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I have an instant messaging system on my office computers. The users in the shipping office are logging out.

I’m the business owner and I manage a lot of our operations, as well as our tech.

A lot of the times these employees don’t even answer phones or email all day. The instant messaging system was in part meant to solve that problem, and it's been very helpful to everyone else, just not to those guys in shipping (who are located in a different place than our head office).

I don't want to fire them, but how can I set consequences for logging out or ignoring messages?

What can I do to make the software so users can’t disconnect? Program is Synology Chat. Server is Windows. I need everyone on the system and responding to each other in a timely way, without abusing the system with inane chatter, etc.

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    Who are you in the company's hierarchy? IT guy? Manager? Just a regular employee?
    – JRodge01
    Nov 20, 2019 at 19:03
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    It seems like you're blending an organizational problem (getting employees to adopt a specific tool) with a technical problem (preventing users from logging out of a specific program.) The organizational problem is more on-topic here, but you're missing some details which would be helpful. Are you in a leadership position? Do you have any official IT policy or any other way that you or your IT leadership can have oversight for things like this? Why do the users not use it?
    – dwizum
    Nov 20, 2019 at 19:07
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    To be clear - your question about how to stop users from logging out of that specific program is not on topic here. You may want to edit that part of your question out, to prevent it from being closed as off topic. If that is your true concern, you might be better off talking to the vendor that supplies that program, or a support forum for that specific program.
    – dwizum
    Nov 20, 2019 at 19:08
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    "how can I set consequences for logging out or ignoring messages?" Is it stated anywhere in the employee handbook or employee contracts that they are not allowed to log out of company programs or ignore instant messages?
    – sf02
    Nov 20, 2019 at 20:13
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    Let me say it this way... shouldn't a good business owner be interested in why rules don't work all over the place, instead of just push them and enforce following them? The fact you even mention "fire" (even if you don't want to) indicates to me you have a wrong sight on the situation.
    – puck
    Nov 24, 2019 at 8:00

6 Answers 6

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People aren’t logging out for the sake of it. Have you considered that it might be causing real problems?

I’m a software developer. You send me a message and make me deal with a 2 minute issue immediately, you cost me 15-20 minutes of focus on my actual work.

Now, I am fairly junior, so few people are bugging me. But the more senior guys have to quiet it/ignore it to get any serious work done.

Just go and ask them why they are disconnecting or logging out, which you evidently have not done as you include no reasons for the behavior in your question (which is required for setting incentives/punishment). Chances are that they are doing it to keep their productivity from cratering.

Then make a deal with them that they check it every few hours or so or see if there is a feature to send unread chat messages to the recipient email.

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    Not only that, but, if messenger isn't set up properly, it can knock you out of whatever you are doing. If it takes focus away from a document, or a code window while someone is typing..... yeah, VERY aggravating. +1 Nov 20, 2019 at 19:44
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    @Neuropathy It's the fact that you are essentially asking employees to multitask at a moments notice. This will negatively impact productivity. If I was being bombarded by messages in a work IM and I needed to get something urgent completed I would definitely silence it or sign out. I would expect management to back that decision.
    – Matt Bell
    Nov 21, 2019 at 17:29
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    So what are you looking for then? Software they cannot close? Technology for public shaming of those who don't answer emails? Recommended whips for flogging? Nov 22, 2019 at 22:16
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    @Neuropathy heeris.id.au/2013/…
    – nick012000
    Nov 23, 2019 at 12:36
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    "The decision is made." - what a great way to lose good workers. Perhaps instead discuss with your critical workers how to make sure that they react to urgent (and only to urgent) messages instantaneously, without swamping their priority list when there is something less important? Nov 23, 2019 at 13:29
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Some people don’t want to use it because they feel like they’re being asked a lot of questions and don’t want to have to deal with it.

Talk to their managers. It's their manager's job to set their priorities. If that means they need more time for answering messages and should spend less time on other things, their manager needs to make that decision and communicate that to them.

One of the worst things to do to an employee is to have their manager set their tasks and expect them to complete things on a schedule and then have other people higher up in the chain of command tell them to do other things. This undercuts the authority of the manager.

