how to respond when coworkers IM me “hi” with no indication of what they need

A reader writes:

At my work, we have an instant messaging system. A lot of people will send an initial message that says nothing but “IM?” or “hi.”

In addition to making me irrationally annoyed (just tell me you want already!!), I always panic whenever I receive these because I have no idea what the appropriate response is. Is it “yes,” “hello name,” “what’s up”? All of these seem terrible.

On a more general note, what is appropriate IM protocol? I like to start with, “Do you have time for a question about X?” Or just the question if it’s short because that’s what I’d prefer to receive, but maybe people find this rude? I am aware that I am overthinking this but I also can’t stop overthinking it.

You are doing it right and your coworkers are doing it wrong — but there are a ton of people who do it their way, so it’ll serve you better to find a way to be less thrown off by it.

In general, people should open IMs with some indication of what they’re looking for — “can I ask you a quick question about X?” or “when you have a minute, I want to vent about Y” or so forth. That way, you can respond when it’s convenient for you to have that conversation.

When people just open with “hi” or “IM?” or anything else that essentially means “are you there / will you acknowledge me?” you don’t know what they’re looking for so can’t assess whether this is a good time to begin the back-and-forth. If they want to send you a funny cat photo or ask you a question that will take 10 seconds to answer, that’s a different demand on your time than if they need something more complicated. You also might interrupt what you’re doing for something truly urgent, but wouldn’t for something that can wait. So it’s more considerate for people to lay it out from the start.

But people don’t. Maybe that’s because they’re mirroring how they’d use the phone — on the phone they presumably wouldn’t launch straight into their question but would greet you and wait for you to respond first. So maybe it feels more polite to them, who knows.

But in any case, lots and lots of people start IM conversations with “hi” or “you there?” or so forth. The best way to respond when you’re busy is with something like, “Hi, what’s up?” That’ll move things to the point more quickly … and then if what’s up turns out to be something you can’t attend to immediately, you can respond, “Let me finish something up and then I’ll come back to this” or “Give me half an hour” or so forth. (Or you can just let it sit until you can give it more attention, if that’s not counter to your office’s norms.)

{ 483 comments… read them below }

  1. Jedi Squirrel*

    Your first IM message should be like the subject line in an email. Assuming that you can write a concise, informative subject line, of course.

    1. Anon326*

      I’m not sure I agree with this in all circumstances.
      I used to be on the ‘WTF – why just “hi”‘? team. Then I saw someone get an IM pop a presentation which contained really sensitive information. It was only 1 sentence, but enough to be mortifying.
      Yes, they should have put themselves on ‘busy’ for the presentation, but they didn’t. Also, I have had messages pop up while I’m at my desk and someone is looking over my shoulder at my screen and I wouldn’t necessarily have anted the other person to see.
      So, now, to me a ‘hi’ is a poke to check that the person is ready to respond. I use the next sentences to briefly outline what I want after that.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Yeah, I hated the “Hi” message until a coworker sent me a message that said, “Well, I’m f*cked” while I was sharing my screen in an impromptu internal meeting. Now that “Hi” is a buffer so just in case I forgot to put myself on do not disturb I can turn off notifications.

        I mean, it still gives me a little anxiety when it comes from my boss, but it’s a lot better now.

      2. MayLou*

        Could you say “Hi, do you have two minutes?” or “Hi, let me know when would be a good time to grab you for half an hour”? That way you’re giving a sense of how long you need but not any detail that might be private etc.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yes, this is exactly what I would put in the subject line of something sensitive or confidential.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I hate that. And emails that just say call me. Tell me what this is about so I can pull up any info I might need.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Oh, those drive me up the wall. I sent a vendor a list of items to quote and told them to let me know if they had any questions about it. His quick reply was, “Can you call me?” So I called them within a few minutes thinking they were about to tell me everything on my list was on backorder and shortages or something urgent like that. All he wanted to do was ask if he could quote some other products as well. DUDE! Just put that in an email! I don’t mind him asking, but I mind him wasting my time on the phone!

      3. 867-5309*

        This is a great point, Anon326.

        Also, the genesis of IM was AOL, where you would just send a “hi” because you wanted to know if the person was there to chat. It was more like modern texting, which is how many people became used to it before it was widely used at work.

      4. ENFP in Texas*

        +1 on this!! The “Hi” is a safeguard in case the other person has someone viewing their screen.

      5. Violet Newstead*

        This. I’ve seen far too many sensitive or embarrassing pop-ups in meetings or while looking at a co-worker’s screen at a desk.

        The ‘hi’ serves as a quick wave. If the person responds immediately, usually with ‘hi’ or ‘what’s up,’ it is an indication that they are available to talk. If there’s no response, I’ll follow up with a ‘quick questions on project X, IM when you can’ or something like that.

        I had no idea so many people were so annoyed by the practice. Does this fall above or below ‘thank you emails’ on the innocuous-but-annoying office practices scale?

      6. Almost former PhD student*

        I’ll be transitioning into the non-academic working world over the next month or so, so I don’t have much (any) experience with these sort of pop-up notifications. If you send a series of messages (e.g., “Hey!” “[Potentially sensitive message/profanity]”), do all of them pop up on the screen of the recipient, or just the first? I’m just wondering if you can just write “hi” and then be certain that the subsequent sensitive messages won’t pop up unless the recipient opens the chat window, or if you need to be actually certain the person is there and in a good position to receive the messages (I do realize that you probably shouldn’t put anything you don’t want your boss reading someday, but you catch my drift).

        1. MP*

          With many applications it used to just be the first one but (at least my version) of MS Teams shows each one

        2. Emma*

          Yeah it depends on the software. The one my company uses only pops up in the corner of the screen with the first message. All others just cause the button on the taskbar to flash. So you’d be safe if you already had a chat going with someone, then minimized it or otherwise had it in the background while presenting.

          1. Emma*

            I should say – you’d be safe from surprises from the person you have the existing chat with. A completely new conversation with a different person would still pop up in the corner of the screen.

      7. Lora*

        Interesting, that’s never been a concern since all my companies used things like Skype of Business or Teams that automatically change your status to Busy when you’re meeting/screen sharing so chats don’t pop up.

        1. Gatomon*

          We use Teams, but many of our meetings are done using a legacy screen-sharing application tied to some conference room equipment so it unfortunately doesn’t switch status. Usually our meetings are someone logging into a conference room PC where Teams loads automatically, then remoting to their desktop and firing up the screen-share over all this, so you’ll get double Teams message pop ups from the conference PC and the user’s desktop… it’s a mess.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          We’re in the process of moving people from Jabber to Teams, and our meeting system and such is all still tied into Jabber, so Teams doesn’t status-change. As I discovered, when I Teams’ed my boss “ARE YOU FRIGGIN KIDDING ME” when someone on another team said something dippy, when she was the one screen-sharing during the meeting.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I once IMed my manager during a client meeting to let him know the thing the client was saying was a spectacularly terrible idea. I had forgotten he was screen sharing and for some eternally unknown reason he wasn’t on do not disturb.

            Luckily as far as we can tell no one saw it. At least I’m gonna keep right on believing that’s the case. I saw the damn message pop up in that accursed purple Teams popup in the corner and the bit where I got particularly descriptive about how bad an idea it was got cut off thank goodness…

            It was a really bad idea though. Really, really bad.

        3. SarahKay*

          We use Skype for Business, but it only stops message pop-ups altogether if it can see you’re sharing your screen, not just in meetings. So if I’ve plugged the projector into my laptop Skype will still pop-up little notifications, and usually one notification per ‘enter’ from the sender.
          I work on the theory that any conversation-starting IM I send could pop-up in more visibility than just the person I’m sending to.
          I confess that I too hate the ‘Hi’ only messages, so mine will usually be Hi plus a suitable-for-all-audiences sentence / question.

          1. Grapey*

            Yup! Save sensitive business stuff for face to face, and write your chats/email subjects like someone other than the recipient will inevitably read them.

            A former coworker got burnt that way over a gchat with me once where she heavily ranted about our manager and I just made one noncommittal reply. Manager saw the chat on coworker’s screen in a later team meeting and it was awkward to sit through…would’ve felt worse if I let on that I agreed with coworker!

            1. allathian*

              Face to face is tough now with so many if not most office employees WFH. I also need action items in writing, because I just can’t retain information unless I get it in writing. Even if I have to write it down myself.

              1. Grapey*

                Sigh, you know what I mean; 1-1 video chat or phone calls are the typically unrecorded ways to be face to face. (If your company records those, that’s another thing to consider.)

                Action items are obviously ok too unless your action item is ‘Call Lucinda useless’. You can’t help what people send you but you can prevent writing “Bob’s PIP” in an email subject.

      8. Jdc*

        Yep and I bet this is why a lot of people do it. Also many people treat IM like a normal convo so “Hi Jane” is just that. The start of a convo. I worked with someone who called me mean for just saying “oh hey could you grab me that report”. Apparently I should’ve said “hi, how are you today?….”. Point is, there’s no pleasing everyone.

      9. hbc*

        Ha, I write my email subject lines that way too. Way too much chance of someone scrolling through emails or something and “PIP for Wakeen” is right there. “Performance update” or “recent HR discussion” would be my choices.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          And those are both fine, too. You don’t need to be super-specific with sensitive information.

          Even just a “regarding yesterday’s conversation” will work.

      10. JSPA*

        There are also questions that are pressing without being important. If the person’s there and available, you want to get the question to them. If they’re not going to see it until later, it’s better if they don’t see it at all, as it’s pointless distraction, or you’d rather not have them know you needed to ask, or they’re probably better not knowing.

        “Do you remember the name of the person I’m supposed to talk to in 15 minutes?”
        “you may still have T.P. stuck to your shoe”
        “TJ = hangry or angry?”
        “is my 2 PM the client with the spider phobia?”

        I’d “Hi” or “did I catch you” or “quick Q?” before any of those.

      11. thelettermegan*

        + 1 to this!

        You really never know who might be looking over their shoulder, what they might be doing or where their screen is being shared, and even asking about what could seem like the most mundane, non-secretive thing could in fact be revealing to other people. Outlining how long I think it will take seems ridiculous to me – I can never really tell how long something will take, and stating that it will take 30 seconds and then inadvertently ruining someone’s day would probably just ruin my reputation in the long run.

        I still prefer the ‘HI!’ – if it’s a bad time, they don’t even have to respond. I can always write up an email if I don’t hear back.

        1. JM60*

          You also don’t know how the uncertainty of “Hi” will affect the other person. My brother received a Slack message just saying “Hi” sometime before driving out of cell coverage on his way to Burning Man for the weekend. He ended up spending the entire weekend stressed, wondering what the “Hi” was about, and whether it was over something important that spells gloom after his return to work. All because of one thoughtless, stupid word. It ended up being something low priority, but it caused him anxiety.

          Please people, say when you want/need (to the extent possible) in the first message so the other person can know how important it is. Even if it’s about something sensitive, you almost certainly can put more information than “Hi” so that the recipient can at least have an idea of how important it is.

    2. Rebelx*

      I think this is really dependent of the culture of the place you’re working. Where I work (not in the US) I think people would perceive it as rude/brusque to just launch right in with the subject or question. First you should say hello, good morning, how are you? etc. like you would if you were dropping by their desk in real life. If they are available and reply right away, there’s a few seconds of small talk pleasantries, and then you get to the topic. If they don’t reply right away, then I send my question and let them reply when they can (or let them know if it’s more urgent). It’s not always natural to me to lead with small talk because I come from a more direct culture, but I try to keep in mind that not everyone, especially here, perceives that kind of directness as positive/efficient and may see it more as impolite/impersonal/unfriendly.

      When people IM me with just a greeting and nothing else, when I can, I reply right away with some kind of greeting in return. But if I’m busy and can’t respond immediately, I just ignore it, and assume they’ll let me know if it’s urgent. Most people do what I do and send the question a minute or so later if they don’t get an immediate response, but for the people who just say “hi” & nothing else, I’ll respond back with a greeting when I am more available so they know they can try again now.

      I understand how navigating these kind of things can cause anxiety about “doing it right” and frustrations when people’s tendencies and expectations around communication don’t match up. I think part of the answer is to be observant and aware of how people tend to use IM *in general* in your work place, and try to adapt to that as best you can, because that’s part of the culture of where you work. If something about the norm where you work doesn’t align with your preference or norm, try to see the other side of it and why some other people might prefer that way. You don’t have to agree or change your own preferences, just try to be openminded and understanding that other people have different preferences and this is the generally preferred way where you are (vs. annoyed because they’re communicating “wrong”).

      The second piece is for those people who don’t follow office or cultural norms around IM-ing, try not to let it bother you, assuming it’s not creating issues for getting work done, in which case that’s a separate issue to deal with. Respond in whatever professional way feels most comfortable to you and it should be fine.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I can confirm that I get ‘Hi!’ regularly from my non-US coworkers, where US workers will usually launch right into the question. I compromise: start my IMs with ‘Hi, hope you are well!’ for non-US coworkers, but include the meat of the request in the same mssg.

