How Managers Can Bridge The Instant Messaging Generation Gap

Managers have to help their older workers keep up with changes in communication
Managers have to help their older workers keep up with changes in communication
Image Credit: Markus Koller

How the members of your team communicate with each other is changing. There is a new wave of instant messaging applications that is in the process of changing how the members of your team communicate with each other. This change may be causing the older members of your team to scramble in order to keep up. As a manager, you are going to have to take steps to use your manager skills to make sure that everyone on your team can stay ahead of the changes that are being caused by instant messaging.

Changes In Instant Messaging

We have been using instant messaging at work for the past three years or so. Members of your team have been using their personal accounts on social media platforms to connect via their smartphones. Many workers use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Companies have come to realize the value of instant messaging and are now in the process of installing secure workplace apps to replace the consumer apps that their workers have been using. The result of all of this is that there is a shift in workplace habits that is currently happening. Employees are now trying to keep up with a stream of instant messages while at the same time reading email, listening to voice mail, and dealing with other communication tools.

The older members of your team have grown up with email. Now that instant messaging has arrived, they may be viewing it as a temporary annoyance or distraction. However, they need to realize that instant messaging is here to stay and they are going to have to adapt to using it. So what do these instant messaging apps do? They allow group chats, permit direct messaging to individuals, and support both voice and video calls across multiple devices. Although it may be possible to get older workers to start to use the new instant messaging systems, you may struggle to get them to create bitmoji images to represent themselves on the system because there is no manager training that shows you how to do this.

So what’s the big deal about instant messaging? It turns out that email is still the leading form of business communication. However, instant messaging accounts are predicted to grow by 8% every year for the next four years until they reach 8.4B accounts world-wide. Companies have discovered the value of instant messaging. The use of instant messaging systems allows companies to reduce the need for meetings. Instant messaging makes it easier to keep conversations going on between team members. Using instant messaging systems, members of a team can share updates as well as get answers from team members. In comparison to the speedy way that information can be exchanged using instant messaging, email starts to look old and slow.

How All Members Of A Team Can Keep Up With Instant Messaging

One of the challenges with instant messaging that older workers struggle to deal with is the amount of information that gets shared. Younger workers seem to enjoy the social ties that they are able to create using instant messaging. Older workers tend to view the amount of personal information that is being shared as simply being too much for work. The fact that instant messaging can show your status as being “available” or “unavailable” makes some older workers nervous. Even if they are just taking time to get some reading done, they are concerned that their boss may view their “unavailable” status as a reason to judge them.

When instant messaging is introduced into a workplace, the tempo of things will change. In the past, in order to get work accomplished, people were told to not read their email and instead use their time to stay focused on their work at hand. However, in the world of instant messaging, if you take a break then you may end up missing something important. Additionally, the way that we communicate via instant messaging is different. Younger workers like the fact that they can use slang and emojis to get their message across. This allows them to not have to worry about sentence structure or punctuation. However, older workers may not feel this way and worry that people using instant messaging are becoming lazy about grammar.

Along with the arrival of the new instant messaging apps has come the need for team member training on how best to use these new tools. Team members need to be taught how to avoid instant messaging pitfalls. One key issue is to train employees how to go about curbing the distractions that instant messaging applications can create. This can be done by customizing the notifications that are produced by these applications in order to better match what a worker is working on at the time. Also, although instant messages can show up on a worker’s desk quickly, they don’t necessarily have to respond to them as quickly. Everyone has to be trained that if they don’t get an instant response to an instant message that they have sent, they are not being ignored by their coworkers. One of the best ways to deal with this problem is to include a note on when you need a response when you send someone an instant message.

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. Communication among team members has always been a critical skill; however, how that communication takes place is currently undergoing a great deal of change. Email used to be the dominate form of office communication and now its being pushed aside by the arrival of new instant messaging applications. This change is causing problems for older team members and managers are going to have to understand how to balance things out.

Instant messaging sorta slipped into the workplace. Team members started to use consumer apps like WhatsApp and Facetime Messenger and now companies are installing their own secure versions of instant messaging applications. Older members of your team may resist using instant messaging tools; however, they need to understand that instant messaging is here to stay in part because of the large number of different tasks that it can be used to perform. The use of instant messaging systems is growing very quickly. The arrival of instant messaging has allowed the number of meetings to be reduced and it makes it easier for team members to share information. A key point that managers need to get worked out is just exactly how much information workers should be sharing using instant messaging. The introduction of instant messaging into the workplace causes the tempo of the office to increase. It will also have an impact on worker’s writing style and grammar. When instant messaging arrives in an office, the team members will need to be trained on how to not be distracted by it and the proper rules for when to respond to messages.

Nobody likes change and the arrival of instant messaging in the office is defiantly a significant change for all of your team members. As a manager you need to realize that your older team members may not be happy about this change and may resist it. You need to make sure that they understand the true importance of this new tool and that everyone gets training on how to properly use it. Instant messaging is here to stay, let’s make sure that everyone know how to get the most out of it!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that team members should be trained on how to use instant messaging before or after it is deployed in the office?

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