Collaboration

How do you use IM?

Do you consider the people you communicate with via IM to be on a level different from the ones who communicate with you via regular e-mail?

Answer this IM etiquette question: Do you consider the people you communicate with via IM to be on a level different from the ones who communicate with you via e-mail?

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With the pace that technology changes, I shouldn't feel bad if I'm unclear as to any kind of etiquette surrounding certain uses of it. But I do. So, I have a really dumb question for you guys.

Where does IM fall in your communications spectrum? In other words, do you consider those people you communicate with via IM to be on a level different from the ones who communicate with you via regular e-mail?

Here's why I ask. I don't care much about who has my e-mail address. Most of the people I would avoid like the plague (e.g., spammers) have it anyway, so I have a different level of expectation for it. But I reserve IM for a few co-workers who I frequently have to touch base with or friends who I like to "pop in on."

Recently, someone I do business with infrequently, and with whom I would like to maintain a more formal client/contractor basis with, asked for my IM address. I was taken aback momentarily. I guess I should have responded with the reasoning I gave above, but I thought that if he asked so readily then I must be off in my view of IM's purpose.

Let me add that I am very prompt in replying to regular e-mail, so there was no business reason for me to be essentially available more immediately for this person. I guess it feels to me that if someone wants to volunteer his or her IM address, it's fine. But you put people on the spot when you ask for it.

So what do you think? Am I being off-base here?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

31 comments
JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

I have to use it at work but it makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything. I can put a "Do not disturb" sign on my door, ignore my email for a while, but we can't be 'unavailable' for more than 30 minutes at a time.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Gawd, that would drive me nuts hearing that all day.....

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Our latest department head required I install it. I've heard from him via IM twice - one was a lame joke, the other a mistake. For the way I work, I don't view it as a viable alternative to the telephone or e-mail.

jdclyde
jdclyde

it is easier to ignore both the phone and email, than an IM box on your screen. Also, for people that are in and out of their office all day, seeing an open window they can respond to could work as an attention getter. They have IM for Lotus Notes, but because we don't use windows (linux servers) that feature is not available. (or at least it wasn't when we looked into it years ago)

jdclyde
jdclyde

it all depends on the position we are talking about [i](no, not "doggie")[/i]. Some peoples job IS to be there for support, while others are not doing their jobs if they are sitting on a phone. I do not have a company phone/pager either. I typically am quicker to respond to emails than the phone though. It does urk me that people can't walk through a store or drive down the road without pathetically needing to be amused by someone else over the phone. A sad state the world is in.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"it is easier to ignore both the phone and email, than an IM box on your screen." This extends the 21st Century expectation that everyone be constantly available to everyone else; that a request for communication requires the recipient to drop whatever else they're doing and respond. I don't feel any need to meet these expectations, since they're not to my benefit.

Wizard-09
Wizard-09

I like to appear offline, then i can communicate with the people i would like to talk to, so others think i am not online they dont IM.

Jaqui
Jaqui

instant mold/mildew? I stopped turning on any im client but skype, and that is set to reject calls unless you are on my contact list. [ text messages are accepted by default ] but even then, I rarely actually use it. I'll C&P something to someone for a quick message if I think it will interest them. Usually, I'll send an email.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I teach web-based classes and find it a useful tool for gathering classes into discussion. As a Supplemental Instruction Leader prior to teaching, I used it to hold electronic SI sessions. In either case, conversations can be archived for documentation, required in both roles at my end. For fun, I chat with some TR folk, and some family members.

jdclyde
jdclyde

is it possible to get multiple people all in like a conference IM without special software? Oh, and like any TR members would want to IM with you? :p Oh yeah, got you to post to an old discussion. ha ha ha. :D

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

You posted to the oldie first. nyah myah To answer your question, AOL, Yahoo, and MS IM each offer a conference chat option. Menu reader much? :D

jdclyde
jdclyde

at least it WAS in reply to a reply to me! :p Can I help it, it took me 10 daze to see it? ;\ conference chat option. who would have thunk it? :D Don't have the software loaded here at work, so by the time I had the question (just a little bit ago) there weren't any menus AVAILABLE for me to read. So nanaaanaNAna!

