Final part of the series – and it’s about instant messaging.

Our generation grew up with ICQ (I wonder what this stands for) and then later MSN.  But now this technology has transitioned into the workplace.  And it’s a powerful tool.  But it’s not for everyone.

As with my post on email, there are numerous articles out there already concerning the pros and cons of the use of instant messaging in the workplace.

Over the last couple of years the chatter is being replaced by tapping on keyboards often followed by a sporadic, out-of-place laugh. Instant messaging is already taking over the office environment.

Instant Messaging in the workplace: Devil or Saviour?

For anyone that already uses IM, the above quote is hilariously accurate.

There are some key points that I’d like to highlight however.

  • Most workplaces still monitor conversations.  Be careful.
  • Be able to distinguish between a professional and a casual conversation.
  • Don’t completely substitute other forms of communication for instant messaging.
  • It’s immediate, but not instantaneous.  Don’t rely on it for an on-the-spot answer.

In a sort of summary, please check out this excellent article.  It talks about what I’d called the ‘evolution’ of commuication.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my long, drawn out and at times exhausting summary of some of the communication methods in the workplace.

Links back to the older posts are here:

To us Gen Y’ers, this is like asking “What’s before time?”  The importance of email in revolutionising the workplace cannot be underestimated.  Not only for the bum-in-seat office worker.  Tradies give and get quotes.  Shopkeepers order stock.  Doctors get educated.

But…

Is Electronic Mail all it’s cracked up to be?

There are approximately 1,897,987 articles on the web about effective email communication.*

*This may or may not be true.

Here are some interesting reads that I found.  Some I agree, some I disagree with.  I’ll leave it up to you to peruse them.

So at the risk of repeating information that’s already out there, here are my top 4 tips.

  1. Sure? – Once you click send, you can never control that email again.
  2. Need to know? – Do not CC the world.  No one appreciates a small issue suddenly being sent to your boss, and/or your bosses’ boss.
  3. Huh? – A useful subject heading makes things so much easier.  Do it.
  4. Still going? – No one wants a life story.  If things aren’t clear, they’ll ask for clarification.  Concise emails are generally good emails.

My boss asked me the other day – “Why do you use (insert name of instant messaging program) instead of email?”

It was 5pm on a Friday afternoon and I was knackered.  I bumbled out some reply about immediate answers and easy but I don’t think it worked.  They weren’t sold on the idea.  So I decided to put a bit of thought into it.

And after putting that thought into it, I realised that it’s going to be a massive task.  So over the next two weeks I’ll be putting together some short blogs on communication types in the workplace.

Instant Messaging

Let’s look at the main types.

  • Face to Face – In the presence of the other person.  Generally most productive.  Most time consuming.
  • Post – Send via either internal or external mail.  Physical documents moved.  Slow.
  • Phone – Talking directly to the person or people involved.  Immediate answers.  Other person must be there.
  • Email – Computer sent text and files to one or multiple targets.  Audit trail.  Not real time
  • Instant Messaging – Real time ’email’ text only communication.  Fast and efficient.  Distracting

 

Curse of the Audit Trail

September 3, 2009

Being a young person in the work place does have advantages. Making mistakes is expected.

I’ve found that although people who have been working in an area for a long time may not make as many mistakes, they can certainly take a long time to get something done. Why?

“Please confirm.”

The dreaded sign off to an email. I find people these days can be too scared to make a decision themselves, so every step is double and triple checked with someone else.

An example from this morning. I had to close some accounts. Rather than getting someone to confirm they were zero, I did it myself. I then sent along the email.
A – Please close these 4 accounts.
B – Only three of those are redundant. Please confirm you want all four shut.
A – No, just the old ones (I copied and pasted the ones she had listed as redundant)
B – Sorry, I gave you the wrong list. Here is the amended one. Please confirm.
A – Yes, that looks fine, please close
B – I get a warning that the balance isn’t zero. Please confirm you want me to proceed.
A – (After a phone call to her, where I found out she had gone to the system and seen it was zero) – Yes
B – Done thanks

Argggg.

People spend a lot of their time at work.  Too much maybe.  But do we have to like the people around us?  As we are hanging around our colleagues up to 50% of our day, casual conversation comes in.  Not necessarily being a bad thing, it can sometimes put people in awkward situations.