        1. PeanutButter*

          Can also confirm non-US people seem to do this quite a bit. A guy from India in my grad-school cohort had to be reminded constantly that the reason no one was answering him in group project chats was because he just said “hi” all the time, with no indication of wtf he actually wanted. He said that professional development courses in his University in India taught them to open with “Hi, how are you” or something, and to NEVER ask questions directly. He still falls into the habit sometimes but corrects when no one responds.

          TBH if it’s someone I can ignore who does this to me I do, until they actually figure out how to ask a direct question. It feels very passive and mealy-mouthed, like someone sighing dramatically and flinging themselves on the nearest couch so you’ll ask them what’s wrong.

          Also from reading this thread people apparently need to learn how to turn off popups on their messengers! I have slack, teams, and discord all going during the workday and all of them have their pop ups disabled. If someone directly mentions me a little notification dot appears on the icon in my lower ribbon.

          1. Vaguely Sauntering*

            I have a team that includes interns and graduates “onshore” and also over 20 Indian colleagues “offshore”. I coach all of them in our own companies corporate norm which is please do not float a lonely “Hi” to other company colleagues. It will usually get ignored.
            Instead best result is have the next sentence/query ready to go AND have it not be contentious in case of accidental screenshare by recipient. (Our MS teams rollout does not automatically change status to DND if someone is screensharing in an adhoc chat session, only if they are screensharing from a calendared meeting).
            Eg “Hi Vaguely,
            Do you have time to discuss your teapot colour request that you raised yesterday?”. Then pause for response.
            This approach works well for them and us.

          2. Quill*

            In my job, the difference between “hi” or “hola” tells me which language we’re going to be conducting the majority of the conversation in today. Because part of my job is to help take the strain of english-only communication off my spanish speaking coworkers.

      2. Michaela*

        It’s probably showing my pettiness in relation to outsourcing and hating the systems which they support for our business, but I have a habit of ignoring any IM which doesn’t launch direct into the question.

        1. PeanutButter*

          I do the same. It wastes so much time to make me play 20 questions to figure out what they want. Just ask the question and I’ll get to it when I can.

          1. Rebelx*

            I think part of working in any company — but especially a multinational or multicultural company where people may be bringing different cultural expectations to communication — is being able to adapt to the fact that different communication styles and preferences aren’t necessarily “bad” or “wrong”. You think critically of them for “wasting your time” by preferring 30 seconds of polite discourse/small talk first, but from their perspective, when people just launch into the question they might perceive it as “wow, Coworker is very rude/impersonal/doesn’t care about building good relationships with coworkers.” I think we would all be better off trying to avoid these kinds of judgments and being more accepting of the fact that people have different communication preferences and mine is not necessarily “better” and theirs “worse”, just different.

        2. Rebelx*

          It’s also taking your frustration with a company policy/strategy (outsourcing) out on the person who probably has no control over the fact that the company outsources and just trying to do their job, and who is likely just communicating in a culturally-appropriate way (for them) without realizing it doesn’t match up with cultural expectations for communication in your country… As I said in my comment above, there’s no reason to reply immediately to every “hi” if you’re busy, but to just ignore completely unless they ask a question is unproductive. Just reply back with “Hi, what can I help you with?” or something similar when you have a chance.

        3. Emily S*

          I was just ranting about this to a friend’s a couple of days ago! “Hi” followed by silence makes me irrationally annoyed because I feel like I’m being puppeted into greeting the person before they’ll just get on with it. I’m always expecting the question to follow at first, so I’m naturally waiting to see what the question is before I respond. Then after a 2-3 minutes I realize they’re not going to continue unless I return their greeting, and it feels like they’re coercing me passive aggressively into greeting them instead of just asking me straightforwardly to respond.

          It pushes the same irrational button for me as when I’m waiting to cross the street and a car that has the right of way notices you’re on the curb and tries to stop in the middle of the road where there’s no stop sign to wave you across when you were perfectly fine waiting until there was no traffic (maddeningly, there’s nearly always no one even behind them, so if they had just kept driving normally I could have crossed behind them in less time than they spend stopping and trying to communicate that contrary to our shared rules of the road, crossing the road in front of their car is now what they want me to do), but now I’m expected to cross the street, in front of a car, when I don’t have the right of way, because the driver of the car decided I should…or when someone tells you to do something you were already planning on doing. It turns what would have been an independent action on my part into someone else dictating my behavior and me having to just go along with it. I know it’s irrational to feel the way, but knowing that doesn’t make it less irritating. I don’t understand how hard, “got a minute?” or “are you around?” are to ask. Questions are a normal way to get someone to answer you.

          I also make a point of never IMing anything I wouldn’t want to be seen by anyone on a presentation screen, or seen by anyone who is standing next to the other person’s desk, or seen by the person’s boss after they quit or are out sick and boss needs to look something up, etc. It’s the same policy I had with passing notes in school… don’t put anything on writing you wouldn’t want shared with the whole class. I worked from home full time before this crisis so that doesn’t make a difference either. If I want to rant about something sensitive but don’t think it’s worth asking the person to call me, I reconsider whether it really needs to be said or if there might be someone outside of work I can vent to instead.

      3. Belgian*

        This thread is really showing the difference between Americans and non-Americans. I also think it would be rude to just launch into a question without even saying hi. You start an e-mail with a greeting, why not an IM?

        1. Lindsay*

          Unless this is the first time I’ve ever IM’d you, I view it as continuing an ongoing conversation.

          1. Rebelx*

            Where I work, I think people would see it that way while IM-ing the same person throughout the day. I would still greet someone again at the start of a new day, at least a good morning, but there’s probably less small talk if it’s someone I am regularly in touch with vs. someone I work with less frequently.

        2. JM60*

          >You start an e-mail with a greeting, why not an IM?

          With email, you’re sending the greeting plus what you need (presumably, the subject line and/or message body of your first message will give sufficient information). This allows the recipient to to figure out how important and urgent the matter is and triage it.

          On the other hand, if you only send in IM saying “Hi” until they respond, you’re denying the recipient a chance to triage it until you’ve hooked their attention. If you start with “Hi”, followed by what you need in the first message, that’s one thing, but waiting until they’ve responded to tell them what this is about is rude.

          My brother received a Slack message just saying “Hi” sometime before driving out of cell coverage on his way to Burning Man for the weekend. He ended up spending the entire weekend stressed, wondering what the “Hi” was about, and whether it was over something important that spells gloom after his return to work. All because of one thoughtless, stupid word. It ended up being something low priority, but it caused him anxiety.

        3. Emily S*

          I use, “hi , ?” in a single message or “hi ” “?” as two quick messages in a row if it’s someone I don’t frequently message. I don’t sit there waiting for the greeting to be returned before I proceed.

          1. Emily S*

            Whoops, formating fail – should have been, “hi name, question?” or “hi name!” “question?”

    3. No bees on Typhon*

      My mum uses “Hi” as the subject line for every single email she sends. “Hi” can literally mean anything from “here’s a nice photo of the flowers in the garden” to “try not to worry but I think I have COVID” (she probably did have it but is OK now). My sister and I have tried to explain why she should change this habit, but with no luck so far.

      1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

        This read as very funny to me, a person who will get random phone calls from her parents at 2pm on a Wednesday, answer in a panic, and then be asked why I sound panicked

        1. 867-5309*

          My dad used to always just text, “Call me.” I panicked every.single.time. We finally had a conversation where I told him he needs to add “not urgent” to his messages because several times I left meetings to return his call or text.

        2. TexasTeacher*

          Ha. Years ago, my husband called the school where I was teaching to teach me. Since the front office had never received a call for me, they came and got me out of class so I could take the phone call, rather than take a message. I suppose they thought it must be urgent, but he just wanted to know if I wanted to go to a basketball game that evening. I was so embarrassed! Unexpected calls can be so disorienting.

      2. mreasy*

        I had a boss who used the name of the company as the subject line for every single email he sent me during my five year tenure. He was otherwise quite with-it and tech savvy, though older – he did it to everyone in the company and it was a constant subject of amusement.

        1. allathian*

          Did he use just the name of the company? I imagine it would be quite hard to keep track of his emails if that’s the case.

    4. Amanda*

      Funny, I never even considered not beggining an IM conversation with “hi, how are you doing?”

      I’m not in the US, so maybe this is a cultural thing, but it woulf seem *extremely* rude to me to receive an IM without a greeting and pleasantries. Everybody in my office, and at my previous jobs, do the same.

      1. CLAIRE*

        I (Australian) work with a number of people in a another culture who feel this way. I have had a number of conversations that I am fine with pleasantries; but if it is 7:30pm where I am and you just message ‘Hi’ without follow up its very hard for me. I am working late likely trying to get something out before I logoff and you need to get to the point fast.

        That being said I have learnt to do a bit more back and forth in afternoon messages to balance it out.

        1. Jamie*

          Yes this annoys me too being in Australia and dealing with colleagues based in Asia, Europe and the US in the evening…please just get to the point. Even if I’m not online that second it will help to know what they want when I do check Teams on my phone or iPad after hours. It may be rude to some, but I always send a message that includes Hi but actually says what I’m talking about to open. Hi, are you able to help me on XXX?

      2. BlackCatOwner*

        I don’t think this is a strictly cultural divide. I’m American and I still think it’s rude to just go straight to the question. “Hi” or “Good morning” or some sort of greeting is my preferred way to start and receive an IM. If I’m on the receiving end, if I want to jump straight to the point, I will reply “[Insert greeting], how can I help you?” That moves the conversation along politely if I’m don’t have time for chit chat. It may be text but it’s still a conversation!

        I really think this falls under “no single approach can make everyone happy”

        1. allathian*

          I’m not in the US either and I come from a direct and to-the-point culture. If I contact someone on IM that I work with regularly, I always, always lead with a good morning or hi. Then, usually before they have time to respond, I follow with my question if it’s urgent and I expect the person to be able to answer it quickly. If I don’t work with them regularly, I usually email them with the details of my question and only contact them on IM if I don’t hear back from them in a few hours or a day, depending on the urgency of my question.

          That said, I’m very happy that our combo of Outlook and Skype for Business automatically marks people as busy when they’re in a meeting and DND if they’re presenting. Especially in the latter case, I contact them by email instead. My former boss would sit in a lot of meetings and she had to multitask to get anything done (or so she thought, multitasking often seems more efficient than it is), and even when she said it was OK to IM her when she was just busy, as opposed to presenting, it was really, really hard for me to do. I’d usually IM her to let her know that there was an email in her inbox about X and that I’d appreciate a fast response, if it was something that needed her direct input before I could get to Y. That way, I left it up to her to decide if it was important enough for her to respond during the meeting or after. My current boss is much firmer on refusing invitations to meetings that she feels she has nothing to contribute to or gain from, and she’s much less prone to multitasking during meetings, so I don’t IM her if she’s busy.

          I guess I’m as much prone to grousing about a coworker or internal customer occasionally as the next person, but I never start a convo with anything that I wouldn’t be happy with my boss or anyone in the C-suite seeing. Even then it’s mostly things like “why does Fergus keep breaking our workflow with his weirdly formatted requests” or “why won’t Jane send us the Word file instead of the PDF, when Word is so much easier to edit,” not that “Fergus is an idiot” or “Jane just won’t learn our process” or something.

      3. Miso*

        It’s kinda funny. We have this prejudice here how Americans are always super, over-the-top (fake) friendly.
        And then I’m reading things here on AAM all the time where I just think “That’s so rude…!”

    5. Dr Rat*

      So much depends on all your tech systems. Where I work, *theoretically*, the system should show you green if available for an IM, red if in a meeting, yellow at lunch, etc. But in actual practice the IM system shows the wrong color 90% of the time, because the program where I enter that I’m at lunch does not mesh with the IM system and change it for me. And I never remember to change my IM status when I go to lunch or break or go into a meeting, because I don’t get IMs that often. Our system also ends IMs after a certain period of inactivity and throws the message into an email folder that no one ever checks. As a result, if anyone IMs me at work, they almost certainly start with Hi, which is code for, “Hello, I am acknowledging that our IM system which shows you currently available may be incorrect. I am asking if you are there and alive and not currently in Mumbai or anything. If you don’t say Hi or send me a waving hand emoji, I am going to send you an email instead. But I don’t want to waste time typing a lot of verbiage when you may or may not be there.” So when I get an IM that says Hi, I just hit the waving hand emoji to indicate that yes, I am there, please proceed.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Personally, I *never* let IMs display notifications with the content on my desktop. Why?

        a) If I have my head down, or I’m typing code, or whatever, they can steal focus, and I’ll end up typing code (or part of my password!!!) into chat. No bueno.
        b) If I’m screen sharing, I down want what could be a personal message from my house slack displayed for everyone (Think “Hey, , when are you done with that idiot meeting?” or “The f*cking cat puked in front of the bathroom again”)
        c) Notifications and pop-ups are evil, and I’ve hated them since they were invented. They all assume that whatever they are about is so important that they can interrupt and demand your attention “Right Now™”. Unless my workstation is on fire? No, it isn’t that important. Better to do drugs than pop-ups, IMO.

        So I set stuff whenever possible that no IM pop-ups or website notification pop-ups come oozing onto my screen. It keeps my blood pressure down.

