The Ettiquette of Instant Messaging at Work

The Ettiquette of Instant Messaging at Work

Taryn Williford
Nov 17, 2008

A good friend of ours works in a laid back design office where the communication medium of choice between those in the office is AOL Instant Messenger. It's a great way to exchange information in real time without the blind subject matter and seeming urgency of a phone call. But it's also a great way to make sure that you waste at least some of your time answering your non-work friends' IM's with an "Im @ work, txt u later" response. So if you're in an IM-friendly office—or sneaking around in one that isn't—what is the proper ettiquette?

Here are some suggestions from's career advice section for how to properly and professionally handle IM'ing at work.

  • Use Your "Away" Status Message: It's very easy to get distracted with the constant pop-ups, and it can get very difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. Take the time to custom-design your status messages to reflect your availability. A simple "On the phone" or "In a meeting" should do.
  • Keep It Professional: Make sure your instant-messaging sessions with co-workers are restricted to pertinent information and dip out politely when things get too casual.
  • Avoid Talking About Confidential Information: When you're instant messaging, always be aware that you're on an unsecured line. It's very easy to hack into old conversation logs.
  • Follow Company Policy: Many companies, particularly companies in which large numbers of people in different locations have to coordinate their activities, understand that instant messaging is a great interoffice tool. But other companies might frown on it. Find out if your company has applicable rules, and adhere to them. And if a company policy doesn't exist, use common sense, and don't push the envelope.

Unplggd, do you IM at work? Know somebody who has a messaging problem? Do you have any personal IM ettiquette that you want added to this list? Tell us!

[ Image from methTICALman @ Flickr ]

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