Now I’m not saying that making friends with people at work is bad.  Far from it.  Being more social with the people around you can definately be rewarding.  What I’ve found though is that I may not have anything in common with the people around me except we do similar work.  Moreover, they may do things that we don’t like.  And that can be trouble.efin742l

Different ages.  Different backgrounds.  Different interests.  Different.  And different around each other today creates, for me at least, well just awkward times.  Idle chit chat about the weekend.  The weather.  Now I know what you’re thinking, that diversity is great in the workplace.  It is…but for work purposes.  If you’re trying to have a social conversation though, there needs to be some type of common ground.

So I suppose my answer is that we can talk about our common ground, which is work.  It may not be exact things, but general terms about trends in the industry, movements around the floor or what’s interesting in their cubicle.  Or you may even look for things that you can get involved with together outside of work.  But I definately don’t stress anymore that I might not be getting along with the people around me beyond a professional level.

I haven’t been working long, but I know that office people love to talk.  They love it!  If people think that you’ll listen to them, eventually they’ll tell you a lot of things.  Some of these things they may regret telling you later and some you may wish that you hadn’t heard.  I think that though it may be tough to avoid being the ‘hearer’, it’s a pretty straight forward job to avoid being the ‘talker’.  Easier said than done, I know I’ve definately been guilty of it.

I think the line lies between gossiping, small talk and networking.  Check out this picture I stole from this blog.

gossip Is what you’re saying worthwhile?  Is it value adding?  Is there an actual point to the discussion?

Then I wouldn’t call it  ‘networking’.

Is what you’re saying based on little fact?  Is it malicious?  Would you say it to your boss?  Your other colleagues?

Then I wouldn’t call it ‘small-talk’.

I don’t think you want to be answering no to any of these and then try and kid yourself that you’re engaging anything other than some form of gossip.  You may not even need to ask yourself these pretty vague questions.  Generally people realise that their gossiping, but sometimes it comes down to what I was talking about at the beginning (people just love to talk !)

Each of these three ‘methods’ are a huge topic.  I suppose I’ll address them individually in the future.  Generally I think it’s better to tend on the side of silence and not give these office gossips any more ammunition than they have already.  You never know when you may become the next victim!

It’s the buzz at the moment.  Web 2.0.  Social networking.  You know all the sites, I don’t have to list them again.  Though check out this blog post if you want to know more.

What I want to talk about is the restriction of them within the corporate world.  The pace of their development seems to have outstripped the policies controlling them, at least within the world I work in.  Other corporations seem to have been a little more foresighted with their creation.  Nonetheless, can documentation governing the use of a media platform ever hope to possibly keep up with something that is continually evolving? At the moment no.  So at my work, in some regional areas, there is a blanket blocking.

I can understand it.  And I believe it comes from higher up, that is external regulators are demanding we adhere to seemingly outdated restrictions.  Other types of business’ seem to be able to have a bit more control.  Another blogger has made some excellent points about the creation of policies being dictated by the employees that will be subjected to them.

So what can I, and we, do about it?  I’m currently involved in a pilot study at my job where the aim is to bring these collaboration tools into the workspace.  We can push the advantages.  We can use them outside of work for work purposes.  And we can continue to push the internal and external regulators to come up to speed.

All through high school, college, university, TAFE, those early years, extra curricular activities are so important.  Well aren’t they?  Why else would your parents make you go in a state mathematics competition?  Or force you to go to your tuba lessons?  Short answer is yes, we deep down know this stuff if important in making us well rounded people.  Employers love this kind of thing.  My question today is what happens once you’ve started in your first full time role as a young professional?

Now that you’ve moved into an entry level position, there is a high chance there will be a lot of appraisal/feedback/reporting sessions with and on you.  These normally consider things such as how you deal with clients, how well you worked with your team or the number of sales you made.  And these reports are probably the majority of the basis of any promotions, pay rises or new opportunity offers.  Something that I find lacking in these completely in-house methods is they don’t consider anything that you do outside of the work place.

So how can you as a young professional address this?

  • Let your boss know these extra activities.  Tell them about some of the challenges you’ve faced outside of work and how you overcame them.
  • You may have had to create a new club constitution or help run a performance.  Regardless of what you do, skills are transferable.  When asked “How did you know how to do that?”, don’t be afraid to reply “I did something similar with my church group last summer.”
  • You may even invite them along.  Community events are another excellent way to network.

The progession of your career as a young professional shouldn’t mean you have to give up things outside of work.  In fact, use these outside skills to your advantage.  You never know when your boss will need that last minute performance at the Christmas party.