New starters at Google invariably find themselves surrounded by new terms, acronyms and ways of conducting business – including using instant messenger as a regular form of communication. We favour using our own IM applications – Google Talk and Gmail Chat – over email to quickly “ping” each other work-related messages and questions. As well as being a fast and instant way to connect and get a reply, it helps bridge the gap between international offices.


With many Australian businesses using IM as a standard form of work communication, a whole range of new etiquette issues have arisen! (I find email etiquette easy to navigate in comparison to good IM manners).

Besides the easy-to-do accidental IM-ing disasters (“I pinged the wrong person!” is a common moan heard around the office), the instant, casual nature of instant messaging applications has brought with it a minefield of questions as to IM etiquette.

Straight from the Australian Googlers’ mouths, here are a few tips you also might find useful from our office IM experiences.

1. The “I’m busy” sign. It generally means that the person is busy. Don’t IM them to say “I know you're busy, but...”.

2. Having a long/personal/meaningful message in the status bar. Remember that your co-workers will all see it. You might be the biggest Grey’s Anatomy fan in the country, but having “McDreamy Is Mine” as your IM status might not go down so well with your boss.

3. If you’re out of office, set your status to reflect your location. Those five seconds will be well spent when it means you won’t get co-workers bugging you to attend training in the Sydney office – when you’re actually in London that week.

4. Setting the status to "I'm so incredibly busy don't even think about IMing me". If you're really that busy, you should probably sign out!

5. Take advantage of the great features like the ability to set a “nickname” or “alias” instead of using the user’s actual email address. For example, your friend’s name/alias is “K007kid”, you can just make it display as "Steve" on your end and stop those “who on earth is that again?” moments.

6. It’s great to get instant attention and feedback from colleagues when matters are urgent, especially when dealing with colleagues in other countries and time zones. But if it’s going to require you writing an essay, put it in an email.

7. Begin your chat with “Do you have minute?” or, “Need to ask you a quick question”, rather than diving straight into the topic. Think of it like having a conversation with someone in person. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it over IM.

8. IMing complicated questions to the person who sits behind you. Come on now. It’s not that hard to just turn around.

To finish up, here is a heart-warming story of how one Googler used IM to (accidentally) find love. Remember it next time you ping the wrong person and wish there was a “Ctrl Z” function for IM. You never know where that random ping may lead!

“My would-be fiancĂ© had started working in my office a few days before, and I'd added her as an IM contact. One day I sent a “funny” IM to an old friend, with an alphabetically similar name. I realised quickly that I'd sent it to her, and rereading it, I realised that it was something that really shouldn't be said to someone you've just met. It was pretty horrible. Unexpectedly, however, it ended up breaking the ice. That was four years ago, and we get married next September.”

See more at the Google Talk blog.