If you don't manage someone, you should not be telling them how to spend their time. You should take your concerns to their manager. Someone has to decide where the time spent dealing with these messages is going to come from, and you can't expect the employee to do that themselves and then report that to their managers.

Work through the chain of command. That's what it's for.

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  • One of the issues is that the difficult warehouse (not all are difficult) is in another location than the head office and the warehouse manager there believes he can do things however he likes, which the others in that location have emulated.
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 24, 2019 at 16:17
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    That doesn't surprise me. So you are trying to go around your managers and manage the people they're supposed to be managing yourself. That not only doesn't work but will seriously demotivate your employees who are hearing two different messages from people above them in the chain of command. You are working on the wrong problem! Nov 24, 2019 at 16:19
  • OK, relax. The person I hired to be a warehouse manager is really just a glorified shipper, who has no command over warehouse staff - bit of a race war there (California). He does a decent job shipping/receiving (plenty of screw ups), but he needs to be managed, which is my work for now until I’ve found a dedicated manager. Everyone needs to listen to me. The problem is a little banana republic has formed with one stubborn shipping manager. Perhaps you’re right: maybe that staff members needs to go (I like him and he does alright), but if he’s trouble, it’s that or he needs to be managed.
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 25, 2019 at 17:20
  • @Neuropathy An employee can't have two managers. If they have a manager, you need to manage them by managing their manager. Going around someone who an employee thinks is their manager is a recipe for disaster. The fix might be to fire the manager. But you don't want to create a situation where people have a "sort of" manager. Nov 26, 2019 at 20:08
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Ultimately, management is the only one that can create and enforce consequences for not using company software. If you're not a manager, you're going to have to get their buy-in to enforce such a thing.

Users resisting adoption may be doing so because this software hasn't been integrated into their workflow. They may have technical reservations about the new software, be resistant to change overall, or may not see a benefit for using the new software. There is also the possibility that the instant messaging software is intrusive or presents an actual technical or privacy issue to some users. Meetings with these users to address concerns and provide training can be useful. From personal experience, senior developers hate the idea of having anyone be able to IM them a question and expect a response because of its intrusiveness. They may have a good reason for logging off despite your desire for them to be online.

The passive method of driving user adoption is to create an incentive to use the software. If the instant messaging software is where announcements are made, collaboration happens, or where important information is disseminated, it creates a reason for a user to log in and go there.

The active method of driving user adoption is to reprimand users who are not adopting. This can be measured tracking and reporting when users are offline. Management would need to follow up to address any extended period of being logged off and instruction on the policy.

Overall, passive adoption tactics that allow users to choose to adopt it are more positively received by employees and create the least amount of discontent. There will be a population that doesn't want to adopt a technology, and those can be convinced through active adoption tactics. Only use a heavy hand when a heavy hand is needed.

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    But using a volatile chat system to share important information is a bad idea for a company..
    – FooTheBar
    Nov 20, 2019 at 19:53
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    @FooTheBar I agree. I absolutely hate that vast amounts of documentation for our software is essentially stuck in chat. Nov 20, 2019 at 21:13
  • @MatthewGaiser I agree that critical things like software documentation shouldn't be in the chat and should have a permanent storage solution. But that doesn't preclude non-critical yet still important information from not being in chat. Holiday party venue discussion? That can go in chat. List of tasks you and your partner need to accomplish for your upcoming trade show? Chat should be sufficient. I don't propose to replace standard documentation solutions with IMs. That'd be chaos.
    – JRodge01
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:08
  • Business owner here. Trying to have my management deal with this, but trying to learn more for myself. Most employees love the instant messenger, some are just being stubborn thinking they don’t want another thing to deal with - to me it’s a more efficient system or I wouldn’t have introduced it.
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 21, 2019 at 16:51
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    @Neuropathy In my experience managers and, for example, programmers have very different work patterns. IM may be extremely efficient for someone who has a lot of small tasks. It can be a productivity disaster for someone who needs to concentrate intensely on one main task for extended periods. IM may well be a more efficient system for the type of work you are doing. Before deciding on it, how much time did you spend studying the work patterns of the rest of the affected people to see if it would be efficient for all of them? Nov 23, 2019 at 17:13
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Pretend that I want to get results with doing the minimum amount of work to accomplish what I need to accomplish...

