ON THE NET
Ethics And Courtesy On The Net
Article on netethics and e-mail ethics
© 1998 Claire
CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services
Terms: For reading only. Not to be sold, reprinted,re-written,
uploaded, or used to conduct training
by others without written agreement
Being on the net has
opened up unlimited global business, learning and networking opportunities.
It is up to all users to maintain and help ensure decorum, professionalism,
courtesy and ethical behaviour. If we do not, not only do we tarnish
our image, but may lead to a re-thinking of the way things are done
on the net; new barriers may be set up and this total openness and
instant easy accessibility to all may become a thing of the past.
Some net users abuse
and misuse these opportunities. There are the "spammers"
who indiscriminately bombard us with their unwelcome advertising,
and there are those who use it for illegal or evil purposes. As
we go along, and with advice from others, we learn how to avoid
and ignore "negative users". We cannot allow these to
prevent us from being part of the fascinating universe of cyberspace.
This guideline is to
help inexperienced users establish a positive identity, win friends
and business associates. Some are still hesitant, accessing the
net only as visitors and observers, missing out on this unique opportunity.
people's e-mail addresses: Do not give out others' e-mail addresses without first
obtaining permission to do so - this would constitute a breach of
trust and an invasion of privacy.
addresses for "spam" or "bulk" mail purposes: Do not collect other people's
e-mail addresses you come across for such purposes. You will have
attained the exact opposite of what you aimed for. You and your
company will be disliked and ruled out. If you do bulk-mail anyhow,
have the courtesy to give a genuine return e-mail address to which
the recipient may write to ask to be removed from your list. No
one wants unknown intruders!
yourself and your business: When establishing a first contact with a person or
company, identify yourself and your company, giving full name, title
or occupation, address and genuine e-mail address. It would be improper
to present yourself with a cloaked e-mail identity such as a "yahoo"
or "hotmail" address unless you can explain the reason
for it (being on travel or using someone else's computer).
an e-mail to someone for the first time, you must also address that
person formally, as is done in all business communication. Write
the person's full name, title or position, company name and address,
followed by a formal greeting (Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Mr./Ms...).
It would be a good idea to add that person's phone and fax numbers
under the address to enable the recipient to correct us if necessary.
Asking for information: When you ask someone for information,
remember that you are imposing on that person's time, attention,
and expertise. The least courtesy is for you to explain who you
are exactly and why you need this information.
who answer you: Every
response you receive, whether satisfying or not, deserves a courteous
return "thank you" note to the sender. When thanking,
remember to quote the subject at hand so the other party will remember
who you are (e.g. "thank you for responding to my query regarding
your services", or "thank you for the response you posted
on the Inc Online forum or on the Human Resources bulletin board
of HRWorld in answer to my query on ....."x" subject).
People who use the net are extremely busy managing their business
and communications with a multitude of people and companies. They
may wonder who you are if you just send a simple thank you. Do not
forget to write your full name, company name, address, and URL (web
page address) in your signature; this will ensure your being included
in "the good books" of the person or company you are thanking
(good public relations and marketing tactic).
If you want
something, offer something in return: If you ask of others, you should be ready
to give. What you give should be of value. You can offer return
assistance, or mention a resourceful web site you know, or invite
that person to visit your web site (which should offer value and
benefit to visitors).
you find on someone else's site information you wish to have at
hand, you can usually download it, save it and print it out. However,
if you want to use it, you must respect proprietary rights. The
creator or author invested all he/she has to come up with this creation.
It has been posted there for informational purposes - not for others
to use as their own. Sometimes authors clearly write that you may
print out, photocopy, and use the material even professionally -
however they do ask that whoever does so will keep the name and
address of the author intact. You should respect copyright.
When you ask someone for information, use the usual courteous language,
such as "please" "I would appreciate" and thank
the giver for his/her time and attention. Some people tend to adopt
unacceptable dictating tones such as "send me" "give
me" etc. This gives rise to immediate dislike and disrespect.
If you ask for
assistance, show that you did some hard work yourself before turning
Do not fall into the trap of thinking everyone there on the net
who appears so courteous, ready and eager to offer advice or give
assistance is ready to do work you should be doing yourself. Do
not be misled by the thought that you can obtain free professional
work through the net. If you ask for assistance, expect guidance,
not unpaid work by others. Demonstrate that you yourself have invested
serious effort towards your goal but find that you need advice from
Newcomers: If you are a newcomer to the
net, do not be ashamed to admit it. Many people on the net like
to act as mentors. It is up to you not to abuse their kindness,
but treat them with courtesy and respect their time.
