South-Western - Management  
IM: It's Speedy and It Can Spell Trouble
Topic Communication
Key Words Communication, instant messaging (IM), technology
News Story

In some people's minds, nothing creates more of a diversion in the workplace than the popular practice of instant messaging. Employees use it to chat with one another and people outside the office, creating a productivity drain. One study estimates that 30-40 percent of Internet use in the workplace isn't related to business.

The use of IMs is growing, however. One study says that the number of IM users worldwide will grow from 5.5 million to 180 million by 2004, and the number of messages sent will reach 2 trillion annually.

Many companies may be in denial about how much instant messaging is going on and the risks of using it. IM usage can transmit viruses to the company computer. Consumer versions of IM can provide entrée to hackers and data thieves. There are also legal issues regarding the lack of a record of electronic communications with customers and employees.

Advocates, however, feel the benefits outweigh the risks. People who are unreachable by phone or email are often willing to exchange a quick IM. IM allows technicians in the field to instantly determine who at the office is available and to quickly obtain answers to their questions. It is necessary to use a high level of virus protection and a firewall to minimize threats. With the right protection, it can evolve from a bane to a more integral part of the way companies do business.


List the advantages and disadvantages of communicating with instant messaging and email in the workplace.


Email is one-way communication, and IM is two-way communication. How does information flow vary in these two types of communication?

Source "IM: It's Speedy and It Can Spell Trouble," Workforce Management, July, 2003, p. 84.
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