        1. Emily S*

          I like the cut of your jib. I also disable notifications on almost everything because almost nothing that uses notifications actually needs my attention in real time. I’ll see it the next time I look at that app when time allows.

          And don’t get me started on people who @here a slack channel for anything non-urgent. I’m going to see there’s unread messages in the channel the next time I pull up the slack window and I’ll go into the channel to see what it is a clear the unread badge. @here puts a flashing orange thing in my start bar demanding my immediate attention, only to find out I stopped the work I was concentrating on to learn that the office photo contest is officially accepting submissions now.

      1. Atlantian*

        This is what I *want* you to do. Your response of “Hi” 30 seconds or 30 minutes later tells me “I am now paying attention to this conversation window. Please proceed.” And makes me feel less like I am intruding, since you now have control over when the conversation actually happens.

        1. stefanielaine*

          But you have created a situation where I am interrupted once, respond, and then have to wait while you respond, so this builds in an additional delay of sometimes several minutes if it’s a slow typer or a long request where I’m kind of captive and can’t proceed with whatever else I’m working on. It sounds small but it’s very disruptive several times a day. Kind greeting + quick summary of what you need is FAR more efficient.

          1. skunklet*

            I get IMs from remote workers all the time – HI and then nothing. But they might be in an airport or in a hotel with a horrible wifi signal or worse, bouncing around on a 3rd world country’s cell phone network. I cut them slack ALL the time.
            I respond HI to them and go back to what I was doing – my computer flashes when they respond to that – and THEN they’ll get my full attention.
            It’s not really complicated and I think OP might be over thinking this….

            1. Evan Þ.*

              No, responding “hi” to you still interrupts my original train of thought. It can take me a significant time to get back to where I was originally.

              1. me too (others not)*

                Well, me too…but I have an ADD diagnosis. Basically, if it’s important enough that I need to concentrate, and not engrossing enough to suck me in past the point of no return naturally, I need to turn off notifications, block all other distractions, and be medicated.

          2. tangerineRose*

            “you have created a situation where I am interrupted once, respond, and then have to wait while you respond” Yep. I do go back to what I was doing, but it is kinda annoying.

            1. It's All Elementary*

              “Hi” to me means you just want to chat and I put you on the back burner until I remember you sent an IM. “Do you have a moment?” means I will respond when I get a break in what I’m doing and put you in a queue to be answered.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I’m usually working on something that isn’t all that urgent and can stop for a minute or 2, but it would be faster if I didn’t have to wait for the person to type the question.

          3. Djuna*

            This happens to me a lot, someone sends “Hi”
            I send “Hi, what’s up?”
            and spend several minutes watching the … as they type several paragraphs.
            What that person doesn’t know is that I often have multiple people doing this at the same time, and I’m clicking between windows to respond to extended pleasantries/new salutations and check if any of them have gotten to the point yet :)
            But people have their own styles and IMs are a million times easier than someone walking up to my desk with the same question, so I just go along with it.

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            This is also my preference, but I don’t get unhappy if others don’t do it that way – different norms are different.

            1. LF*

              The “hi” without anything else has always irked me to no end. I agree that having inappropriate messages pop up while presenting a screen is not ideal, but I just don’t really think starting every exchange with “hi” is the way to deal with that? It’s a waste of time to have a back and forth prior to getting to the point, especially during busy days when there are a bunch of other things competing for attention. I use Slack for work and these messages just don’t pop up as notifications.

        2. Des*

          While I don’t mind this, this kind of a start indicates to me that the message is not important, not urgent, and probably from a junior person who hasn’t yet formulated a concise question to ask of me. So it goes to the bottom of my priorities to reply to, as opposed to someone who starts with:

          “Hello, When you have a minute could you let me know: blah blah blah? I’m dealing with a customer who urgently needs a response. Thank you for your time.”

          The above would get a quick answer from me. The “hi” will get an eventual “hi!” while I navigate away to important things.

          So yes, it isn’t annoying to me, but it is also setting you up for a longer wait because you didn’t put in the effort from the start. Just FYI.

    1. cat socks*

      Same. I just respond with hello, good morning, etc. and wait for them to ask their question.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I have a friend who does this (it doesn’t annoy me). I just send him back:


      He’s checking to see if I’m in a spot where I can communicate (because if I’m away from my computer or wrapped up in a project, I won’t notice, and he’ll get the answer to his question some other way; he doesn’t really have time to wait); he doesn’t like to just jump right in (I’m guessing it feels rude or abrupt to him).
      So the question mark lets him know that I’m able to respond.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This. I’m guilty as charged — let me tell you all why.
        Our IM system takes a VERY long time before it changes the “available” status. We’ve all had many times when someone’s status changes to “away” right as we press send. So my co-workers all check to see if the recipient is really there before diving into their question. Worst part is when we get our answer from a second person — and the first person doesn’t notice the “never mind” followup because IM forwarded the initial question to Outlook. Now MORE of us have wasted our time.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Same. I like to pretend we’re just exchanging pleasantries, because until you ask me a question, that’s exactly all we’re doing.

    4. sofar*

      I do the same. Or I ignore them. They’ll eventually spit out what they actually want/need. Sometimes they clearly forget, save it for the next meeting, or never message me again. Which means it clearly was not important anyway.

      1. James*

        Or it was important, and you were non-responsive so they wrote you off. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s situationally dependent.

    5. Jules the First*

      I wait until you show as away and then respond “hi”

      But then, I am 37% pure evil, so ymmv… ;)

    6. TeapotNinja*

      Any other reaction is just overthinking this thing.

      I try to add some stuff to my response to communicate “it’s good to hear from you” these days now that we can’t meet in person. Seems to be well received so far.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Yeah I generally just reply with something like “hey” or “hey, what’s up” or “Hi John” (the last one more formal if John is more senior or someone I don’t know very well etc).

      When I initiate “hi” it’s generally “hi, I need to pick your brains about the TTP project proposal, when is a good time?” (and often they will reply ‘now’ if they aren’t in a meeting or whatever) or if it’s something a bit more sensitive “hi, can I have a word when you’ve got some time?”

      In my role though I am mostly working with ‘internal’ people (who aren’t likely to be presenting something to clients etc) but in the few cases that people could be with a client I am generally aware of it and avoid pinging them at those times if at all possible, I’d likely send an email instead in that situation.

    8. Koala dreams*

      Yes, that’s the obvious answer. Just like if somebody says hi to you in person. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t get the confusion over this simple, everyday greeting.

    9. AL (the other one)*

      I sometimes just respond with a mysterious mish-mash of emoticons… (nothing rude!)

      Just to indicate that I’m there and responding…

  2. AdAgencyChick*

    I always wait 30 seconds before responding. Usually they’ll send another message that says “can I ask you a question” or “do you have 30 minutes?” if I just wait.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      To add: this is because, if they want 30 minutes and I don’t have 30 minutes, it’s easier to end the conversation at that point with “sorry, I’m on another call, you can try me at 3:30” than it is if I respond back with “what’s up?” I find that once you’ve engaged, people won’t go away.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        You know, it’s funny – I do this way more for phone calls than I do for IMs. An IM I might just shoot over “Hey” or the question, but for a call it’s, “Hi, this is X from Y. I’ve got a question about Z, do you have a few minutes?”

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I think it makes sense, though. On a phonecall the person has already signaled to you that they are available because they picked up the phone!

          People IM me with “Hi” or “Hey do you have a minute?” a lot and I think it’s partly because office IM etiquette isn’t really settled and partly because Teams has a bad habit with me personally of not marking me away even when I am away (I think for some reason it thinks I’m active on my phone even when I’m not) so sometimes someone asks me something and it turns out I’m gone for the day. (My entire team is remote so it’s not like people can drop by my desk.)

    2. Nekosan*

      I do similar, although I wait until I’m at a good stopping place – regardless if that’s 30 seconds or 30 minutes away – before pinging them back. Most people do finally get around to actual content if you give them half a minute (or they figure out the answer themselves, after a bit of thought).

    3. TootsNYC*

      This is what my one colleague does. He send “hi” just to prime the pump, I think. He’s formulating his thoughts

    4. CTT*

      Same; I feel like some people write IMs the way they compose emails and they feel a greeting is necessary, even if that means a minute of “hi” hanging out by itself while they type up the request.

    5. TimeTravlR*

      This is probably the best approach and one I need to adopt. I had some Hello me in an IM today and when I responded it turns out they had sent me an email two hours previous and needed a response right away. If I haven’t responded, it means I probably didn’t see it…. I didn’t, I have had my head in a massive project all day. CALL ME!!!
      Sorry, I got off track. (It really has been one of those days!) Yes. I need to just allow some time to pass and see if they fill in the gap or go away.

    6. Farrah Sahara*

      I do this as well, especially with one particular colleague. She hits enter after every few words, as if she’s using an old school typewriter, and I and up getting IMs like this:

      Have a question.
      About the meeting
      The one we had last Thurs
      The one Brad hosted
      Where can I find the report?
      The one about the green teapots?
      Is it finished?
      Or still a draft?

      This goes on for about 20 more comments. Just type it in 1 or 2 sentences and send me 1 message!!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        This is hilarious, but I imagine infuriating when it’s happening to you!

        1. Loose Seal*

          It reads a bit like a children’s book. One about what Mommy does at work all day. If Farrah illustrates it, she might have hit a niche market!

      2. Bad Habits*

        I feel your pain. This is highly frustrating when every message distracts you with a pop-up notification, so you basically can’t focus on anything else between the first message and the last message, when all those could have been lumped into just one or two and you could have minutes of your life back.

      3. Perse's Mom*

        This is exactly how my former supervisor sends skype messages and thankfully we have the kind of relationship where I can answer his question and annoy him at the same time when I answer one word at a time.

  3. Employment Lawyer*

    “What’s up?” works.

    For repeat offenders, you can try asking them not to do it.

    1. Emma*

      Does what’s up feel to informal in a work place? It feels okay with people at my level but I feel awkward somehow saying “what’s up” to my boss.
      OP here well aware that I am massively overthinking this

      1. Avasarala*

        I think as a substitution for “hello” maybe it’s informal, but as “what do you want to talk to me about?” it’s not informal, that’s just what it means.

      2. BlackCatOwner*

        I generally respond back with “Hi, how can I help?” to superiors. I figure they aren’t reaching out via IM just to chat and this signals I’m ready to hear what they need and can skip pleasantries

  4. Bree*

    People also do this to me all the time and I hate it! My work is pretty high pressure right now so when I get an IM that just says “Hi Bree” I immediately assume something bad has happened or something urgent is required of me. If you want to know where I got my cute cloth face mask just say so right away!

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I’m here to take orders and do as I’m told. You don’t have to say “hi” and wait, just tell me what’s wrong already and don’t make me sit in limbo about it!

  5. Seasoned Tech Worker*

    One point not covered in the answer – sometimes a “hi” stand-alone message is to ensure that your message doesn’t pop up on a screen share. Most folks remember to pause notifications while screen sharing but sometimes that step is overlooked, and it’s a lot better to have the “hi” notice pop up than a “Do you have some time today to discuss Bob’s PIP?” message.

    1. Data Maven*

      yep, this. I NEVER use a “hi” in texting but do with specific coworkers because they are often in back to back meetings and I can’t know which ones they may be screen sharing at and if they remembered to block notifications

      If it’s someone I’m less close with I’ll just message “Hey, when you have a second can you let me know” but with regular coworkers I want something small that will alert them but they can also ignore easily

      1. allathian*

        My org has Skype for Business set up so that the person who’s sharing their screen is automatically on DND and the message won’t go through until they end the meeting, unless there’s already an active convo going on with the sender.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Mine too, but since we work with external partners a lot, in practice there’s a hodge-podge of S4B, regular Skype, MS Teams and GoToMeeting, so it only gets you so far

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This. There are ways of *not* accidentally sharing confidential information over a screen share that aren’t as useless as “hi.”

    2. AnotherAlison*

      That’s a decent reason to do it, but many people just launch into the rest of their IM anyway. Hi. . .wait 2 seconds. . .Can you tell me XYZ about the thing right this minute?

    3. YupItsMe*

      I was once in a meeting where someone was presenting off of another’s laptop and the presenter started into a list .. and *bing* up pops a message notification from someone in the room on screen : “geez, not another list…”

      I learned a very valuable lesson that day through someone else’s mistake.

      Granted, “Hey, look me up with you have a minute” or “I have a detailed question for you” still works for this.

    4. Atlantian*

      So much this.

      I also do it when I am IMing people who I KNOW are significantly busier than I am, to give them the opportunity to not respond until they have 5 minutes to either help me with my problem or to figure out that what I need requires a longer convo, either through IM or over the phone, a formal meeting, etc. But this also seems very much to be the norm where I work. I only open with the question or comment for non-work related things, because then you can just read it and not respond, or have a fun back and forth brain break if you have the time and it’s on the recipient. Everyone here has pretty much agreed that ambushing someone, especially a higher up, with a work related question over IM is not the proper etiquette. The “Hi” “Hello” “Good Morning/Afternoon” etc message is more of a “put me on your radar and please get back to me when you have a sec” message than a “drop everything RIGHT NOW and talk to me”. If I need to ask a more formal question, or it’s something not particularly urgent, I will send an e-mail. I think the disconnect comes from the same place as people feeling like a text message requires an immediate response. It doesn’t. The whole point is that we can have a less formal conversation, at a time scale that is somewhere between verbal conversation and whole e-mail.

