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I am chatting with my boss using an instant messanger. I have asked one question and I have not gotten a reply after waiting for a long time. Now how can I ask my manager politely "are you there?" and "are you still with me?"? I believe these examples are not the best way. Is my perception is correct?

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Is he away or idle in the IM client? If you have some kind of shared calendar system, can you view his calendar to see if he has his time allocated to something else? –  Thomas Owens Nov 28 '12 at 15:20
    
As a matter of interest, would you ask the same question if you'd sent an email? –  pdr Nov 28 '12 at 16:08
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We are exchanging messages for some time around 15mins after that I have asked a specific question and he didn't reply for a longtime. How ever I am interested to know answer in such situations what is the appropriate way to check with my boss and confirm weather he/she is still with me or not –  vehitha Nov 28 '12 at 17:03
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@vehitha - How about get out of your chair and locate him? He likely got him to go talk to somebody in person. Supervisors do that... –  Ramhound Nov 28 '12 at 18:40
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@Ramhound That is only practical if the two are located in the same building, or even closer (such as same wing/floor/hallway/lab). If your boss is 3000 miles away (either because that's where his office is or because he is on travel), that's pretty impossible. –  Jim Nov 28 '12 at 19:54
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8 Answers 8

up vote -2 down vote accepted

Probably he might be thinking and checking other references and preparing answer for your question. Wait as much as you can. If it is talking significant of time to reply just typing options like, "Would it be like this, I assume it is due to so and so". He just might reply at least "yes" or "no" or some thing else. So you can get assure that you both are connected.

Another way is just ask him like "can I quickly call you to discuss on this" or "Are you comfortable to discuss in phone rather than IM" provide other ways to communicate. If it is not urgent you can ask "Can I drop a mail to you so that you can get back me later" etc.

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I believe that anything other than verbal communication is asynchronous. This includes instant messages. If I'm working on something, I don't just drop it in order to respond to anything other than a phone call or a face-to-face visit, and unless it's more important than what I'm doing, a phone call usually results it "I'll call you back in XX minutes, when I'm finished with YY task".

First, check to see the status of the other person. Is he away or idle (perhaps indicating that he's not at his computer)? If so, then he might not have seen your message yet. If you have a shared calendar system, is the other person indicated as busy? If so, even if he's not away, he might be doing other work and won't respond.

If you need an immediate answer, consider using a synchronous method of communication. Make a phone call or go visit the other person's office. Otherwise, wait until they are available (not away, not idle in the IM client) and send another message to indicate that you need an answer. The exact way to word it depends on your relationship and familiarity with the other person. You might also consider sending an email instead of an IM.

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When you send that email it may be helpful to mention, "We IM;d about this at $TIME. I wanted to continue the conversation here." this can help remind the person of the conversation and pick it back up –  Freiheit Nov 28 '12 at 16:45
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+1 for highlighting different communication channels often give differing priorities; usually if I pause in an IM chat with one of my team it is usually because a high priority channel has been opened by someone else (more urgent IM, telephone call, face-to-face visit) which is stopping me from responding. –  GuyM Nov 28 '12 at 18:30
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My manager is in a different location than mine and unfortunately I don't have a phone line, so the only we way we can communicate is through IM. Whenever this happens to me I usuallly go with:

Can you please let me know when you are available,

  • I have a question
  • we need to talk about project X
  • I want to show you something>

This often gets me a response back, or at least an explanation why he hasn't answered yet.

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Voice systems like Skype exist, so not having a phone line isn't really an excuse. –  Burhan Ali Nov 29 '12 at 20:21
    
@BurhanAli who's trying to excuse? I'm all doing is telling him what I do, there's also email, cell phones, airplanes etc but the OP is asking about the IM approach. –  user1544 Nov 29 '12 at 22:25
    
On top of that, many company's don't see a need for each and every employee to have voice communications. Burhan Ali, you may want to think of a bigger picture than your particular scenario. –  Randy E Dec 16 '12 at 21:58
    
@RandyE Totally agree, besides the IM we use is an internal tool, we have several restrictions about installing 3rd party software such as Skype –  user1544 Dec 17 '12 at 14:52
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This happens to me every so often. I know that most likely my boss was distracted by something else and just forgot to get back to me. So I tend to follow up by clarifying my original question, suggesting a possible answer, or adding some extra details.

For example:

[1:00pm] Me: So do you think we should push to get this build out today or wait for a scheduled release?

[2:00pm] Me: I think we can manage without the fix for a few more days and avoid having the emergency release. Does that sound good to you?

This makes it so I don't seem too impatient or rude but his IM client will notify him again of my pending message as a gentle reminder that I was waiting for an answer.

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Yes, IM'ing "are you there?" (or another equivalent "bump"), might be interpreted as slightly annoying.

There could be many reasons why he is not answering. In addition to being busy as others have suggested, it could also be that he expects you to know (or find) the answer. It could be the answer is too complex to answer in a short phrase. It could be he doesn't actually know.

Depending on the context any one of these responses would be better than "are you there?"

  • Call/visit him or ask him to call you.
  • Reiterate the question but also indicate the urgency.
  • Just announce what you're going to do if you don't hear back by x time.
  • Make the decision easier for him, by listing a couple of options.
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I'd likely ask the boss, "How do you want me to check that you are there?" and then use whatever response is given. Some people may be fine with a "?" or "Hello?" or other phrases and some not. Better to work out ahead of time what would be preferred. Some may prefer being addressed directly.


As difficult as it gets to remember who likes to be addressed in what way, it can be a useful relationship tool that Bob likes to be shaken, Sally likes to get a "?" on her screen, etc.

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This gets to be a problem. I have my preferences, you have yours, and its a lot to remember who likes it what way. –  Freiheit Nov 28 '12 at 16:44
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This happens all the time in a virtual line of work. Its likely, they either saw your IM and got distracted, or were already distracted and did not see the IM in the first place. It is unlikely that they are simply 'ignoring you' (unless they have exhibiting ignoring behavior towards you in the past).

IMO you have one of two options. If you NEED an immediate response (it's created a work stoppage) it is not rude to simply ask, 'are you still there' or pick up the phone and call them, and say 'hey, I have a quick question, do you have a minute?'. If your manager/boss would rather you NOT bug them over something that's a work stoppage for you, there's something seriously wrong with their management style.

In most cases though it probably isn't a work stoppage issue, in which case I would just suggest you email them your question, and that way they can get back to you when its convenient for them. Or, you could simply wait a couple hours and then IM them asking if they can IM (as if you are starting a new conversation, as by now they have forgotten your question and conversation anyways).

In short, use IM for what its for, but realize that IMs are just one more "task" on a users list of multiple task. Don't expect it to go like a face-to-face conversation.

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I believe that it is ok to enquire once on there status with an 'are you still about?' type question. As has been stated IM is asynchronous but quick enough to allow a conversation and the etiquette that entails.

I have received phone calls while conversing on IM and normally I will IM a warning that I will be unavailable for a while, In a few cases an emergency has cropped up where I have forgotten to tell IM person and am grateful of a reminder as I believe it is rude to just vanish.

If on the receiving end I conclude either the person has mistakenly forgotten you or is ignoring you. If they have forgotten all is good with a reminder, if they are ignoring you then you have bigger problems.

There is always the option to wait till your boss asks a question over IM and not reply till they make a move. Then you know how they approach it, then just claim internet problems and there none the wiser.

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protected by Rarity Nov 28 '12 at 22:23

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