Lots of hallway conversations have turned into email and instant messaging conversations. There are lots of problems with that.
First, is just the lack of human interaction. Humans are social and need to meet face-to-face. Along with that is the limited ability to add tone, sarcasm and other elements of conversation into the written word.
The second problem is that ability to retrieve that email or instant message conversation in a way that you cannot with a hallway conversation. This is a records management and compliance problem.
An example of an embarrassing and damaging IM conversation came out on Capitol Hill today. According to the New York Times (Rating Agencies Draw Fire on Capitol Hill) Congressman John A. Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, read aloud from an instant-message conversation between two S&P employees in the firm’s structured product division:
Official 1: By the way, that deal is ridiculous
Official 2: I know, right. The model definitely doesn’t capture half the risk.
Official 1: We should not be rating it
Official 2: We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it
Official 1: There is a lot of risk associated with it. I personally don’t feel comfy signing off as a committee member.
That may have been a funny hallway conversation, but is not getting the company in lots of trouble.
Before you send that email or IM, ask yourself how you would feel if your Congressman was reading it into testimony and having it appear in the New York Times.