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Instant Messaging At Work – Messaging The Wrong Person

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This is a warning about instant messaging coworkers in the office.

I’ll be the first person to admit it: I am a shitty person. On the surface I come off as a pretty genuine, stand up guy, but this story proves otherwise.

I started my first job about five years ago. I got in right before the recession hit and happen to work at a company that was unaffected by the financial troubles in America. I kind of minded my own business for the first nine months at the job, then I was approached by my boss saying that they would like to bring on some younger people to the company. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get some of my slapdick friends employed and allow me some time to dick around at work. I ended up getting three of my good friends hired over the next six months. We instantly became a very unprofessional clique.

My company used Microsoft Communicator at work. Everyone had it. We had low cube walls, so it was how you talked to each other without everyone hearing what you were saying. My friends and I always risked talking shit and cussed on IM even though IT could probably see it. We didn’t care. I figured that would probably come back to bite me in the ass one day. Oh yeah, it did….

Let me introduce you to another co-worker. Her name was Sandy. Sandy was about 50 years old. She was a single mom and came from a military background. She was short, heavy set, loud and obnoxious. Sandy and I got along for the most part, although no one at the company was very nice to her, but I was always willing to lend an ear when she would tell me about her son being bullied at school and shit like that. I guess I would go further than that — Sandy and I were “tight.” Sandy was also a contact on my instant message list.

One morning I came to work after staying out drinking the night before, so I popped an Adderall to look alert all day. Adderall makes me edgy and annoyed. I don’t like to talk to anyone and don’t want to listen to anyone talk. Well, Sandy was being extra annoying this particular morning. She was standing up at her cube talking loudly about something that didn’t make much sense. I was doing a project with one of my friends at the company, and she was sitting directly next to me. Sandy was on my last nerve, so I decided to vent about this over instant message to my co-worker.

“I wish Sandy would just shut the fuck up.”

“She is so fucking annoying, and she has no idea what the fuck she is talking about and just talks and talks.”

“One day, when I know more about the company, I’m gonna tell her how stupid she is.”

My co-worker didn’t respond to my shit-talking. I look back at her and she said, “If you sent something to me, I didn’t get it.”

My heart sunk. Oh yeah, I sent that IM to Sandy, not to my friend. A million thoughts go through my mind in about five seconds. None of the thoughts solved anything other than “I am fucked,” or “I am SO fucked.” I’m done. HR is about to call me. My shit is about to be canned. My co-worker knew what happened and sprinted out of the building. I’m now in this alone. I have no explanation to give to Sandy except that I was talking shit about her, calling her annoying and stupid (which she was). All of these thoughts happened in a 30-second period. I am shaking, I am scared shitless, and my entire reputation at work is about to take a 180. I kind of blacked out, but I stood up and had to face what I had done.

To my surprise, Sandy is not looking at her computer screen. She is writing something at her desk. I can fix this shit. I can still salvage my job. I have to act quickly and make a split-second decision. I walk by her cube and see the IM box is still flashing. It’s time to make my move.

“Hey Sandy, I sent a very personal IM to you that was actually intended for Kim. Do you mind if I close it out really quickly?”

“Sure, no problem. I haven’t even read it yet, so go on ahead.”

My life is saved, my job is saved, and my reputation is saved. I went back to work like nothing ever happened and closed out Microsoft Communicator for the day. I ended up leaving the job about six months later and hugged Sandy on the way out. She still emails me from time to time asking how things are going, but little does she know how different our relationship could’ve been.

Do not fuck yourself at work by doing something stupid on Communicator. Be careful out there.

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