Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Employees IMing At Work

I remember when IMing came out on Google. My brother, the technologically savvy one, found ways to thwart security at his company who didn't allow IMing. It was like a game with the tech people.

Now, everyone uses it. It's fast. Easier than picking up the phone--you can still work. But there is a dark side, too. How would you like this guy as your boss?

Connecting people across job categories and time zones can be both the strength and the weakness of the technology. Tim Waire, vice president for information technology in the generation unit of Constellation Energy Group Inc., "tags" colleagues who are not at their computers so he is notified when they start using their computer again. "Because you're a 24-hour company, you expect people to be available 24 hours," he says. "There's no excuse anymore for not being available."
And Mr. Waire is paying his employees for 24-hour/day availability? Doubtful. As time goes on, and these technologies are easier and more ubiquitous, the bigger discussion will be creating boundaries.

In fact, I think that's the most important issue with technology in the future. How will people balance privacy, autonomy, and individualism with transparency, connectedness and team? In addition, every word is indexed. That's a lot of information that can be used or manipulated. Maybe it's too much information--a sea of information. Maybe, it will be used by the Mr. Waires of the world for nefarious purposes.

Overall, though, IMing is a boon for communication. I prefer it to phone calls. That way my hands are free. I love the iChat feature--being able to see people is a much better connection than either email or phone. It's like being with the person--and that's a good thing. Usually.


David said...

One thing that has largely disappeared over the last 5-10 years, primarily as a result of improved connectivity, is the concept of the Acting Manager. Back in the olden days, a manager going on vacation would write a formal letter assigning his authority to a specified subordinate. (In the usual formulation, the ability to do salary actions and performance appraisals was specifically withheld, for obvious reasons.)

This gave the subordinate an opportunity to develop his own management skills, as well as giving the normal manager an opportunity to really enjoy his vacation.

There would of course be occasional situations when the acting guy would need to contact the regular manager, or at least try to do so, but in a sanely-run organization, 90% of the issues could be handled by the acting manager.

Melissa Clouthier said...

Two bad things without the acting manager:

1. No responsibility
2. The boss inevitably gets interrupted