      1. Lindsay*

        To me “Hi” requires an immediate response because I have no idea what you want. It could be urgent, it could nothing, I have no clue. If you send me a message including your question, I can respond in an appropriate time frame depending on your need by 1) waiting to respond 2) Answering the question immediately 3) Telling you “I will get back to you at X time”.

    5. Yet Another Consultant*

      Yes, came here to say the same thing. Everyone at my company does this and while it IS annoying and I’d rather get to the point, it does save everyone from accidental pop-ups.

    6. Jedi Squirrel*

      “Do you have a minute?” is actually much more actionable than “Hi!” though, and without revealing any private information.

      1. Avasarala*

        I don’t see how those are functionally really different though? You still don’t know what they want or how long it will take (it’s never 1 minute). Either way you have to answer yes/hi to know what they want.

        1. Actual Vampire*

          “Do you have a minute?” is a question that requests a response.
          “Hi,” is not a question that requests a response.
          Last year, when I was feeling overwhelmed by being expected to deal with other people’s problems, I decided to only respond to questions or requests and ignore any form of communication that was not a question or request. It was magical.

          1. Avasarala*

            Wow. I think I’d get fired if I chose not to respond to certain requests because of how they were phrased.

            1. allathian*

              Actual Vampire’s response certainly isn’t appropriate for all jobs, that’s for sure. Fortunately I have enough leeway in my job that I can often prioritize my jobs. All jobs get done eventually, but I’m more likely to be flexible with people who are pleasant and easy to work with and whose communication style matches mine. If they annoy me, they’ll get service by the book, but if they’re pleasant, I’m far more likely to go the extra mile for them.

            2. Actual Vampire*

              Notice how you used the word “requests” in your comment? That’s my point. If someone requests something from me, of course I will do it. If someone just says “hi,” I’m not going to engage in the emotional labor of coaxing their request out of them. I hardly think I’ll get fired for failing to fulfill a request that was never actually made to me.

            3. Perse's Mom*

              ‘Hi’ is not a request. There’s no way to know if they just want to shoot the breeze or actually have something work related to talk about.

              I really don’t mind if I get just ‘hi’ if it’s followed by more typing and then something more substantial. If I just get the floating ‘hi’ and nothing beyond that… then no.

        2. bewilderd*

          “hi” alone tells me absolutely nothing. It’s like turning around to find a person staring at you, and all they say is “hi” while continuing to stare. It’s so awkward!

          The burden is now on me to reach out and figure out what they need instead of being able to triage the request. “Hi Name. Do you have a minute?” at least tells me you need something non-urgent. “Can I ask a quick question about the Smith file?” or “Can I vent for a minute?” would be better. Give me some context, please! I need to know if I should drop everything to help you, ping you back when I wrap up what I’m doing, or look up the thing you asked about first so I’m ready to respond.

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, I guess it’s kind of phatic in a way. But when I ask questions like this, I’m prepared to hear a range of answers:

          “Sure, what’s up?”

          “I have a meeting in 10 minutes, so if it will take longer than that, why don’t you call me at 1:30?”

          “I’m in meetings all day — email me and we can set up a time to meet on Wednesday.”


    7. Glitsy Gus*

      Yes, this is me too. I mean, I usually say “hey there, do you have a sec?” or something like that rather than just “Hi.” I start with a very innocuous “hi there” type message to give the person a change to mute/ tell me they’re in a meeting/ whatever they need to do to avoid me airing out possibly inappropriate info over a pop-up.

      The way our Slack is set up it’s very easy for this to happen if you forget to manually snooze your notifications at the start of a meeting or call. Because of this, popping into a meeting unintentionally is kind of a Thing at our company and this is the easiest mitigation I’ve found.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        *give the person a CHANCE to mute or CHANGE status.

        Also, just in general, even if I knew it was safe, I think I would always start with some kind of “hey there, can you chat about…” before just launching in with a question or request. The ‘hi’ doesn’t need to be it’s own line or anything, but it feels kind of rude and demanding to not give any kind of greeting or checking to see if it’s a good time when starting an exchange.

      2. Jamie*

        Do you have a minute is much better than hi…as sometimes I will respond and say sure and other times, sorry, on a call, can I get back to you in a bit etc.

    8. Phil*

      Someone at work a few years ago who loved pranking this one guy walked past a meeting room and saw him making a presentation to a large group (including me) with his laptop connected to the screen in the room, and made use of the pop-up. I can’t remember what he wrote but it was hilarious to witness.

  6. girlinthemoon*

    While a lot of people I work with do this for unknown reasons, I have known some people where we did this as a way to ask “are you screensharing” since we screenshared with a lot of internal and external clients and didn’t want to say “can I vent about X”.

    Absent that understanding, however, wholeheartedly agree w Alison’s advice!

  7. Kim*

    Maybe I’m super passive aggressive, but 9 times out of 10 (unless it’s my boss or a super high-up person), I just ignore someone who says only “hi.” I just wait until they say something else.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’ve started doing this too, because whenever one of my colleagues does it I can see that they are already typing a second message so I just wait for that. But I do hate it when someone only types “Hi” because I tend to assume the worst even though I can’t actually recall any time when someone has given me bad news via our chat software. It just raises my anxiety level, for some reason. (And I see the comments here that it’s good form in case someone is sharing their screen or something, which is valid, but I literally never do that so it’s not necessary for people messaging me, and rarely the case for my colleagues either.)

      I try to remember what Alison said, that they’re probably just trying to be polite, so that I don’t get my hackles raised, but I do really hate the waste of time that is the “Hi!” on IM. I’m rather comforted to see that I’m not the only one here who feels that way.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      Same! Luckily our messaging system is also our group meeting and screen sharing system so any messages received during a meeting do not pop up on screen.

      I’d prefer they just send their question and then I can get to it when I am ready. If someone doesn’t want to send any info through until I’m available then they should just ask when I’m available. Anything I send through our messaging system I do not assume will be responded to immediately. I send over what I need to tell someone, they will review when they are free to do so.

      I’m also a very direct person though and I know others are not.

    3. dog in a bag*

      This! I never reply to people who just say “hi”. I have chat logs with some people where it is just them pinging me “hi” once a day, for weeks(!!), without me every replying. Clearly, if they aren’t following up or sending an email, it isn’t that pressing.

  8. NYWeasel*

    Someone long ago told me that this was their pet peeve, and once they told me, it became my pet peeve too! It’s ok to say Hi first but follow up with whatever the heck you want!! If I stop what I’m doing, they take forever to type out the second line. And if I try to ignore it, they end up texting me a novel

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      It’s weird how pet peeves spread like that. Someone once told me that it annoys them that the word “podium” is almost always used incorrectly, and the correct word is usually “lectern.” Never even noticed before, now annoyed.

      I don’t care much if people start IMs with “hi,” but it does annoy me if I reply and then get no follow-up response. Like a drive-by greeting for no actual reason.

        1. hbc*

          “Decimate” makes me so sad. I’ve never seen/heard it used correctly, and I can think of a dozen words that get the same point across that everyone means, and nothing that so cleanly gets at what it’s supposed to mean. Plus, “deci” is right there in the word.

        2. SINE*

          So..uh…how are people using these two words incorrectly? I worried I was one of those people so I looked them up on MW just in case but the definitions seem to jibe with what I thought.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            “Decimate” means to reduce by 10% but is frequently used to mean “reduced a whole bunch” or in some cases – closer to the original meaning but flipped – reduced TO 10% of the original amount ie “almost completely gone”.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Correction: That is what “decimate” originally meant. If you want to argue that words can only be used in their original meaning–that extended or metaphorical senses are disallowed–then you are going to have trouble. Browse through any good dictionary, paying attention to the etymologies, and this becomes clear.

              In the case of “decimate,” it was borrowed into English from Latin in the mid-17th century. It acquired its extended sense soon thereafter. It was about two centuries later that anyone thought to complain. The complainer was one Richard Grant White, who is largely and justifiably forgotten today. He was a treasure trove of linguistic peeves, and often mocked for them at the time. Most died with him, but a few stuck, “decimate” being a notable example.

  9. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Oh, LW, I am right there with you! Getting a “Hi” IM just makes me so irrationally annoyed- just tell me what you want, already!!

  10. Panda*

    I’m glad you posted this question. I always felt rude launching in to what I needed on IM so I’d start with “Hi” or “How are you doing?” Now I know better.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I have no problem with a message that starts with “Hi”, so long as there’s more context with it. The more context can either be in the same message, or you can send your question in the next message without waiting for a reply. (Works best in systems that show you when the other person is typing something.)

      The frustrating part is getting a greeting with no context – even if that context is just “Can I ask you a question about something?”

      1. alienor*

        Yep, I’m fine with “Hi” if it’s the intro to a sentence that at least gives me some idea what the person wants. Even “Hi, do you have a second?” is better than nothing.

    2. Claire*

      I don’t think it has to be an either/or thing–I generally say, “Hi Lucinda! Can you help me with the llama report when you get the chance?” Greetings are nice, but just leaving a “hi” dangling out in the empty space isn’t necessary and can be annoying depending on context.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        Yeah, pre-pandemic I was very busy so I much preferred it when people told me what they were asking about so I could judge for myself whether to handle it right then or later.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        This is my favorite kind of message! Greeting, subject, and some idea of priority all in one!

    3. Smithy*

      I work with a group of people with a wide range of tech savvy, so I am in the club of my first IM saying something along the lines of “hi” and then will follow after that with “I have a (quick) question for you, if you have a few minutes” or “Are you free to chat now, or would it be better for me to find time on your calendar later for 15-20 min”.

      Makes the overall request clear, but allows for some discretion in case there’s screen sharing or even just so that a message doesn’t get lost. I think the pet peeve often comes from an expectation that an IM of “hi” expects a response of “hey – what’s up” and isn’t more direct. It’s truly not an issue that bugs me, but that’s my interpretation.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      It’s context and culture dependent, so really the thing to do is pay attention to what your coworkers are doing and find a version of their style that is comfortable for you. And don’t snark during meetings.

      No one way is going to work for everyone.

  11. Littorally*

    For the folks talking about making sure something sensitive doesn’t pop up on a screen share, what would be a good alternative? Something like “Is now a good time to talk?” seems… rather ominous. Maybe “Hey, do you have a minute?” for brief things?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think ideally you give some indication of (a) how much time you need and (b) how urgent it is. Picture the other person in the middle of five things and having an harried day. So:

      “When you have 5 minutes, I have a question about X. Not urgent, but I’ve got Y on hold until we connect.”

      Or so forth.

      1. Atlantian*

        Even that might be giving away too much information if there is an accidental screen share, presentation, or even just co-worker standing too close and able to see the screen for a lot of situations. I think, if you absolutely feel the need to provide some context, “Let me know when you have time to chat” is enough of a message. And then, if the answer truly is “I don’t today”, that coupled with a “Send me an e-mail with what you need” keeps the conversation going without breaking too much focus.

        For me the simple “Hi” is the best possible message to get because our system is set up with a preview of the message that pops up on the bottom of the screen and then you have to “accept” it to open a conversation. If there is a question in that initial message, it’s impossible for me to ignore it. Especially if it’s long enough that I can’t read the entire thing in that preview window. “Hi” with both sets of quotes allows me to acknowledge that someone needs me, without really breaking focus and needing to open the whole message to read the rest of the question. I can respond when I am ready and give my full attention to whatever they need. Just reading the entire question or request would be enough to pull my focus on to that until it is resolved.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The problem with “let me know when you have time to chat” is that I don’t know if I have time today until I know what it’s about. If it’s urgent, I’ll make time. If it’s not urgent, I might put it off. So some indication of those things is helpful, even if you don’t state the specific topic.

          1. Atlantian*

            Huh, I never really thought of IM being used that way. Typically, if I am IMing you about something it’s because it is about something that is both urgent and simple/quick enough that it shouldn’t derail your entire day. If it’s urgent and complicated, I will call (usually after the “Can I call you?” IM has been acknowledged, but not always), and if it is complicated but not that urgent, I will e-mail or schedule a meeting. If, in the course of asking the question over IM we discover together that it is either more complicated or more urgent than either of us originally thought, we can work through that together. When I say “Do you have a minute to chat” I literally mean, chat. Usually 1 or 2 questions with yes or no answers that, while I may *need* the answers in order to proceed, the business will not grind to a halt until I get those answers.

            1. RG2*

              Your urgent and simple might not be their urgent and simple, though. The problem I have with that is I work with a bunch of people who all think their thing is the most urgent thing, but they don’t have full context on everything I’m working on. So I prefer IMs from my team to give me that context so I can make the judgement call about whether that’s a today/tomorrow/next week thing, or if I can punt it to someone else before I break focus away from more urgent work. It’s not that one question will derail my whole day, it’s that I have to prioritize focus and, especially on a day when I’m in and out of meetings and triaging six fires, 5/10 minutes are precious.

