South-Western - Management  
Instant Message Goes Corporate; 'You Can't Hide'
Topic Communication
Key Words instant messaging, communication
InfoTrac Reference none
News Story

After the World Trade Center was attacked, the employees of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. were scattered to 15 sites. Contacting someone became a logistical nightmare. IM solved the problem by allowing employees to quickly assess who was in their office and make "instant" contact with them.

IM is improving efficiency in the workplace and helping reverse a trend in which, thanks to email and voice mail, it has become difficult to determine whether a business associate is actually in the office or out on the golf course. It allows supervisors to verify who is really working at home, parents at work to keep in touch with latchkey children, and sales people on the road to find someone who is available to answer questions on the spot.

Some IM systems allow users to show they are in the office even when they are not, but social conventions that have developed around IMs prompt most to be honest. Failing to respond quickly to an IM is considered rude, so workers have an incentive to sign themselves out when they leave the office, or to show themselves "busy" when they can't respond right away.

There are several different IM programs with different features, including Microsoft's Office XP package which includes IM as a free component. A market-research firm says that by the end of last year, 20 million people were using IM in businesses and it expects that number to grow to 300 million by the end of 2005.


This article is overwhelmingly positive on the subject of IM in the workplace. Name all the benefits you can think of for using instant messaging in the workplace. Now, what is the downside?


Name 3 circumstances (not discussed in this article) in which IM would improve business decision making or solve a business problem.

Source William M. Bulkeley, "Instant Message Goes Corporate; 'You Can't Hide'," Wall Street Journal September 4, 2002, p. B1.
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