Posted Mar. 3, 2008 -- Once considered taboo among business communications and used mainly by Gen-Xers to chat with friends, instant messaging, or IM-ing, is gaining wider acceptance within corporations as a quick and efficient means of communicating with co-workers and clients.
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Whether or not your organization has implemented a formal IM policy, follow these suggestions when IM-ing at work and it will be NBD (no big deal), simply BAU (business as usual).
1. Find out if your company has an IM-ing policy. If so, make sure you understand the sanctioned uses of IMs, the content guidelines as well as specific rules around both sending and receiving IMs and attachments.
2. Take advantage of IM privacy. In many open-office environments IMs offer employees a chance to communicate without disturbing fellow co-workers or letting them in on the conversation. Before you start typing, however, read No. 3.
3. Understand that your messages may be reviewed. Just because they're instantaneous and you delete them quickly doesn't mean they can't be monitored by the organization or archived by the recipient. So refrain from including personal data, confidential information or any information you don't want repeated.
4. Be vigilant of viruses. Many IM products are available to download free. If you download free IM software, make sure your IT department can enact the proper security measures so the company network is not at risk for viruses or breaches.
5. Avoid cutesy IM screen names at work. Remember to always maintain a professional image. Clients don't want to be sending informative messages to 2HOT4U.
6. Follow accepted IM protocols. Microsoft cites 78 percent of IM-ers like the faster response they get from IM-ing versus email. So keep your messages brief.
7. Keep personal and professional contacts separate. Maintain your "buddy lists" separate from your work contacts to ensure neither receives inappropriate information.
8. Careful how you say it. While the nature of IMs is casual and conversational, remember you are at work so keep the messages appropriate.
9. Know what you're saying. Before you use an IM abbreviation, make sure you really know what the letters stand for. To learn the lingo, search for "text abbreviations" or "IM abbreviations" online.
10. Avoid getting embroiled in gossip. The lightning fast speed of IM-ing makes for a turbocharged rumor mill. Avoid the scuttlebutt or you most surely will get burned.