              But my coworkers/team know this and we have systems in place to manage all that.

      2. Lora*

        Yes, knowing the urgency of the request is what I really want!

        If someone pings me with a “Hey, can you check if Internal Site is down?” I can get check and respond with a “Yeah I can’t access, looks like we’re having server issues again” or a “Sorry, ask Mary, I’m on the XYZ VPN and can’t disconnect” right away.

        Needing to do back and forth “Hi”s that take just as long as the actual response would annoy the heck out of me.

    2. cat socks*

      I’ve gotten “Can you IM? or just “IM?”

      I’ll usually reply with “Sure, what’s up?”

    3. Just Me*

      I truly don’t mean to be snarky, but just use email? If I have something sensitive to discuss and I’m concerned about a shared screen, I’m going to use a different communication method. But honestly this is an issue with any electronic communication – I’ve seen so many email alerts pop up during presentations with way more information than I should see.

    4. PeanutButter*

      The best solution is to dig into your IM client notification options. There are plenty of settings that will let your client indicate you should check your messages but NOT popup anything, especially not text of the message.

  12. Mimmy*

    I just shared this with my husband (finally, after 10 years I share AAM with him!) because this happens to him alllll the time.

  13. juliebulie*

    My boss opens with “hi.” It’s to make sure I’m not screensharing, I guess. I can live with that. But what I can’t stand is this:

    Someone: Hi
    Me: Hi?
    Someone: (loooooooong pause while Someone is typing)

    It’s the long pauses during IM that get on my nerves. But it’s fine. Because my train of thought crashed into the abyss at “Hi” so I’m already screwed.

    1. Claire*

      Yeah, that’s my problem! Once I’ve gotten a notification, I find it really difficult to go back to focusing on what I was doing, so putting eight minutes between your “hi” and your question is just a waste of time for me, I’ll just be waiting for whatever you’re going to say, especially when I don’t know how important it is. Maybe other people are better at getting notifications, saying “hi” back, and then going back to their original activity?

      1. foolofgrace*

        Putting eight minutes between the “Hi” and the reason for the ping to me seems like that person can’t type very well. I have a hard time waiting for people to type slowly, I mean really?, but then again I clocked out at typing 96 wpm with four errors.

      2. Kettricken Farseer*

        I always type back ‘Hi’ and then go back to what I was already doing. I have some people who like to write me a novel in IM and I don’t want to sit there watching, “Bob is typing…”

      3. Aggretsuko*

        8 minutes of limbo while I can do nothing but sit there and see “X is typing….” is scary time and I hate it. Please just type what you want and hit send. I don’t CARE about “hi” or “I hope you are doing well” (’cause I’m not and I can’t answer that).

    2. Kiki*

      THIS. I am always concerned about spending to much time typing and having an ominous “…” by my name, so I type things up in Notes and have them ready to copy paste.

      I don’t do the just “Hi” thing, but I do sometimes preface my message with “Hi, do you have [insert measure of time] to talk about X?” And then I have the content of my message saved in Notes for whenever they do have time

      1. foolofgrace*

        I do that too. I think it’s smart, and it’s respectful of the time of the person you’re addressing.

        1. Kiki*

          It’s also really great so I can mentally move on and jump into another task until the other person says they’re ready. My question/explanation/whatever is already typed and ready to go and I don’t need to find the right words later.

      2. Greige*

        As a supervisor, I would love this. I should probably bring it up to my team. I get that it takes awhile to compose your question, but please don’t get my attention and then make me wait for you to do that.

  14. Shark Whisperer*

    Ugh, the CEO of my org does this to me. It’s become even worse during the pandemic since he doesn’t have another outlet for his extroverted ways. He’ll IM me “good morning” and then spend ten minutes just chatting before he gets to what he wants. It drives me nuts, but he’s my boss’s boss, so I’ve learned to internally grumble and just let it go.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m chuckling picturing the CEO as the “Chief Extrovert Officer”.

  15. an infinite number of monkeys*

    OMG yes. Those drive me crazy. How hard is it to say, “Hi! Do you know where the llama sedatives are kept? Need an answer ASAP, thanks!!”

  16. remizidae*

    ” I have no idea what the appropriate response is. Is it “yes,” “hello name,” “what’s up”? All of these seem terrible.”

    You are seriously overthinking this. All of those are fine.

    1. Dog Coordinator*

      Exactly what I was thinking… WAY too much overthinking. I honestly came down in the comments assuming a bunch more people would say this, and am really surprised to hear “Hi” is annoying to the vast majority of people? Maybe it’s an age thing? I’m 29 (so a millennial) and that wouldn’t bother me in the slightest… Maybe LW is someone who didn’t grow up with MSN/AIM/other IM services?

      Then again, I’ve worked for places that are very friendly and I am friends outside of work with both current and former coworkers, so us having IM conversations randomly throughout the day wasn’t an issue…

      1. alienor*

        IMs are old technology at this point, though. I’m 48 and remember having AIM in the very early 2000s. I definitely don’t think they’re something that only The Youths have heard of and know how to use.

      2. Lora*

        Def not a generation thing. I’m 28 and grew up on AIM and this annoys the bejeezus out of me. I just find it such a waste of time. Much rather people start off with a “Hi, do you have a moment to help me troubleshoot XYZ?” so I can immediately know what they want and know where to slot their question in terms of things I need to do.

        Otherwise “Hi” with no context just jars me out of my work mode and now I need to sit still and wait for them to get to their point.

      3. AP*

        Funny, I would have said that it’s the reverse. It’s older folks who aren’t comfortable with asynchronous communication and want everything to be like a telephone call. First there’s the ‘Hi’ and the wait for a response. Then there’s some question asking how your day’s going, etc. And only then do they get down to whatever it is they want to ask.

        1. Djuna*

          I dunno if I qualify as older, I’m 47, but I am absolutely on team “get to the point” when it comes to IMs.
          I do work that requires a lot of focus, and while I’m patient with people, I really don’t think a lot of them get (or care, because why should they?) just how busy I can be.
          My teammates are used to me sending them things like “When you have a sec, can you remember why we do x thing before y thing in process b?” followed by, “Also, too, hi!” or similar. I don’t mean to be rude or brusque but I also want to make it easy for them to get back to me with minimal disruption to their own work.

          1. AP*

            Heh, I’m 49. Of course, when I say “older”, I just mean people who are older than me. :-)

      4. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m 30, and I think there’s a difference between work and social situations in this regard. I find just a “hi” normal to send or receive with friends, but it feels weird at work. (My workplace is not so IM-happy — I almost never used Teams chat before COVID, but now I use it almost daily.)

        I just looked through my most recent IMs, and “Hi! Can I ask you a [teapot spout] question?” seems to be my go-to formulation. The thing about screensharing that people have brought up is a good point too — vaguer is better if there’s sensitive information. I should keep that in mind, though I don’t often have occasion to IM about stuff that’s that sensitive.

      5. tangerineRose*

        For me, it’s a time thing. At work, I’m usually busy. Someone says “Hi”, that interrupts what I was doing. I’m OK with being asked a question, but usually after I reply, it takes a couple of minutes for the person to type the actual question, and I have a hard time focusing on anything else while I know this is happening. If it’s not confidential, include the “hi” at the start of the question.

      6. Senior Montoya*

        I’m 59, doesn’t bother me. We use gchat. If I’m busy, I just type “hi, busy now. Important?”
        And then see what they say.
        Fortunately most of my coworkers get right to it: Hi, I have a question about the chocolate llama policy changes.
        Then I can say, Sure! Or Ugh, v busy can u wait?

      7. Koala dreams*

        This kind of posts just draw out the people who find greetings incomprehensible and unnecessary. I wouldn’t assume the majority find greetings annoying just because of the comments here. There is a post in the archives somewhere with a lot of commenters finding greetings and small talk unnecessary in person, too. I don’t think it’s an age thing, it’s more of a personal quirk.

    2. Madame X*

      Yeah I’m in full agreement with you. most of the comments on this seem a bit … aggressive. If someone pings me “hi” or “hi madame X “, then i just respond with “hi persons name” because that’s how greetings work.

      Now of course, it might take me a minute or two to respond back, especially if I’m in the middle of a task. sometimes before I respond the person usually follows up with “I have a quick question” or whatever it is that they want to ask me. But i am not sitting there angrily waiting for them to respond.

      I know that when I reach out to people via IM, I usually start with just a greeting and then wait a beat to make sure that they are actually available to respond and then ask my question.
      Other times I’ll greet them and immediately provide a context for why I’m contacting them. It seems like most people do the same thing in my organization. However, it is interesting to see how differently people can respond to that.

    3. Viette*

      Completely agree. I’m not sure why any of those is “terrible”. None of them are extremely interesting but none of them are rude or off-putting?

      Think about it this way: this is how you would often start a *phone* conversation, right? “Hi,” says the caller (who doesn’t need to identify herself on IM because it has an ID). “Hey, what’s up?” you say into the phone, indicating that you are there and listening. “I need [xyz]” says the caller, and off you go. I think you’re expecting them to treat it like an email, which obviously they’re not. But that means you don’t need to treat it like an email either.

      1. Avasarala*

        I agree. I use IM like a phone call or swinging by someone’s desk. First you need to see if they’re available to talk to you. Then you need to know the answer to your question.

        This is like complaining that when people come to your desk/office they say, “Good afternoon” instead of “Do you have 30 min to talk about X” which, sure, one has more information in it, but opening with a greeting is pretty normal and standard in many office cultures.

        I wonder how many people use IM instead of phone calls or in-person conversations vs. email.

    4. Kiwi with laser beams*

      Yeah, I’m pro-getting-to-the-point for the reasons that Alison has mentioned in comments here AND I have social and generalised anxiety and I still just say “hey, what’s up?” or something.

  17. Purt's Peas*

    This can be annoying especially because it’s such an innocuous culture difference. It almost itches at ya more if you can’t quite pin down why it’s so annoying.

    Usually the folks who do this are IMing me to ask whether something is a bug in code I’ve written, to ask a question, or to ask a favor. All things where you want to approach someone who’s warm and who won’t get prickly. SO I’ve started to try & reframe the “Hi” as an opportunity to reply warmly and start the conversation on a friendly footing.

    1. Nanani*

      I think it’s annoying because it brings something to your attention without enabling you to do anything about it.
      Interrupting your train of thought without letting you resolve the issue.

      1. PeanutButter*

        It’s also putting the onus on you to ask them what they want, making you feel more invested in granting their request. It feels very manipulative to me.

  18. TootsNYC*

    This is what my one colleague does. He send “hi” just to prime the pump, I think. He’s formulating his thoughts

  19. Notimeforthat Nancy*

    I get so annoyed by this too! My other favorite one goes:
    Me: Hi, I am looking at XXX and had some questions.
    Coworker: Good morning. *passive aggressively waits until I respond good morning too*

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      What ELSE is your co-worker supposed to do while waiting for you to ask the questions? Or are you actually asking the questions and they say “good morning” instead of answering?

      1. TimeTravlR*

        I read this to mean Notimeforthat is asking the question right up front (the way I prefer) but co-worker needs/wants the niceties first. I have actually been “counseled” for not being soft enough. I didn’t ask how everybody’s mama was before launching into actual work stuff. Ugh. (Not where I work now, thank goodness!)

      2. Kelly L.*

        They’re “correcting” her, like when a parent asks a little kid what the magic word is.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, you got it! Especially as Notimeforthat Nancy already said Hi as the first word!

    2. Lora*

      Woooah do we have the same coworker? I got that all the time!

      Me: Hi coworker, do you have a rough ETA on when you can look over the llama grooming report?
      Coworker: Good morning Lora.
      -passive aggressively waiting-
      Me: -giving up- Morning.
      Me: So do you know when you’ll be able to look over the llama grooming report?
      Coworker: How are you today?
      Me: -rolling my eyes-

      1. juliebulie*

        This is why I mostly stick with email. I don’t have the patience for this. Even if I have to wait longer for a response, at least I’m not tied up in an unproductive game of chit-chat.

      2. AliceUlf*

        o__O If I worked with Coworker, I think my head would actually explode after the first week.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          If I worked with co-worker, I would have to email Alison for advice because this is… wow… and I could not handle it, and I would not know how to address it directly without coming off as anti-social. Would “I don’t have time to socialize via IM, I need to use it for work-specific communications” be offensive?

          Or would it be better to push through the passive aggressive bullshit, with
          “Hi CW, I don’t understand. What does the time of day have to do with when you can look over the report? Just need a timeline, thanks!”

        2. Lora*

          Luckily she quit a few months after I joined. I heard she went to work at a school so she either became a petty tyrant of a teacher, or a school administrator who delights in bureaucracy and frustrating everyone.

      3. NYWeasel*

        I’ve pretty much had that exact same interchange with ppl too. 90% of the time, I ask my initial question like “Good morning, Coworker! Just checking if you’re done with the llama grooming report!” but the 10% where I’m in the middle of 50 tasks and forget to add the niceties ALWAYS gets the snark back at me.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      Like, after you ask questions, or while waiting for questions to pop up…?

