The Disadvantages of Internet Messaging in the Workplace

The dark side of instant messaging at work
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The use of instant messaging at work has become commonplace in most organizations. This is mostly due to the need to share information and be connected to others constantly. Yet, for many professional women, internet messaging is more of a nuisance than a benefit at the office. For some, the continual buzz of the instant messenger becomes an unwelcome addiction and distraction that can drive anyone slightly insane. Take a closer look at instant messaging systems at work and some of the disadvantages they pose.

Miscommunication in an Instant

    A huge problem with instant messaging in the workplace is that it can easily lead to miscommunications. Much like its predecessor, electronic mail, instant messaging presents an easy way to communicate the wrong message in very short spans of time merely by hitting the “send” button. Combined with the rise of the “text generation”, the groups of younger workers who communicate in just a few abbreviated acronyms and you have a recipe for disaster. A 2006 Forbes article mentioned that instant messaging has created “a new language, that's especially easy to over rely on, misinterpret and misuse.” Case in point, note the next time someone sends you an instant message like this: LOL @boss mkay buhbye TTYL.”

    When you can't make sense of instant messages

Instant Messaging is Impersonal

    One pitfall of using instant messaging at work is that it takes the “human” element out of conversations. While it’s easy to send short messages zipping off into the company server, there is no emotion behind the words said. You no longer have the advantage of reading body language in conversations, making eye contact, or even having the chance to smile at someone. Instead, you simply type a few characters and hope that the recipient understands what you are saying and doesn’t take it the wrong way. Instant messaging is the instant way to destroy creative collaboration on some of its most fundamental levels.

    Humans need personal communication

Poorly Tracked and Unsecure Conversations

    A common issue with many instant messaging systems at work is that they do not easily track conversations between parties, nor are they entirely secure. While IM’s are meant to encourage direct communication, they can actually be detrimental to the overall communication methods used in the workplace. Trey Powell, an Area Developer for Liberty Tax Service and Instructor for Dale Carnegie Training, says that, “Some IM [systems], do not document and save conversations, which can be disadvantageous to users. Otherwise he thinks IM is a very effective and efficient form of communication.” This means if a group of employees are working on a specific project, and two decide to chat on their own, this communication is lost to the rest of the group. Additionally, IMs are prone to information and virus attacks.

    IMs are difficult to document well

Easy to Become Distracted or Obsessed

    For many Generation Y and X employees, the temptation to spend more time chatting it up with friends and colleagues gets out of hand, or when it interferes with normal daily routines. This is due in part to the way in which these high tech brains take in information on a constant basis, multi-tasking and trying to learn more every minute of the day. This behavior leads to low levels of work productivity and drama at the office. According to a CNET interview with Carl Honore, the author of "In Praise of Slowness," employees are interrupted every three minutes by technology like instant messages, emails and texting. When instant messaging becomes more of a priority than work tasks, you could have a problem in this area. The same goes for engaging in flirting and emotional relationships with co-workers or others via the instant messaging system. Remember, if you are using your computer chats as a substitute for real human interaction, then IM’ing may be an addiction you should seek help for.

    When instant messaging becomes a distraction from work

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