• Leah Norman

The use of texting in the Employment Relationship

Clearly, mobile phones have, and will continue to, change the way we communicate with each other, including in the workplace, and text messaging is becoming a part of employer/employee communication, but is this a good or a bad thing?

Text messaging is a good way for people to communicate as messages are generally short meaning senders stick to the point and messages are direct to a person’s phone.

Unfortunately there are some major drawbacks to the use of text messaging in the employment context and we have noticed a steady increase in cases before the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) where text messages have contributed to the situation in dispute. Often this is due to a breakdown in communication and individual interpretation of messages sent and received.

The most important lesson for employers and managers to be ware of is to avoid texting employees about serious employment matters such as disciplinary issues, performance issues, termination, resignation, or offers of employment.

These are the serious issues that can drastically change the course of an employment relationship and the brevity of the text messaging medium does not allow for the magnitude of those critical moments to be appropriately addressed or recorded.

In essence, it comes down to the fact that text messages are by their nature short, informal and often not even composed of full sentences or complete words. They are, therefore, prone to misinterpretation in circumstances where tensions may already be running high.

Before sending a text message, employers and managers should also consider whether access to the content of the message will be required at some later point in time. Individual text messages are notoriously difficult to locate after the fact, difficult to print or share outside of a messaging app and are not always stored for long periods of time.

Good record keeping makes for good compliance with workplace laws and in the modern age text messages are challenging for record keeping.

This is not to say that text messaging should be banned between colleagues, rather that the subject matter and context of the subject matter should be carefully considered before deciding to communicate by text.


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