Last week I performed the professional faux pas of faux pas’s.  Let me expound…

I work for a large, global firm but have the luxury of working “remotely” (code word for home office).  My work days are spent on the phone in conference calls and on the computer conducting all matters of business.  My days are long and it is not uncommon for me to feel guilt about having to leave my desk for a restroom break.  I’m still working on the work/life balancing act but I digress.

Last week while on a conference call with a fellow colleague and a customer, I did it.  I committed a whopper of a pecadillo that is still leaving a flush on my face.  I unwittingly sent an Instant Message (IM) to my fellow comrade- in- arms while collectively speaking with our customer on a conference call.  I was also doing what I do best, I was multitasking. What I momentarily failed to recall in my multitasking fog was that my distinguished co-worker was electronically sharing his screen with me; and our client.

For those of you who have not audibly gasped yet, it might be because you do not realize that instant messages are visible to anyone viewing your screen.  The horror of what I had just discharged only became clear the instant I saw my message on my colleague’s screen.  I did not send a love note.

On behalf of all those who IM or email for work or leisure, I beg you to execute the following good form suggestions:

→Send your recipient a “ping” prior to launching your full IM message.  A “ping” is an innocent little tickler that signals to the message recipient you wish to communicate further.  Wait for them to acknowledge your ping before typing your intended message.  Yes, you guessed it; I did not ping my co-worker prior to full message launch.

→Set your availability status to “Do Not Disturb” or log out completely if you are busy and do not wish to be disturbed.  These settings will prevent incoming messages from being delivered.

→Keep it short.  Long messages are better left for direct conversation or a standard email.

→Keep the smiley faces and other emoticons for only those folks you are close to.  These types of characters may be too casual for the working environment.

 →Don’t IM or email anything that you wouldn’t like the whole world to see.  This includes clients.  Honoring this  point alone could save you from the desire to jump from the nearest cliff.

I would love nothing more that to be able to justify my poor form action but I can’t.  I was operating with all my faculties and fully knowledgeable of instant messaging etiquette.  I have no excuse other to blame myself.  One final thought for your consideration:

  →Take a moment to reflect on the message you wish to convey prior to hitting the send button.  As we tire, become excited, angry or irritated, we can quickly lose sight of our compass direction.  Don’t let your momentary state overcome your good form (or your dignity).

I am still employed as far as I can tell.  I received my pay check as scheduled.  There is no greater teacher than the lessons we learn from our mistakes.  I hope you learn from my hard knock.  Misery loves company…I’d love to hear your IM/email horrors!

If you were “let-go” due to a recent faux pas incident, there may be an employment opportunity for you soon  🙂

K. Martini