Free on line
courses or working tools: Some sites, such as government or association sites,
offer free courses or working tools they allow you to download and
use, even professionally (i.e. for profit). If you download or use
such material, why not extend a word of appreciation to the givers
and creators of this material? Send a letter of appreciation for
their material and say that you find it useful in your line of work
or business. This will not only be appreciated by the people you
write to and put you and your company in good standing with them,
but may lead them to copy you on further material or invite you
to participate in an on-line live chat forum on the subject. You
will find yourself placed on the map of that particular industry
and Chat Forums - the heart of networking on the net:
- Avoid using jargon.
If you love using abbreviations, such as P.R., EEO, ROI, follow
up each abbreviation with the complete words, e.g.: public relations,
equal employment opportunity, return on investment. What you
say has to be totally and clearly understandable to any viewer.
- Answer questions
others have posted only if you have something of value to respond.
Do not respond with a short "contact me" (the other
viewers want to see what it is you can counsel that person -
you should at least give a guideline response). Do not jump
at every enquirer to push for your services without even bothering
to offer some intelligent response to the question.
- This is no place
for foul language. Respect yourself and respect others.
- Do not use bulletin
boards and chat forums for blatant advertising purposes. They
are intended for networking and a healthy exchange of ideas.
If all everyone does is push for his/her services, we shall
find ourselves in the Tower of Babel with no one listening to
or understanding the other.
- Do not destroy
the effectiveness of these forums. Do not go in surreptitiously
to collect e-mail addresses for bulk-mail purposes. If you do
so you may cause everyone to assume an "anonymous"
identity with no address.
- Help maintain a
higher level of communication. If someone makes a contribution
of value, say so, give a compliment, even to your peers. Everyone
needs to be rewarded with acknowledgment. Not only will you
help in encouraging positive and useful contributions, but you
yourself will earn respect and attention. Such behaviour also
leads to unexpected friendships.
Some people list themselves as "anonymous" when participating
in chat forums or bulletin boards. They have their own reasons for
keeping their identity and their company's identity anonymous. You
can also be "anonymous". However, do not follow the example
of some of the negative "anonymous" people - those who
remain anonymous in order to treat others with cynicism or disrespect.
have one drawback however: if someone likes what you say, wants to pursue the
relationship, or even offer you a work or business opportunity that
person has no way to contact you. It is best not to be "anonymous"
unless you have serious reasons for being so.
arising from participating in bulletin boards and chat forums: The organizers usually post
guidelines and explain the purpose of such boards or forums (networking,
exchange of ideas, etc.). Stick to the stated guidelines and give
meaningful contributions. Before you know it, business opportunities
will open up - either directly from among the active participants
or from silent viewers and observers.
Some heads of companies
read these forums to discover just the right person or business
they are looking for. If your proper identity (genuine e-mail address,
type of occupation, and possibly name of company) appear with your
posting, they will contact you directly explaining that they liked
your responses or approach and would like to know you better. A
business rapport will be established. Quite often they will reveal
what services they need and negotiations can begin.
When you offer valuable
advice to an enquirer, in most cases, the enquirer will write to
you directly thanking you, saying how your advice has helped/him
her achieve the desired goal. Even if this does not generate immediate
business for you, it will in the long run. You will be kept in mind
for future business opportunities and will earn word-of-mouth advertising
through the enquirer. Such a direct contact will enable you to better
explain your services or the products you offer, which may indeed
lead to business.
a professional attitude: It is advisable to adhere to basic business rules
- Do not try to "grab"
or pounce upon a business opportunity
- If what is required
by the potential client does not fall within your area of expertise,
refer the enquirer to a peer or other source specializing in
that particular area.
- Treat your peers
with the respect and consideration you extend to your customers.
Compliment them for their achievement or positive contribution.
- Behave with integrity
at all times. Make sure that what you offer is for your client's
- Maintain good,
mutually respectful relations with peers and the public at large.
- Speak well of your
peers and clients - it will repay itself tenfold.
- Be truthful. Do
not pretend to be what you are not. If you need advice, consult
with your peers; they will appreciate it and you will receive
the best advice available. Professionals on the web seem to
communicate and cooperate more than in real life - the spell
of the web has created a new universe with a new way of doing
things. With technological advances, it became almost impossible
to hide behind an elegant bold front. Moreover, most of net
communication is instant, led by "gut feeling" and
this instinct is usually right. Even through words appearing
on our monitor we can "sense" the values and motivation
When you act with honesty,
courtesy and professional ethics, to quote Shakespeare, "the
world is yours!"
Thank you for visiting. We
hope you will find value in the free online information provided
in our "how to" articles.
article is not to be sold, uploaded, used for public viewing, reproduced
or distributed in any form or manner without the author's written
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For the French language version of this article, translated
by courtesy of Patrick Ifonge, at http://www.easytraining.com/networkingfrench.htm
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