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IM in the office: The pitfalls and perils

Because we don’t talk to each other enough, my company recently rolled out a new method by which we can bother our colleagues. And it’s not just our office, it’s ALL the offices, which means there are now so many, many employees to befriend and stalk under the guise of ‘communications’.

Penelope WhitsonYes! Instant messaging! We are so hip and cool right now. Like banjo-playing penguins.

So far any communication with my workmates via this ‘new’ phenomenon has only taken place with those in my actual office, not the ones overseas, i.e. people I actually know. And the messages have been distinctly lacking in maturity. We have been immensely and gloriously juvenile in our use of it and it has been most enjoyable. Even if our typing skills often leave much to be desired.

However, ruminating on the ramifications of office instant messaging has caused me some concern. For starters, you have to invite people to be on your ‘list’ and if they don’t accept then it’s rejection and that just leads to drinking and I checked with HR and apparently drinking is still very frowned upon during office hours.

It’s also a bit informal, as though the moment you start typing you’re instantly transported to a cruise ship where you’re wearing a panama hat, quaffing cocktails and generally being a bit blasé about everything. Except you’re not. You’re in the office hoping no one will notice your socks don’t match, chatting online to your colleagues. Not your pals. You’re on work time and technology – this is not the moment to start complaining about that trollop in marketing. Especially if you haven’t turned off the ‘save messages’ thingy.

During a recent ‘in person’ conversation with the nice man who hired me, I may have said that he was a terrible boss. Obviously I was joking. Clearly I shall not be engaging in this sort of poorly received malarkey with him over instant messaging. That’s how you get fired.

Unless, it has been pointed out to me, you use emoticons. Little sparkling faces representing all the emotions, and some you’ve never felt, just gasping to lessen your sarcasm.

Unfortunately, I loathe emoticons, with their winking and cutesy little attempts at human behaviour. My usually genial sense of humour quickly turns quite curmudgeonly at the merest hint of emoticoning. And that’s outside of the office. I become downright beastly when they enter work emails. How am I supposed to react to their presence via instant messages from workmates? Especially messages from those above me (not for long, fools) on the food chain? How can I possibly respect that?

And then I found the emoticon off switch. I high fived myself, which is basically like clapping. This no emoticon stance has made some chats quite confusing, as punctuation and letters appear instead, but as my picture no doubt implies, I’m smart. I can generally work out what’s going on. And make the rest up.

Possibly the most alarming aspect of this new addition is the ease with which I can talk to the CEO in London. This is the sort of opportunity I definitely want to miss. In the old days I could send him emails if I was feeling brave. Now I can just chat? I don’t need this opportunity. I will abuse it. If ever I was going to get high on the lethal combination that is sugar, arrogance and ink, instant messaging the CEO is probably the first thing I’d do. My demands?

Give us LOLZ and Tim Tams! Happy face.

Sad face.