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:


Part three of the series looks at using the phone (mobile/cell or landline) as a communication tool in the workplace.

Everyone knows what a phone is, so there is no need to go into details about what they are.  If you don’t know, click here.  And then click here.  And then if you’re still in trouble click here.

But are you using it as effectively, or at all, in your role?  Could you be doing better?

Why aren’t you?  Try these tips.

Plan.  Know what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone.  Whether it’s picking up a pen and jotting down some points, mentally practicing the opening line or having some documents open in front of you, if you have an idea of how the conversation will/should go before you start dialing, you’ll come across a lot more professional.

Profesional.  Think about how you sound on the other end.  Mumbling, confusion, noise in the background, yuck.  Scroll about three-quarters of the way down this page to get some other tips.

Pick-It-Up.  Don’t get suckered into email battles over misunderstandings.  Don’t (I really hate this) feel that you’ve done enough by sending the text or email.  “Have you followed up that important payment?” – “Well I sent an email.”  Just pick up the phone and sort it out.

Technological developments are probably taken for granted these days.  ConferenceSpeaker phonesSkype.

Use my tips.  Use the technology.

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


Even in these turbulent times I’m surrounded at work by people who have been with my company for 10 years or more.  10 years!  And not just with the same business, but doing the same thing.  There are some stats that say I’ll probably have 4 different careers in that time.  It got me thinking though.  Do people who have been in the one job for so long really know it all with their job?

Well they must right?  How else would they still be around?  So as an entry level/new starter around these people how can you impress them?  How can you make your mark?

In my short experience, I’ve found a couple of ways.

Do the simple things well. At the beginning you’ll get all the boring/tedious/almost useless tasks to do.  They don’t want to do them, so you’re a perfect opportunity to unload.  Take advantage of this though with my next point.

Question it all. I’ve asked a few times “So, why do we actually do this?” and got back the reply “Well, we historically have.”  To me that’s not a good enough reason.

Technology. Ok, to use a stereotype, we’re normally better with new technology.  And somewhere along the line the area you work in will have some new fandangled machinery, or application or tool.  Become an expert in this and you’ll have the other workers at your professional mercy.

Young professionals generally aren’t the boss.  We’re at the start of our career and have to follow the instructions of those in charge.  I’m involved in a graduate program which has a couple of rotations over two years.  Over this time, I’ve had the opportunity to experience several different management styles.

  1. The Phantom Manager – They are there, but not there.  These managers are it in name only.  They don’t control you, don’t guide you and generally don’t make their presence felt.  Approach – Continually and actively seek feedback.
  2. Outcomes Manager – “Get it done.”  I’ve had managers who seem to not worry about how you get it done, as long as it is.  This can be dangerous.  Don’t break rules that may get you in trouble.  Approach – Explain and justify why you don’t feel comfortable doing it.
  3. Manager Manager – This manager loves to manage.  Got an issue?  Meeting.  New week?  Meeting.  Meeting?  Meeting.  Approach – Refuse meetings without a purpose.  Focus on short term outcomes.
  4. Worker Manager – Are they your boss?  Sometimes it can be hard to tell with these managers.  They do your work, don’t delegate and generally fail to manage. Approach – Seek guidance from them to encourage management of you.

There are numerous posts, research, textbooks and university courses about the different types of management styles.  Over the next few weeks I’ll talk about the different approaches and my experiences of them in the work place.

Ever find yourself drifting along, enjoying the moment, then getting suddenly snapped back into reality by realising that someone has been speaking to you for quite some time?

Two options.

  1. Fake it through.  This is the common school kid trick.  If you can manage to repeat back to them the last thing they said to you, you must have been listening.  Right?
  2. Confess.  “Sorry, I got lost for a moment there.  You were talking about such and such…”

Obviously it would be better to avoid these awkward little predicaments in the first place.  So for my pearl of wisdom, over the next few days try out a few different listening techniques.

  • Repeat back what has been covered at the end of the conversation in a mini, one to two line summary.
  • Pause after they’ve finished speaking.  It shows (or at least gives the illusion) that you’re considering the next move.
  • Engage in active listening.  A massively important skill.  For a pretty good summary of this check out this blog.

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!