My boss sent me an email today asking me to keep my IM chat open while I'm at work. My boss supervises me from another city, so I understand why the request was made. This way, my boss can quickly communicate with me without having to call or send an email.

The problem is that the IM system is my private email, and I don't want my contacts to know that I'm online. They will waste time sending me messages when I don't have time/am uninterested in responding. Also, there are certain people in my contact list that I don't ever want to talk to again, and I don't want them to know that I'm online. For these reasons, I haven't used my IM chatbox in years.

How do I explain to my boss that I don't want to use my private IM system? I considered changing my IM name, but my boss already knows what my current IM name is, and I feel like it would be awkward to explain that I have a past history with stalkers and that I'm panicked about using IM now.


3 Answers 3


That should be easy. Open up a new account to use at work and tell your boss that having your private account open at work reduces your productivity because of the private messages that your friends are sending to your personal account. Give him your new account name to chat with you while you are at work.

  • 3
    First and foremost try the KISS (marine slang) approach. Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 12:15
  • 10
    Yup, not complicated. At my office we use Skype as our primary IM tool; part of the onboarding process is to request that employees create a separate Skype account for work use. While we do not require it, ~95% of our employees do so -- this allows them to keep their work and private lives separate; just as it reduces productivity to be receiving private IMs at work, it can interfere with one's private life to be receiving work IMs off work hours. There's really no good reason NOT to do this.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 15:19
  • Perhaps you should avoid the words "reduce my productivity". You should say instead: "I would prefer to have a dedicated work account so only fellow professionals will contact me during working hours." Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 6:02
  • 5
    @user1833028 Why? If "I prefer" something, the result is that my boss is doing me a favor with the new account. If it reduces my productivity, I'm doing my boss a favor opening a new account. I'd rather use a wording where it's clear that I do this for the company, not the other way round.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 11:02
  • 3
    @user1833028 "Iron Beast" or not, having your IM ding takes up time. When it dings, you don't know if it's work or personal related, so you have to check to make sure. If it's personal, you just wasted time. Even more, you should reply to your personal contact that you're busy and can't talk - to prevent them from wasting more time (which itself wastes time). All that reduces your productivity regardless of how dedicated or capable you are.
    – Doc
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 4:18

I see three choices here:

  1. You can explain to your manager that if he wants the ability to IM you, your employer will have to set up their own IM accounts. It is probably not appropriate for your employer to expect you to use your own personal resources for your job.

If you don't care about that and/or don't want to have that conversation:

  1. Simply set up a new IM account. Then send an email to your boss telling him that you've changed your IM screenname, and give him the new screen name. There's no need to tell him why. If he asks, the explanation in nvoigt's answer is a good one, or you can simply tell him that you wanted a new screen name. You certainly don't need to explain anything involving a past history with stalkers. If this problem is not currently interfering with your job, then it is absolutely none of his business.

  2. If you want to keep your old account, most IM systems have features that allow you to hide the fact that you're online and also have features that block certain users from interacting with you or seeing if you're online. If you don't want to hear from some of these people ever again, simply block them. Then you can set your status to "away" while your at work, and tell your boss to ignore the "away" setting during the work day.

  • 6
    +1 for "not appropriate for your employer to expect you to use your own personal resources". This can create issues for the employer organization, at least in the US.
    – David
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 13:49
  • 8
    While #1 is solid advice in most of these situations, it could come across as oddly recalcitrant when the resource in question is free. Some IM services also have policies against making non-corporate (i.e. free) accounts for other people.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 18:00
  • Or quite the opposite. Some resources are free to create one account for personal use, but would require a license for company use.
    – Ángel
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 1:44

EDIT: djohnson has already mentioned what I've said below about the away status but I'll say it anyways to re-iterate.

If you don't want to set up a new account, you could set your status to being 'Away' and write "At the office" in your personal message so your friends know not to bother you during that time. Also explain to your boss that he can still message you whilst you're on Away status and you'll specifically let him know if you're going to actually be away from your messenger, in a meeting for example.

Also, why do you have people on your list that you don't want to talk to anymore? You should remove these people from your list so they're not an issue for you.

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