Kgatto
Kgatto

When I use IM's for business it is always under a secured service. After having tried out a few I tried Brosix and that works well. I tend to do a lot of talking about the strategies for clients sites, brands and content strategies, which need to be kept confidential.

mastermind.jets
mastermind.jets

I use two different IM addresses: one for formal engagements with my client and another where I communicate with all my buddies out there. That way I am able to avoid messing up all my contacts

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

We have corporate IM in my company that is federated with MSN and Yahoo, etc. It is used very frequently as a business communication tool and is an integral part of our corporate culture. It is also used informally on occasion to converse with friends or family. I do not look at an incoming IM as an inconvenience at all, but rather, see it no differently than an incoming Email or phone call.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

While I don't use IM, I'm sure I would handle such a question as you were asked just like I handle questions about my e-mail address or telephone number. Requests for either when I don't want the asker to have that information receive the company's generic e-mail address and the phone number for the switchboard. If I really don't want to hear from them again, I either give them a close-but-not-quite-correct address/number, or a flat-out lie ("Sorry, I don't have a home e-mail address").

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I use it as a main tool of communication. If I decide I dont want to communicate with someone, and I add them to my list, I appear 'offline' to them the majority of the time. Then they can get 'delays' from responses (often an email asking me to sign in). This is rare however, so almost everyone that I add to my IM, can see when I am online/busy/in a meeting, etc.. I prefer email and IM rather than the phone (funny that way I guess). But in any way for contacting me, I may reply quickly, or delay for hours, or anything in between.

jck
jck

I figured I was gonna hear you say you chatted up hotties on there!!! :^0 I just use mine to keep in contact with friends I can't talk to all the time, like in Europe and Australia. Plus, I talk to a couple family members. And, I talk to a girl on there too ]:)

jdclyde
jdclyde

is chatting it up with hotties.... ]:)

jdclyde
jdclyde

and even got my boys moved over to it. Pretty cool, one utility that will connect to all of the major IM networks. :D Using both the winders and linux version (on Mint Linux).

jck
jck

that doesn't surprise me, JD :^0

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

That was on the 'Show Tunes' chat sites? ?:|

VikingCoder
VikingCoder

I've used IM for both business and personal uses. In the business context, the risk was that some clients don't see any reason not to IM you at will, which can be disruptive in terms of productivity. What I ended up doing was having separate accounts for business and professional use.

cupcake
cupcake

I work as part of a team that is located all over the country and using IM sometimes duplicates the action of 'talking over the cube wall' for us. All of know how important the communication is and we don't abuse it. Absolutely have to have separate accounts though, else I would be working 24/7...

brudab
brudab

I only communicate via IM with my more mature friends (those who follow proper etiquette during working hours) and my closest business partners. And for business partners, most of them are still new to IM, so I offer my own contact information to show them the convenience that it provides AND that I regard them higher than most.

tarikus77
tarikus77

I believe IM will become one the most effective toll in the IT industry. Some companies afraid of that their workers spend much time with IM and this reduce work effort. But i believe opposite. IM is reduce telephone time and sometimes it helps solving problem. like sending an image. You can't sent a text or image through to PC directly by telephone :)

sorensent
sorensent

Why don't you just show yourself available when you want to be with this suspect person. Make yourself available to those you care about all the time and others can be on your time.

XnavyDK
XnavyDK

have it. CC likes the intercom. I use net send for network announcements. (i hate that they can reply back) i also block install of such apps as it is not work related the boss doesnt want it.

acadamis2000
acadamis2000

IM is a great tool that is on the rise in the IT industry. Through my company we use it regularly in our business enviornment. There are options to set Do Not Disturb which denies messages coming to you when set. There are other options as busy, in a meeting, and even unavailable. I feel IM is going to be very large in organizations soon now that Unified Communications is around and its amazing what can be done with these products.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

You don't need to set your status to 'Do not disturb' or 'Unavailable'. No one wants to IM you anyway! :p