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      That one is annoying. I chalk ‘hi!’ up to different cultures and put no emotion into it, though my preference is strongly ‘core of the message’, but that would have me *steaming*.

    5. JM60*

      What are they supposed to do? You were the one asking them questions in this case, so I’m not sure what else they would say while they’re waiting for you to tell them what the questions are.

    6. Nom de plume*

      I’m normally quite a down-to-business person and at my first job, i would type people a question and they would respond like “hello” or “how are you” and then not respond to the question. It happened so much, i thought i must be wrong that getting down to business was the best way, so i started saying “hi name” first every time. Now, Alison says this is wrong. I’m afraid though if i stop saying hi how are you, then this will start to happen again!

  20. Sara*

    I always respond, “Hey, What’s up?”

    I generally send “Hey, quick Q for you” and then start typing the question while they react.

    1. ThatGirl*

      yeah, I will often send a quick “hi!” or “hey Gertrude!” and then start typing the rest — but I’m generally waiting a second to make sure whoever I’m IMing is at their computer and available. Especially since with our Skype system, sometimes un-answered IMs get lost and sent to email.

  21. Buttons*

    I have one employee who does that on IM. I have no idea if what they need is urgent or if they just want to chat. I do not stop what I am doing to answer. If they said “HI, I need ask you about X” I would stop whatever I was working on to answer them. Just a hi, and it can wait. It is annoying. If you do that, stop it. :)

  22. Morticia*

    Solidarity! When I had jobs where I had IM that used to be like scraping forks on plates. Please just get to the point. You don’t need to be acknowledged to tell me what you want. If I know, and I can’t respond right now, I can get an answer for you when I can.

  23. ACDC*

    I have a few coworkers who do this and I have similar feelings about it. Whenever I get a “hi” message, I always send back a GIF of Kevin from Up waving or Stitch from Lilo & Stitch saying Hiiiiiii in his cute, creepy alien voice.

  24. KC*

    This is standard practice at my place of employment. My boss does it, my manager does it, everyone does! For us, it is about being the least intrusive in case the person you are pinging is sharing their screen or in the middle of something. I type Hi, they type Hi back if they are available, then I ask “do you have a minute for a question” or “do you have 10 minutes for a phone call” or whatever it is. If no “Hi” back, you try again in an hour or so or write an email.

    Now I feel like we are all big jerks.

    1. Two Dog Night*

      I don’t think you’re jerks! It’s the same way at my company, and it works for us.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Well, in that case it’s company standard and ok, but why not just ask “do you have a minute for a question” in the first message?

    2. Atlantian*

      This is how it is where I work and I feel like it is for the exact same reason. Maybe it’s just me, but if you just launch into a question or request, I feel like I need to drop everything and help you right now because what if you literally can’t do anything else until I respond? I don’t want to be responsible for that. Whereas the Hi or GM, I can leave hanging out there until I can get to it without feeling so guilty, because if you had an urgent request, you would have said so or just asked your question. And I like to extend the same courtesy to the recipient when I am the instigator. I don’t want you to feel like you need to drop everything and pay attention to me OMG right now, and even the “Do you have a second to chat” still feels to me like I am asking you to chat RIGHT NOW when I almost always could wait until next week for an answer and we would still be fine.

      1. TechWorker*

        See, I view this the complete opposite way :p

        I work with a bunch of folks in different timezones – if someone says ‘hi’ and I’m not at my desk or in a meeting then I’m left wondering what they wanted. If someone actually asks the question then I can follow up on my own schedule – sometimes it can be answered in a single message!

        1. JM60*

          This. It allows for prioritization.

          Plus, if you ping them back with “Hi” on a real-time platform such as IM, you’ve become somewhat hooked in the conversation in a different way than with email. Not responding to them somewhat feels like hanging up on a phone call. It feels like it’s pressuring you to give attention to what they want/need than to what others need.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      My agency too, which makes me think it’s in part a work culture thing. The “hi” is the poke or the nudge, and if you get the acknowledgement then you’re off to the races on the conversation. If no response to “hi” you send an email or try again later. Sometimes you don’t even want something like “need to talk to you about the llama invoices” to be on a screen share.

    4. Lola Banks*

      This might be down to org culture because I don’t think you’re being jerks, and I really don’t see anything wrong with this or why people would get annoyed.

      With folks I work with regularly and talk to all the time, I start with ” Hi Fergus, where can I find last week’s teapot data?”

      But when I’m reaching out to people I don’t really know, it’s “Hi Sansa, do you have a minute?” I would never just dive into a request — that’s rude. Like calling a someone and dumping a request on them before they even say hello.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I think what people are objecting to isn’t “Hi” at the start, they’re objecting to “Hi” by itself, mainly because now they have to wait for the person to type in their question. s “Hi Sansa, do you have a minute?” seems more OK.

        1. James*

          Which makes no sense. Let’s say I say “Sure”. I now have to wait for you to type your message. The only thing “…Sansa, do you have a minute?” did was add more text to the screen; it added zero value and saved zero time.

          I usually do this, but I’m notoriously wordy, and have been called out for it in the past. Just today, in fact.

          1. Kettricken Farseer*

            But why do you have to sit and wait? I always just return to whatever I was doing knowing it will pop up when that person is doing typing

            1. Avasarala*

              But you can do this with “hi” too. I agree with James. I’m confused by so many people suggesting “do you have a minute”/”I have a question” as a significant improvement over any boilerplate greeting. It’s more text but it’s not more substantive.

            2. allathian*

              Depends on what you’re doing. If it’s a high-focus task, it can take up to 20 minutes to get your flow back after an interruption. I won’t even attempt to focus on my primary task again until I know what the other person wants.

            3. James*

              Agreed–but that’s no different from when someone just types “Hi”.

              I’m not criticizing the practice. As I said, I usually start an IM conversation that way. My point is merely that the reasons presented for why “Hi Sansa, do you have a minute?” is superior to “Hi” are flawed. Functionally, there is no difference.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I see what you mean, and I’d rather the person just asked the question already, but if it’s a sensitive question that shouldn’t show up on someone’s shared screen…

      2. TechWorker*

        It annoys people here because the folks using IM and most guilty of the no context ‘hi’ often then launch into a super long question that really should have been asked on email with logs provided, and sent to the whole team (so that whoever’s least busy or has the most context can respond). The ‘hi’ is used as a test for who’ll reply before they bother typing out the long question… I honestly don’t understand why they prefer it to email because emails get answered quickly.

        1. Epsilon Delta*

          Sounds like you found a way to pass the test! :) Like the “don’t blink” game, except it’s who can go the longest without saying hi.
          (I too used to be that tech worker, I sympathize)

    5. Beachlover*

      Well put me in the jerk category, That’s how almost everyone I work with does it also.

    6. Binky*

      Yeah, it’s totally normal. “Hi” functions as a greeting and responsiveness check, and it’s totally efficient at serving those functions. Chat is supposed to by synchronistic – if you’re not going to respond, I’m not going to type everything up and then hope you’ll get around to checking your chat, I’ll just put it in an email or contact you another time or go to someone else.

      Maybe the pet peeve stuff is a function of how accurate your status indicators are – the ones on my work chat are abysmal. What I hate is typing out my request/question with context, getting no response, and then having to put it in an email 2 hours later – it’s both inefficient and also makes me look like I’m nudging by using two different ways to ask for something.

      1. HelloHello*

        “Chat is supposed to by synchronistic – if you’re not going to respond, I’m not going to type everything up and then hope you’ll get around to checking your chat, I’ll just put it in an email or contact you another time or go to someone else.”

        This is the disconnect, I think. At my office, chat *isn’t* always supposed to be synchronistic. I frequently chat people “when you have a moment I have a quick question about X” and then expect they’ll respond when they’re free. Quick questions that 0nly require a bit of back and forth go much more smoothly in chat than in email, I find, and so IMing someone and then waiting until they’re free to respond works quite well. If someone only sends me “hi” and then no followup explanation of what they’re looking for I have no idea if this is an urgent request, a lunchtime bit of socialization, a complicated problem that I’m going to have to do a lot of work to figure out, or what. So I have no way of knowing if I need to respond now or need to wait until I have a longer stretch of time later or what.

        1. Kate*

          I use Skype chat and socially, but the very point of having a chat is not to have to be glued to the screen/phone at the very moment.

      2. MsSolo*

        We have no status indicators on our chat, and I find it so weird when people do the whole “type out lengthy request” thing without knowing if someone is there. Also irritating: if I come back to my desk and find someone’s done that to me but long enough ago (bonus points if they did it on a day I was on leave because they didn’t bother check my calendar first) that I have no idea whether they still need an answer or if they repeated the process working through each member of my team until someone was available to respond. Because then you have to check if they’re in, and ping them a message to see if they’re free, just to ask if they still need a response (which four days later they will tell you they do).

    7. knead me seymour*

      I think it’s one of those things where if there’s an overwhelming trend in your office, it’s better not to deviate too far from it, whichever it is. In my office, it’s quite different–we will often leave questions for each other without the expectation of hearing back right away. We do this instead of email because we tend to have a number of minor questions come up throughout the day, and many of us get tons of emails too. We usually do include some pleasantries in our messages, but we don’t wait for a response.

  25. Ohlaurdy*

    Did I write this email in my sleep? This is such a huge pet peeve for me! I usually close out the IM and ignore until they send me the actual message and if they never do, I ‘ll respond with “Hi! Sorry, just now seeing this” half an hour later or so.

  26. Virginian*

    It really shouldn’t be that hard to answer an IM. Just say “hi” or “What can I help you with?”. Stop overthinking it.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, that’s kinda where I land on this one. This should require no more than a split second of energy.

  27. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

    Depends on the situation. I have enough “friend” coworkers where that’s a perfectly acceptable start to an IM conversation. If it’s an actual work question, I will always lead with some variation of “Hi NAME, quick q if you have a moment.”

  28. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    This used to be wildly popular at my workplace. I noticed that people are doing it a lot less lately – I guess everyone was just as annoyed by it as I was. Especially if I say hi back, and the person then follows it up by typing something for a good 5-10 minutes and not hitting Send… I’m at my desk like, What’s happening? Why is this question so long? Will it take me all day to work on whatever they are asking? Should I change my plans for the day? I don’t know, because they haven’t given me any cliff notes other than “hi”. I mean, it still beats a coworker walking up to your desk with a cheery “hi, I was just…” (long-winded question about something specific, that you haven’t worked on in the past few months or years, and have no idea how to answer without digging through a lot of code and data) (finish and look expectantly at you for the answer). But not by much.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yeah, like, do I have to sit here for an unknown amount of time waiting for this person to finish typing?

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Which – I hit “send” after every phrase or two
        so people don’t have to wait
        while I type my question
        I hate getting an entire wall of text after watching the dots dance for three minutes

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            And yet, this annoys some people who are trying to answer the main question just to have their typing interrupted over and over. Especially frustrating if there’s new questions or info after the breaks.

    2. Senior Montoya*

      Meh. I turn my attention away until I get the ping that they’re done typing and have sent the message. It’s not like face to face where I have to wait with an interested expression on my mug. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing since no one can see you’re not paying attention.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        If I know that what they’re typing is not a new work request for me, then I’m willing to wait for as long as it takes. But it is. I don’t want to start or continue on any of my work while I wait if what they’re giving me is something big and urgent. A heads-up would be nice, as in

        Hey I need you to look at a production issue with lemoncello gallon bottles
        today’s batch does not taste like lemon and client is livid
        (now they can take their time and type the details while I pull up the lemoncello-making app)

      2. Kiwi with laser beams*

        This is what I do. I’d rather not have my concentration broken before they type their question, but I’ve learned to just go back to what I’m doing if I’m super busy.

  29. Mama Bear*

    I assume that a coworker needs something so usually I’ll write back “What can I help you with?”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ve done it after several rounds of “hi”. Believe it or not, it happens: “Hi” – “Hi” – “how are you doing?” – “good, how are you?” – “I am doing well, thank you” At this point I’d usually lose my patience and reply with “So what can I do for you today?” because come on.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Ha, I’m afraid if I come across this type of thing I response “in kind” (if they initiated it) and wait for them to say whatever the question or request is. It’s sort of a game to see how long the niceties go on, (I’m here all week!)

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      That’s why I usually respond with “Hi, what’s up?” to try to prompt the actual question. Otherwise it ends up in a circle of “Hi” “how are you” “how are things going” and then 15 minutes later there’s a question. Or they forget halfway through they had a question and it goes nowhere, until 3 hours later with an “oh yeah what about (random thing here)?”

      I have a previous coworker that’s doing that to me now with questions about previous workplace, which is doubly annoying, because half the time they just say “hi”, and then never respond, and half the time they say “hi, how are you” but also half a question and I have no idea what they’re trying to ask.

