|Boomer enjoys helping in the remote office department.|
The incident happened by Instant Message. Back and forth words flew, small of font at first then the CAPS kicked in. By the end of the 15th inch of conversation it appeared to have calmed. Just a few more inches of conversation dribbled back and forth. I was too faint of heart to just click “Sign Out,” but I should have, and should have inches back. I did try to halt the conversation. A look back at the message log shows I did try to stop the deluge but that doesn’t help me feel less burned by the words that flew across my screen.
Instant messaging (I primarily use Windows Live Messenger) is a nice tool to use during the work day especially between offices that may be spread out, or where spoken conversation might be disruptive. There are rules of use that should be worked out, and there should be a common understanding IM is just a quick communication and not a substitute for face to face conversation.
The exception to that rule is obviously when distance doesn’t allow for face to face conversations and check- ins, although with web cams it can be possible. I just find web cam stuff to be a waste of time at this point because someone always has tech issues which takes the instant out of the message. The point is IM is a quick way to confirm a fact or progress, an instant way to check in and out during the day, a way to keep work flow moving forward…and find out sooner than later the flow is in danger.
IM is not the place to lecture, train, or convey complex thought or blast frustrations. It’s called Instant for a reason, It’s just one tool to use in a toolchest of cool tech tools. The other thing to remember is–it’s not secret conversation. It’s not private really, and shouldn’t be in a work situation. All words/keystrokes are recorded. This morning I was glad for that. It gave me a way to review the words.
Technology is great. It makes working at home an opportunity. It gives business and non profits the chance to take advantage of the talent that is out there and keep overhead as low as possible. Instant messaging is the piece that can put some human touch into the technical day. It just makes me a little happy to see my instant coworkers across the country glow “Available.” Or tell me they are “Away” at lunch, or “Busy.” It makes me even happier to be able to check in, ask a question, and get a quick answer.
Being professional doesn’t mean feelings can’t and won’t be hurt. An instant message incident can leave marks too. The incident above stemmed from an assignment given with no background, but with the instruction, take care of it. I took care of it. I have the e-mail and database trail to show for it, and had documented the process used in an e-mail report that clearly had not been read. The blast back in the IM contained stuff I couldn’t have been aware of along with a dose of condescension. I woke up this morning feeling a little burnt and wondering if things are okay? If I were in the office I might go stand in the door and ask “Are we good?” Then hope to have a conversation about the incident to avoid future issues. But that’s not possible and as tempting as the “Available” glow is, I’m going to pick up the phone. This is not for an IM.
The bottom line advice:
Create and use a work identity for work.
Use IM for check ins and brief conversations.
If what you have to say is more than 2 sentences, pick up the phone or schedule a meeting.
Do not use IM for training, or instruction of anything complex.
Watch your language.
Keep it professional.
Do not gossip.
Do not whine.
All of the above.
The people in your office take precedence over IM. Focus on them, unless there is an immediate need for information. Please ask for permission to focus on the IM then go back to the personal conversation at hand.
Try to indicate Busy, Away, Available responsibly.
If a conversation gets uncomfortable, leave it. Sign out so it stops if you have to.
Have the understanding a signout means a boundary has been crossed. Then get together on the phone or in person.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14