this international base? Probably not. In the absence of a hard-and-fast code, the CAGE model provides a way to make intelligent decisions about these and other forms of modern communication tools. Using the CAGE model involves the following steps:

  • Culture – Consider the culture in which you plan to use your communication tool. Is your cell phone appropriate for the time and place? Three key aspects of a company's culture are its level of formality, its hierarchy, and its priorities.
  • Audience – Consider your audience. What type of information does it need? What type is it expecting? Audiences typically expect to receive either information, an explanation, training, or entertainment.
  • Goal – Think about your communication goal. The four main types of goals are informing, persuading, building a team, and training.

In addition, there is a special audience consideration when it comes to modern communication tools: How do the audience members feel about this tool? Can they use it? Do they consider it appropriate? Are they comfortable using it? It's important that you consider these factors when making an etiquette decision.

Once you've evaluated the company, department, or group according to the CAGE model, ask yourself what the proper etiquette would be when communicating with the group. For example, if you're communicating for the first time with a group of executives who work in remote offices, and who consider time a top priority, you might want to meet with them as a group using a speakerphone.

In some cases, it may be easier to determine the needs and expectations of your audience than it is the culture of your workplace. In these cases, all you need to do is to ask the person with whom you're communicating about his or her preferences or ask someone else in the company who would be able to help you.

Modern communication tools, such as pagers, cell phones, and speakerphones, have an etiquette all their own. However, by applying the CAGE model to those work situations in which you're not quite sure what the proper etiquette might be, you can ensure that you use the proper communication tools in each situation.