The pros and cons of Instant Messenger and a critical perspective

I was very grateful to be sent an article about the use of Instant Messenger (IM) in the workplace. The article - Hazardous Turf by Diane Pfadenhauer (may need to register) hinges on the "proliferation of new communication tools" and the "opportunities and challenges for law firms and their clients". The scene is set when Pfadenhauer suggests that in one sense IM may be "a boon for productivity", but in another, could also "present substantial risks to data security — and effective communication — because of their informal nature."

From a general perspective, what is most interesting to note is that the risks do not just rest exclusively with law firms, as a survey quoted in the article suggests, "more than 25 million [USA] employees use their personal IM tools to communicate without management's knowledge."

The key to Pfadenhauer's concerns appears to rest with the following statement:

Employees have already embraced the advantages of IM at work by using it even in the absence of formal data security policies and systems. Now management must be sure they are aware of how their employees are using this tool in order to effectively protect the organization.

From a critical management perspective, the introduction and proliferation of new web-based communication technology in the workplace arguably represents a significant and growing part of the contested terrain between employer and employee. What this means is that the use of new web-based communication technologies represents a growing part of the interplay between employers' strategies and employee interests. In other words, such technologies and conflicts appear to make up an under-researched part of the modern labour process and employment relationship.

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