Trender Research™

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Is Instant Messaging Productive in the Business World???

BRB...TTYL...CYA...YT?...NP...ILU...InMTG..."You're on Mute"*... These are just some of the many acronyms and frequent chat slangs that many of us have grown accustomed to using in our various instant messaging/chat tools that we use for both personal and business needs. Wait, did I say business "needs"? Do we really need to type questions to people through our laptops, who often times are sitting within 50 feet of us? Lazy Americans. Speaking of lazy, I firmly believe that IM/Chat has led to serious reductions in productivity for many professionals. Despite the advantage of being able to communicate real time with anyone anywhere via a quick and easy tool ("instant messaging"), unfortunately what more often occurs is that people are having a simple "chat". I admit, I worked for a large consulting company for several years and IM was a means to communicate very quickly with clients / teammates / managers / subordinates as situations required...BUT, it was also an easy way for people to simply CHAT to people about non-work related subjects, or even gripe about situations regarding work. In our thousand-cube work infrastructure set-up these days, people generally have the decency to not just sit at their desk and talk on the phone with friends during the work day - the 18 people around their "cube" would hear them if they did. However, chatting on IM is a means for people to do the same thing without getting caught - co-workers and supervisors would just assume the suspect was simply discussing highly important professional information with an important client, right? I can remember "patiently" waiting for subordinates of mine to complete deliverables that were past due, and when approaching their cube to get an ETA, seeing 6 to 8 of those damn IM clouds blinking on their screen. When is the last time someome from my parents' generation (age range "50-70" since my dad will read this) spoke to 8 people at once when they were supposed to have something important completed for their boss???

I think companies should ban Instant Messaging in the workplace. A possible small increase in productivity with the tool is far outweighed by the wasted time that it causes. If something can wait more than 5 minutes, send an provides a better historical tracking tool for conversations and information anyway. If you really need to speak to someone immediately, call them (phones still work!). Hey, get off your big American (most obese country in the world) butt and walk down to "bkthomas147"'s office and speak to him. Look him in the eye. Shake his hand. Let's work on those interpersonal skills that we've completely lost. That strange mumbo-jumbo of letters and numbers and an icon of a Yankees hat is actually a person with a dog and maybe some kids.

IM Acronym Defintions:
Be Right Back
Talk To You Later
See Ya
You There?
No Problem
I Love You
In a Meeting
*And my favorite of all is not an acronym, but a phrase that articulates my position perfectly - "You're on mute" is what a fellow IMer will tell you in Instant Messaging if she knows you are trying to talk in a conference call, but no one can hear you because you have your phone set to mute....probably because you're "busy" at your desk doing everything but paying attention to the meeting you are supposed to participate have 8 chat windows open, you're talking to the guy in the cube next to you, all the while the meeting is taking place 50 feet away from you in a conference room full of human beings that you might not have even would you know, you've been too busy arguing with your friend about which sushi restaurant to go to on Friday night!


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Comment by Sean Clarke on February 26, 2008 at 2:44pm
I think there are pro's and cons of using any form of communication. There are also people that will misuse any and every form of communication. I hear people using the telephone for personal calls every day, and it distracts the hell out of me. I see people misuse google talk and instant messenger also, but I feel in many cases it can be a MORE effective tool than the telephone.
You can talk to 8 different people at once on the instant messenger about 8 different topics, which is impossible to do on the phone. You can also open it up to a chat room, which in some cases can be just as effective as a conference call or a round table meeting, sometimes even more effective (some people are brilliant but are poor public speakers and can be shy).
There are drawbacks to the Instant Messenger, (as things like tone and urgency are minimized) and certain things are better explained in person or over the phone. People of my generation are all too familiar with the instant messenger, and I feel many benefits can come from this form of communication.
One day, not so long ago, people thought email was a crazy and needless form of communication. I think its safe to say this is no longer the case. I feel the use of instant messaging in the office environment can be very helpful and useful, and should be embraced, rather than scorned and shunned.
Comment by Brian on February 6, 2008 at 3:52pm
I agree and yet at the same time disagree with you Rani. Yes, instant messaging is very helpful if you need to ask someone a quick question (using instant messaging would actually make the quick question instant).
I disagree with your 2nd point. I feel that IMing is much more distracting and therefore HAS the potential to be extremely anti-productive.
Comment by Rani on January 16, 2008 at 6:57pm
How old is this guy? I think instant messanging is a tool that highly increases productivity and overall the benefits highly outweigh any misuse. First if you're in a big office where you can't walk to see someone, it helps to answer quick questions or if you are going to see someone it helps to know if they are in their office.

One could walk to another office but often these trips turn into extended conversations (often on non-work related topics). If you want a quick response, just send an IM.

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