If I need information about a specific piece of software that the company developed, I can pull up the docs, read thru it follow the links, absorb those information and get my answer...or I can just ask a software developer via IM and have him spoon feed me. Who cares if that developer gets thrown off what he’s doing?

You can see that the software developer will handle more IMs as the number of “minimal effort” folks increase.

I used software developer but the concept applies to any technical role. Can even be peers (eg developer to developer).

Logging off IM can be perceived as a message conveying “Please read the docs. If it’s not there, please talk to my boss if you need my time. In the meantime, I’m working on this thing that the company asked me to work on”.

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  • Yeah the point is team collaboration. Messenger is great. No suggestions on topic found here.
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 23, 2019 at 23:45
  • Goose, I've updated the question based on the comments the OP made. Nov 24, 2019 at 19:51
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Can you post the messages that are getting ignored?

“Is this in stock” “When will you ship this order?” - Neuropathy

Are they in the same geographical location where you work? Are those people in the warehouse/shipping room? Or are they using some kind of inventory tracking control software? Can you install a couple of cameras in the shipping room? Can move your office next to them? Install an intercom? These are just random ideas.

These are closer to what I’m looking for - the rest being a bunch of gripe about using a messenger from disgruntled programmers and the like. I have a camera in the shipping office, but I need newer, sharper cameras and an intercom would be great. A lot of times these characters just don’t answer phones or email all day. It’s completely unacceptable. The messenger is supposed to make responding easier. They are in another location than the head office and they believe they can do things however they want. The messenger is loved by over 90% of my staff. - Neuropathy

Just to be clear, you're trying to solve a human behavioral problem with technology.

In other words, even if we could tell you how to make the chat client unable to logout from their computer, I'm quite sure that they'd find a way to still ignore your messages.

I don't want to fire them, but how can I set consequences for logging out or ignoring messages?

Fine, don't fire them, but maybe you could hire a new shipping office manager, or perhaps move part of your inventory to a fulfillment center.

If it were me and if this was my main issue, I'd pack my bags and I'd work out of that shipping office just for a week or two. In my opinion, there is nothing better to figure out what's going on. And if not you, maybe you can send someone else you trust.

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  • “Is this in stock” “When will you ship this order?”
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 23, 2019 at 23:44
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    Great! Maybe you could edit your question and add those sample chat requests in the question itself. Everybody else is responding as if these were engineers you were making requests to. Also, is this a remote location? Does someone else do your shipping for you? During peak times, how many of those requests will you make? Do you use stock inventory tracking software? Do you use a paper kanban system? Can you install a couple of cameras in the shipping room? Can move your office next to them? Install an intercom? These are just random ideas. I still know very little about your situation. Nov 24, 2019 at 1:33
  • @Neuropathy, forgot to ping your user name. Nov 24, 2019 at 1:52
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    These are closer to what I’m looking for - the rest being a bunch of gripe about using a messenger from disgruntled programmers and the like. I have a camera in the shipping office, but I need newer, sharper cameras and an intercom would be great. A lot of times these characters just don’t answer phones or email all day. It’s completely unacceptable. The messenger is supposed to make responding easier. They are in another location than the head office and they believe they can do things however they want. The messenger is loved by over 90% of my staff.
    – Neuropathy
    Nov 24, 2019 at 16:14
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I completely agree with Matthew Gaiser's answer, but I would propose a solution: A ticketing system.

Ticketing systems are less obtrusive than instant messaging programs. They allow multiple people to answer tickets, rather than just the one person who was messaged. They allow for priorities to be assigned to tickets as well. A good ticketing system will allow for metrics such as how long it takes to answer a ticket, who is fulfilling the ticket, how many are being sent, etc. It will also allow you to see who is abusing the system. For example, if one employee is marking every ticket as urgent and sending 10 tickets an hour.

A ticketing system will give you far more insight into what is going on and allow you to hold people accountable for their actions - or lack of action.

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