  30. James*

    I’ve heard people give the exact opposite advice: your first IM should be without content, just to see if they’re available. I can ignore “Hi” without breaking concentration on the task at hand. If you send me “I need information on the TPS reports, do you have time to discuss?” I now need to read and evaluate whether I have time. It’s more of a cognitive load. Not much in isolation, sure, but if you’re getting IMs from 15 people a day (not unreasonable in these days of remote work), each person wanting to talk about multiple things, it can really disrupt your flow.

    I think this is less an area where there’s a right and wrong way to do it, and more an area where there are conflicting but equally valid ways to do it. Each office will have its own culture.

    For what it’s worth, my response to “Hi” is “What can I do for you?” It’s usually someone more senior than me doing this, so usually if they’re contacting me out of the blue it’s to get some information or get me to do some task. Seems to work well.

    1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      I tend toward a combination of just the Hi and jumping to the question by doing
      [watch dotty thing to see if they are there as I begin typing my “I have a quick questions about x]

      Many of my colleagues use the Hi as social buffer and others to see if I’m looking at my screen. I personally don’t care one way or the other (although I hate the “Hi” to which I respond “hi” which is followed immediately by a phone call. Don’t prep me for a text exchange and then blindside me with talking) and the two line text approach seems to appease both the social nicety folks and the “get to the point” folks.

  31. Anon for this*

    My company’s intranet has an entire page about why you shouldn’t do this, and people will actually put a link to that page as their chat status (kinda aggressive IMO, but I guess it works with our culture). There’s a similar public site which you can find if you google “no hello” — you could try sending it to your team as an interesting thought piece and see if it leads to a culture change, or even putting it as your status if you think it will fly. :)

    1. Anon for this*

      Oops… apparently the public page was actually *stolen* from my company intranet with no credit to the original author, so… I guess don’t do that after all? :-/

  32. SomebodyElse*

    Weird… I feel like the “Hi” in chat is the equivalent of a standard greeting that you would use if you were face to face or on the phone.

    I kind of find it annoying only because it’s two separate ‘dings’ if they follow right away with another msg but I would find it super annoying (if not downright rude) if someone walked up to my desk or called me and just launched into whatever they needed without so much as a “Hey” and I’m generally a get to the point and we don’t need to do the social chats kind of person.

    I also think it’s mostly used as a gauge to find out if the other person is in a position to respond. My company is meeting heavy, so it’s a crapshoot if the person needs to be focused on the meeting they are in or if they can chat. So a non-response to a “Hi” indicates they aren’t in a good spot to interact, but it let’s them know that the other person needs to contact them.

    1. Just Me*

      But you don’t just walk up to someone and say “hi” then stare at them. You say “Hi, do you have a minute to talk about X?” or “Hi, can you let me know when you’re free to talk?” etc. And if someone is in a meeting, they can not respond to a full question just as easily as they can not respond to “hi”, but when they *are* free, they can answer the question and move things along.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Don’t you wait for someone to say hi back to you?

        SomebodyElse (walks into Just Me’s office): Hi
        Just Me: Hey
        SomebodyElse: Have a quick question about the TPS report you just sent

        SomebodyElse (walks into Just Me’s office): Hi Have a quick question about the TPS report you just sent
        Just Me: **Blinks startled looks up from the computer** Umm Ok umm sure what sorry can you repeat that?

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Personally, I usually knock on the person’s cubicle wall or open office door, then when they (verbally or nonverbally) acknowledge me, say “Hi, do you have a minute? I have a question about X…”

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        > But you don’t just walk up to someone and say “hi” then stare at them.

        Yes, but the difference is that walking up to someone is “synchronous” (ie in real time) but IMs (and emails etc) are “asynchronous” and that makes a world of difference about expected responses etc.

        1. Claire*

          But if we’re now comparing IMs to emails, you don’t send an email with just “hi”. Generally speaking, you do include a greeting, yes, but you also include what you’re actually talking about.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Aaaaaaand there’s the core of the issue: do you (and your culture) see IMing as the same as talking (synchronous) or more like emailing (asynchronous)?

      If you perceive IM = slow talk, then ‘hi’ makes sense.
      If you perceive IM = fast email, then ‘hi’ wastes time.

      The perception will be different between different individuals / companies / countries. IM’s position ‘in between’ the older forms means we may never come to a consensus. We have a lot of cultural differences around speech anyway.

      The solution is to pay attention to the culture around you, work with it to the limits of your comfort, and if you can’t stand one end or the other, include it in your list of culture fit questions.

      1. Roses are blue*

        I really think this should be highlighted with flashing stars and arrows – truly distills the issue in a way that makes more sense to me that any framing I’ve seen before.

  33. a*

    Screen sharing never occurred to me – I’ve been doing this all wrong, apparently! I don’t generally screen share, but the people I usually IM for information may. I just go straight into what I want, which is usually “Do you know if (system X) is broken? I can’t get any results back.” or “How do I do (task you told me to do with messed up instructions that aren’t working) ?” or “I got this error message – what does it mean?”

    OTOH, if I need immediate help, I am more likely to call. I assume that whoever I’m contacting will answer me whenever they have a chance, and it probably won’t be right that second.

    1. James*

      I’ve had people ask me to IM instead of calling. A call is more intrusive, especially if you’re in meetings–the phone buzzes or rings, and you have to break away to deal with it. An IM can be silent (if the person on the other end has any sense), and since the norm anymore is to bring laptops into meetings it doesn’t look any different to answer an IM than to do any other work.

      There’s also the issue of cell phone reception. In my line of work it comes up all the time–we have staff working in remote field offices, where wifi is robust (because we need to upload/download stuff) but cell phone reception is bad or entirely absent (I’ve had to use sat phones a few times). In those situations IM is just a better option.

      1. allathian*

        Or alternatively, a Skype call. I hate calls out of the blue, because nothing breaks my concentration as effectively as the phone. Usually someone will IM me and if the discussion warrants it, one of us will suggest taking it to a call instead, because some things are easier to deal with in a call.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        My (perfectly fine but not super great) phone can use wifi if available. I thought that was fairly common?

    2. Amethystmoon*

      See this again probably depends on the company. Where I work, generally IMs are used for more urgent things, especially with everyone working remote. Not everyone has access to their desk phone away from work.

  34. saby*

    I have a friend who does this with texts, but instead of “hi” she uses animal noises. So like you’ll just get an out-of-the-blue text with “Meow?” or “Ribbit ribbit” which like… I still have not found a way to respond to a random “Moo!” that I feel comfortable with. She does it both when she just wants to chat and when she’s texting with purpose (e.g. to set up plans)

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      It would give me a small amount of pleasure to respond with the corresponding animal.

      Her: Moo!
      Me: Cow
      Her: Oink!
      Me: Pig

    2. Ranon*

      In that instance I feel like an emoji of the animal that makes the sound is the only reasonable response

    3. Environmental Compliance*


      To be fair, I only do this with a handful of very close friends, due to a nickname I have, and it’s only that one animal. I don’t do this to anyone but those two? three? people. Technically they started it following not being able to get my attention somewhere I think and for some reason I responded to that noise and not my actual name and now it’s a Thing. And a Nickname.

    4. Rexish*

      Me and my best friend and our video calls with pigeon noises. So I’m totally stealing this.

  35. Essess*

    A lot of my coworkers do this too, and it’s almost like fingernails on a chalkboard level of irritation for me. I will reply back “hi” and sit and wait and wait and wait. My job requires a lot of unbroken concentration and following a long string of computer logic flow while retaining changing value fields in my head as I trace a path of computer code. I can’t start it if I’m going to be interrupted right in the middle. So I try to rush to a point where I can stop right away and I respond back “hi” to try to find out what they need. Then I have to sit and wait and wait and wait for them to MAYBE tell me what they needed. I don’t dare start anything because I won’t be able to stop and answer them if I’m in the middle of my work again. It would have been better if they stated what they need, I can check it at my stopping point, give them an answer, and then move into my next work. But instead I have to sit there and wonder how long to delay my work until I decide that they are sidetracked and not going to tell me what they wanted and then later I get another “hi” from them. Repeat.

    1. Kettricken Farseer*

      I don’t understand why people feel a need to stare at the chat box watching someone type – can’t you just return to doing what you’re doing and let the ping happen why they’re done?

      1. Claire*

        I find it very difficult to go from sending an IM straight back to what I’m doing, especially since most of my work is very detail oriented. Essess is also specifically saying that they find this difficult because of the concentration they need. It’s fine if that’s not a problem for you, but is it so hard to understand that some people find it difficult to be interrupted either because of the nature of their work or because of how their brains function?

        1. allathian*

          My work doesn’t require quite the concentration yours does, but nearly. I can deal with IM interruptions because random phonecalls whose timing I have no control over are often even worse. But waiting for the question is annoying.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        My IM client does not pop up the next response in a permanent window, it only does a brief notice that fades away within a few seconds and a notification on my tool bar. I have to go look for the interface when the tool bar notification pops up.

        So if someone pings me, I do have to actually watch for their next message, either in the IM client or in the brief notice. My old IM tool, I didn’t need to watch. Our IM traffic is probably half what it was under the old system.

      3. tangerineRose*

        I do, but I still feel distracted knowing that at any second I’m going to need to stop what I’m doing and read a question.

      4. Essess*

        No, because about half of the time, it will be followed with a sudden phone call to pull me into a meeting. And interrupting my work will set me back for 10-15 minutes if interrupted to re-set up data, or track where I was in the middle of code changes or figure out if I completed a change that I was in the middle of typing.

  36. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Re screen sharing – see if your IM software allows you to disable the preview (or whatever it calls those annoying popups that broadcast every incoming message to the world). Then if someone messages you when you’re screen-sharing, the IM icon will light up, but no other damage will be done. Admittedly, there is no way to tell if the person you’re IMing has this setting enabled or not.

    1. PeanutButter*

      TBH as long as your message was professional and appropriate, that’s on them if they don’t disable previews.

  37. Rosalita*

    My mother and other people do this to me via text it immediately send me off the deep end. Its utterly irrational to get that angry that quickly over 2 letters but there you go.

  38. CatsOnAKeyboard*

    This was absolutely standard procedure at my previous giant company – although it was always “IM?” not “Hi” and it was universally understood to be ‘let me know when you have a moment and get back to me’.

    Nobody would put the entire context into the IM because there’s too great a risk (if it was even slightly confidential and most of what we worked on was at least somewhat so) that there’d be somebody near you that could see your screen – you don’t have to be presenting to have that be a concern, you could just have someone talking to you in person at your desk.

    The other reason it worked was because by nature IM was only supposed to be used for relatively short questions/answers. So even if nobody was near you, you ignored the IM if you were in the middle of something and replied back when you had five minutes to spare. If something was more complicated than that, it would be expected to be handled via email or a call or a meeting, not through IM.

    1. Rach*

      This is exactly what my very large tech company is like. It’s the only office job I’ve had so I didn’t know it was so controversial!

      1. CM*

        I think if there’s a shared understanding like that, “Hi” is totally fine.

        At my company, there’s no standard procedure or culture around IM. Also, my work is cross-functional, busy, and requires focus. I get “hi”s all the time from people who I don’t know and I have no idea what it’s about. Some of those are quick questions, but often they are complicated. Even the quick questions force me to switch context from what I was doing. Also, I typically have 30-40 different things I’m handling at once and an IM is essentially jumping the queue, forcing me to prioritize the person who’s asking the question instead of all the other people who are patiently waiting. I do find IM really useful when I’m actively collaborating with someone, but I wish we had some sort of protocol around how to use it. Meanwhile, if it’s someone contacting me out of the blue, or with a task that I haven’t gotten to yet, I ignore the “hi.”

  39. IL JimP*

    I just reply with “hi” back with the exact same punctuation or lack thereof – if they’re going to be annoying I just do it back lol

    Definitely one of my pet peeves in instant messenger

  40. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I hate a fragmented conversation via IM, major flashbacks to “Hello?”…”A/S/L?”

    So I literally just start all IMs with “Hi! Question. Thanks!” it’s literally just a quick email format to me.

    But if someone reaches out with a “Hi” and doesn’t then launch into their request/inquiries, I just say “Hey, what’s up?” as Alison noted. And then it gives them the go-ahead they’re usually looking for. Sometimes around here, they’re testing the system because our IM system sucks, LOL. I think that a lot of it has to do with just general preferences.

    Just like how to address an email. Do you say “Dear Fergus” or “Hi Fergus” or “Fergus,” or just no salutation, etc. I find it easiest to just go with the flow of whatever the person is doing at the time.

    It’s like talking, we all have our quirks, our starters, our sign offs. We usually navigate talking the same way, there’s no true wrong/right way, just patterns and culture that sometimes gets built around it. I had to let this stuff go and not let peeves get under my skin, like how I used to flinch at how cold it feels to get something addressed simply to “Name,” without even a “Hi” but how much I hate when I get an email that says “Hey Name.”

  41. AP*

    When I worked in a company with offices around the world, I’d occasionally get these in the middle of the night from people on the other side of the globe. I never understood it. Our IM system would have shown them that I was away from my desk for several hours, but they seemed to be expecting an immediate response.

