musings of a mediabot

OMG IM is at work

Posted on: October 31, 2008

Instant messaging exploded as hype – you either got it or you didn’t.  The trend instantly became a part of the global culture, dramatically changing the way (and how quickly) people communicated with each other.  IM has given birth to a new language, a sort of SMS “street” slang, that only the most IM-adept could understand.  Now, IM has attracted crowds other than the bubble-gum teens.  Check out the commercials.  IM is everywhere, including the workplace.  Everyone is chatting in bite-sized phrases.

I am a proud instant messenger/texter myself.  It’s convenient.  It takes only a minute, or a few if you’re involved in an actual chat.  But, in the workplace?  It is one thing to have a group chat to brainstorm new strategies, for say, starting an ad campaign.  It is another to execute a project that may have more grave consequences (such as securing a multi-million client with an out-of-the-ballpark proposal) whose members span continents and who speak many different languages and who may all have a different strategy to meet the group’s goal.  A little more complicated, right?

But it seems that IM in the workplace is no stranger.  Why is IM used by companies to encourage inter-departmental communication among employees?  Why is it not?  How many companies are using IM or video-chat tools to meet their responsibilities to international partners or to provide services to international clients?  Is IM an effective communication vehicle for multi-cultured business groups considering the different languages involved and varied comprehension levels that stem from a rainbow of cultures?  Is language even a barrier in online communication?  Has the formality of corporate communication officially dissolved?  These are the types of questions I will explore in my final paper for my Intro. to the Digital Age class.

I invite you to join in my exploration.  Does your company encourage employees to use AIM or Yahoo messenger or any other IM program to exchange ideas with each other?  Does your company offer services to international businesses, and if so, what is the preferred method of communication – IM? video chat? email? traditional in-person meeting?  What is your initial reaction to IM In the workplace?  Do you see it as a smart way for companies to communicate and strengthen relationships overseas?

Send me your thoughts, ramblings, questions on the topic.  And if you come across anything that’s interesting on my topic, send them my way!  

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9 Responses to "OMG IM is at work"

Hi Kristen,

Your question floors me as I have never IMd anyone. Also, I would like to SKPYE my relatives in Europe, but, I have not been able to hook it up, yet…the microphone, that is. See how far behind technologically I am! Well, for those reasons, I answered “other”. However, I do think that there is merit to this question that you are exploring. See, you have TWO blogs, and I have not had an inkling that I should ever have even one. I think I retired because they wanted us to have websites. Well, good luck with your misson!

Love, Joan

Thanks Joan! I think there is a definite digital divide concerning generational use of online tools. You say that you have never IMed anyone, but I think it’s interesting that you know what it is. That’s kind of my point – that instant messaging and text messaging has become so prevalent in our culture that we may be leaning towards a new communication trend in the business sphere. I foresee everyone instant messaging, retired/unretired/young/old as soon as a few years! It would be a great way for us to keep in touch!

Also, you should try Skype. My friends rave about it. Some businesses even use video to hold their conference calls. Imagine how smaller of a world it would be if we all did!

Hey Kristen- Yes, at Verizon we use Instant Messaging and our system is called Sametime. I absolutely love it and live by it. It’s a really convenient and fun tool. Sometimes, I don’t want to pick up the phone and call someone. I prefer to communicate using IM/Sametime because you can multitask if you are already on a call, and I always use emoticons to make it an easygoing conversation. In addition, at Verizon, most employees will instant message you before they call you which is considered IM etiquette. Another cool aspect of IM/Sametime is that we can have group meetings or you can send group messages at once.

Kristen,
I think this is a great topic to explore. I work in the military and as far as I know this is not an option for us…basically, we have so many IT filters that I don’t know if we’d ever implement something like this. However, I work in an office that deals a lot with international partners and something like this may be helpful because this can be a much more cost-effective tool for communicating with those partners. I’ll be honest though, I’m concerned that something like IM in the workplace would be a serious distraction, and it would be abused as a mostly social tool. I know very few people that have this in the workplace, and I’m not sure how they like it so I’m interested to see what you find!

Mary from Intro to Digital Age

Kristen, I was one of the people who responded “Other” on your poll. I think instant messaging depends solely on the culture of the workplace. In principal, I do think IM is a beneficial tool, but there’s an element of informality to it that may not pass muster on some companies.

We have the capability to set up IM on our e-mail platform at work, but my company discourages it. They just see it as another tool that eats up bandwidth . . .

Genilson, good point. I think the use of IM in the workplace changes the corporate personality of the place. IM language is laden with convenient misspellings for the busybody and smiley or frowning faces that suffice as a response. I wonder how this type of informality changes a workplace environment – whether it breaks down seniority barriers or whether it has the potential to ruin the professional reputation of the company.

Kelly, it sounds like Verizon encourages IM within the workplace. What about international relations? Do you know if Verizon has used IM or videochat platforms to communicate with offices overseas or to seal international business deals?

Hi Kristen, I have to agree with Genilson’s post. I think it can be a great tool for internal communications within companies, but there is also an element of informality that just may not fly with some. I work in a satellite office and use gchat religiously to stay connected to my co-workers. Most of my co-workers are on gchat, but it is not something that is encouraged (or discouraged) by my employer. I would be curious to know 1) if the bosses in my organization understand the concept of IM in the workplace 2) if they would condone it at work. I think there is still a perception that IM is too informal and favors socialization over productivity?!

Kate, interesting point. Does IM favor socialization over productivity? But who’s to say that you cannot be productive through social means? Doesn’t the business world naturally invite social interactions and information exchanges? Don’t business models get better only through engaged dialogue?

Just offering some thoughts…

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