    1. ALM2019*

      Yes! I’m in a company with global offices but I log off our IM system. I regularly come into emails sent at 3:00 or 4:00 am (my time) that say you weren’t on IM so here’s my question. Well no I was definitely not on IM when I was asleep.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My favorite irate customer email will always be the person who sent a follow up email, after they had sent a long past office-hours email, it included a “ARE YOU EVEN THERE? YOU RESPONDING!!!!”

      No, bro. We weren’t there. We don’t work at 3am. [We were in the SAME TIME ZONE as well btw.] Our hours are clearly stated on our website and we don’t do anything that would ever necessitate customer service teams being available at 3am, lol.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      I’ve found that the ‘away’ doesn’t always work if you have your IM client on multiple devices.

      My desk application might show me as away, but if I was logged in and had the app running in the background on my phone or iPad I still show up as green/available. So it looks like I’m online to anyone IM’ing me. Kind of annoying really.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah, in the early days of the COVID crisis, I was checking my email in the evening on my home PC just in case management sent out an email about some sort of disaster. I quickly learned that if I left the window open on my home PC, I’d show as online to others on Microsoft Teams…so I stopped doing that.

  42. Anywhere*

    I just say “hi” back. I’ve found that some coworkers just want to know if I’m there before typing their question or asking me to do something.

    This only comes from managers who could try asking someone else if I don’t reply right away. These aren’t things they want to post in group chats because they don’t want the entire team to be distracted.

    1. Nanani*

      But now they know you’re there and their question ends up being something you can’t answer offhand, so there’s a big hassle and waste of time as you interrupt what you were doing before to look it up and answer.
      If they just told you what it was to begin with, you could look it up at an opportune time when you’re not busy with something else, and answer the issue in one smooth go, instead.

  43. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

    “Hi” followed by my ‘Hi’ then 10 minutes of ‘x’ is typing… == torture.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      It’s hard to ignore it too, isn’t it??! OMG. It has its place but it can just be so infuriating especially on a day like I am having today!

      1. Senior Montoya*

        Just ignore it if you have something else you need to do. Go get a cup of tea, work on the tps reports, whatever — you’ll get a ping when they finally send, yes?

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Why? 10 minutes of typing probably just means they are sending something over IM that they probably ought to have sent in an email.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Right?? Or a quick phone call. If it has that much nuance to it, it’s going to be easier on both of us if we talk instead of type.

  44. TimeTravlR*

    I literally laughed out loud because not an hour ago, I received an IM with “hello.” And that drives me nuts! I am busy, you are busy. Tell me what you want! Right up front! You can say hi, but you don’t even need to.
    This one ended up being “did you see the email I sent you two hours ago that needs an urgent response right now?” Truly, in that case, you really should call me!!! It has absolutely been one of THOSE days!!

  45. Nanani*

    If your approach to texting gives it the same drawbacks of phone communication, you are using text wrong.
    A text is not a summons like a ringing phone, and if you don’t put in some indication of what you want you’re going to waste time on both ends. If you need something that needs to be looked up, put it in the text and the recipent can look it up before responding.

    In other words, I absolutely agree with the response.

    My related pet peeve is people who answer a text (or email or anything asynchronous) with “I’ll get back to you.”
    Barring an exceptional situation like, you know you won’t be able to get the answer in a reasonable time, just respond when you actually have the information!

    1. juliebulie*

      I would rather have the acknowledgement. That way I know they’re working on it, and their IM window isn’t buried under some other window that will be open all day.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I tend to appreciate some form of “I’ll get back to you” because then I know they saw the e-mail/text and are actually planning to look into it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think the problem with a lot of folks is that they aren’t really good at using their discretion and trusting instincts/making decisions per case basis.

      In my world, I can usually answer things pretty quickly so there’s no reason to ever give an acknowledgement of “I’ll get back to you.” But if it’s something that requires research and may take a few days to figure out, or if someone is out of the office that needs to be involved or consulted, I’ll respond in a “I’ll get back to you.” fashion.

      But I’ll add extra information that says “I’ll need to research this, it may take a few days.” or “The person I need to speak with is out of the office until X, as soon as they return, I can get this handled for you. I apologize for the delay.”

      This way they know they aren’t being ignored or the email got stolen by internet gremlins and never made it to me.

      But if I’m going to be able to answer within a day, no need to give any heads up. A day turn around time is pretty standard for my work. Others would say 2-3 days even.

      But my job is hinged a lot on communication. Lack of communication in many instances, will result in consequences. So if you’re just waiting until you have an answer, without at least confirming receipt of the issue, you will lose access to your account for lack of acknowledgement. But I’m working with money and if you don’t pay or acknowledge why you didn’t pay or that you’re researching why you didn’t pay, I will cease giving you more of our money and risk losing more in the long run.

    4. TechWorker*

      Lol so whilst I partially agree with you there are times when ‘I’ll look into this and get back to you’ *is* required to stop them escalating the ‘lack of response’.

      Also I have a colleague who will email our team alias and then ~5 min later ping saying ‘I sent you an email, did you see it?’. (He is also a ‘hi’ offender.). It is infuriating :p

    5. Avasarala*

      I agree if it’s a quick 5 second thing they could have just looked up, but if we’re chatting synchronously and it’s going to take them 15+min, I’d like to know it will take some time so I’m not left hanging!

      When you can’t see the person, these kinds of clues about their busyness and time frame are really helpful.

  46. theimpossiblegirl*

    my company actually has guidelines for IM etiquette and part of them is don’t IM someone with just “Hi”, so whenever someone does that, I wait a few minutes and then send them the page with those guidelines. It’s passive agressive AF, but I don’t care. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Guidelines for IM etiquette? Eye roll. Who spends time on stuff like that?! Isn’t there more important stuff to do?

      1. dog in a bag*

        A lot of my day can be sucked up by ad hoc requests from people over IM, and the “hi” [wait for response] makes each interaction longer than it needs to be. It absolutely adds up as a huge time suck depending on your company, industry, and job role. Companies that have taken the time to create IM Etiquette did so because bad etiquette was significantly impacting work.

  47. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    Just “hi” or “hello”? Waaaaayyy to vague and frustrating. But launching right into the question? Not only would I perceive this as rude (if you were addressing me in mail or via person, wouldn’t you go with “hey Sarah, [insert question here]” instead of just going [QUESTION!]?), but also, as many people have pointed out, you never know who else can see that screen on the other side, so it is best to not launch straight into the info. I work in a field with sensitive IPs where every project has codenames and strict protocols, so this stuff is actually really important to me.

    So my personal go to is: “hey Sam, do you have a minute/five minutes/half an hour?” Because that’s really all the other person needs to know: how long will this take?
    And if I don’t even need their input, if I just want to show them something, I’ll usually just write: “Hey Sam, found something that might interest you:” and then pop the thing in the next message.

  48. HappySnoopy*

    I think the exact opposite. Sometime I just launch into question comment and don’t even say hello, and feel it is rude. So I will say hi or good morning. And in the all work from home zone sometimes I will just say good morning as a greeting fellow human but will label it as such.

  49. Greetings!*

    Okay, this is one of the posts I really disagree with, and I am sure most of the comment-ers will as well. I work in a position the requires A LOT of communication with other people including heavy chat usage.

    First, I find it extremely rude when someone chats a question or a request of out the blue with no greeting. This is a huge disregard for my time and current activity. I may be in a meeting, working on something requiring focus, or even away from my desk. A greeting is the appropriate way to start a conversation including emails. Starting a conversation with “Hi!,” “Good morning!,” or “How you doing?” gives me the option to acknowledge you or not. If I cannot attend to you, then you have the option to find the answer or fulfill the request in another way.

    Second, I struggle with the statement that the OP doesn’t know the appropriate response to “Hi!” Why are we treating chat differently from greeting someone at your desk or on the street? I feel like the appropriate response is a greeting? There is so much emphasis that coworkers are machines that pump out requests and answer questions. How do you build relationships with your coworkers if you’re annoyed by “Hi!”

    1. juliebulie*

      Starting a conversation with the question also gives you the option to ack or not.

      1. Greetings!*

        Yes, but it shows that you’re prioritizing getting your answer over if I am available to attend to the question.

        If you have a positive working relationship with someone, then I think it’s okay to launch with your questions. However, if you do not, then you should be polite and ask your question on their terms instead of yours. A greeting allows the other person to set this.

        1. Kettricken Farseer*

          *Yes, but it shows that you’re prioritizing getting your answer over if I am available to attend to the question.*

          THIS. Just because it’s top of mind for you doesn’t mean it is for me. I’m busy with my own stuff. Launching directly into a question pisses me off to no end.

          1. dog in a bag*

            But if they give you the question they have upfront, you CAN make the call immediately that it isn’t a priority for you and put them off. And you’ve saved yourself and them all the time otherwise spent on going back and forth with IM chit chat.

        2. Claire*

          I do prioritize getting an answer to my question over whether or not you’re available. If I cared more about potentially disturbing people than I did about getting an answer to my question, I wouldn’t ask the question.

        3. TechWorker*

          Honestly to me, saying ‘hi’ first tells me that they’re expecting the communication to be instantaneous (whether or not it needs to be & it often doesn’t). If the IM is a long back and forth conversation – sure (although I guess in that case I’d still prefer a heads up that you’re asking for lots of time..). But if it’s a quick question that can be answered in a single message then I find it way *more* respectful of my time to just send the question so I can answer when I’m free. If I just get ‘hi’ then we have to hope that I’m free when they’re still online etc etc – I definitely disagree that’s by default ‘respectful’, I’ve found it more of a pain :)

        4. PeanutButter*

          “Hi” says to me they’re prioritizing an immediate response over any disruption it may cause me. A complete question says they are prioritizing my ability to triage my own tasks, and that I will answer them when it works best for me.

        5. MsSolo*

          Yes, this is what bugs me. It doesn’t help our system doesn’t have ‘busy’ or ‘away’ options, so if you come back from holiday to find someone’s sent you an extensive and detailed question two days ago you have no idea if they still need an answer or if they eventually (after wasting their own time typing it all out) figured out you weren’t in and found someone else to check with. It doesn’t help that the people who do this most often are the people who don’t check calendars.

    2. tangerineRose*

      From my point of view, it’s a bit like someone coming up to you, saying Hi and then just standing there for a few minutes before speaking. Can you have the question ready to paste into the IM so that there’s basically 1 interruption without the wait?

      Adding Hi to the start of a question is OK with me.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Exactly. It’s the delay that drives me nuts. Once I acknowledge your “hi,” I have interrupted what I was doing and am now ready to respond to you. If you take several minutes to write your question, you’re leaving me hanging for several minutes. Imagine that on the phone!

        If people reliably had their questions ready to go, “Hi” wouldn’t bother me nearly so much.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I admire your confidence in most commenters agreeing with your disagreement…

      It’s a chat system, you can also ignore questions if they pop up when they’re not convenient. It’s really not that hard.

      I find it sad that some people find disrespect in such odd places. It’s really not anything personal if someone forgets to say “Hi” first, seriously.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Agreed. I usually start an IM with some form of hello depending on my relationship with the person, but wouldn’t get upset if someone just sent me a message without a greeting. It’s really not that serious.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      If you’re IMing me at work, and you are not my close work friend, you are not “Hi”- ing at me because you missed me and want to know if everything is okay with me and my loved ones. You’re IMing to give me work. So don’t keep me guessing what that work is, spit it out. A middle-of-the-road solution could be “Hi – (and then you spit it out)”.

    5. NYC Taxi*

      Wow what a ridiculous thing to get salty over. Who cares if someone says hi/doesn’t say hi. Is there nothing that people won’t be offended by? What a non-issue.

    6. Spencer Hastings*

      I think this is why Alison’s wording is so perfect! You’re not getting into the nitty-gritty of the question (and assuming that the person has time to answer you right then, which can be kind of entitled); rather, you’re asking if they have time.

    7. Ellie*

      Yes I was surprised too… I start all IMs with Hi. All my co-workers start their IMs with Hi. I either say Hi back, or I say, ‘Give me 5 minutes, on a call’, or ‘I’m just leaving to go into a meeting – is it urgent?’ or a hundred other things. How hard is any of that to do?

      It’s so weird that people find it offensive. But I work in IT so maybe that’s a factor?

      1. Rach*

        I’ve noticed that it’s the cultural norm for many of the people in tech in this thread. My site employs thousands of engineers, launching into questions without an “IM?” opening is rude and can possibly put IP at risk.

  50. Kettricken Farseer*

    I treat IMs like I would if someone walked up to me to ask a question in person. It would be weird for them to just launch into something with no preamble. Although I have been known to make fun of the whole ‘Hi’ controversy by IMing one of my work friends with , ‘”Are you going to that meeting at 10?” she said with no preamble whatsoever’

    1. Kettricken Farseer*

      So to take that a bit further, it’s no different than if I walk up to someone’s desk in person and say “Hi” — if they just ignored me standing there, that’s not much different than ignoring someone’s IM just because they led with “Hi”

  51. Project Problem Solver*

    I am one of those people who starts with something like “hi,” though it’s usually “hi name, are you free?” It’s pretty common in my office’s culture because we use Webex and screensharing heavily. Sometimes the chat program will pop up onto your shared screen, and if that happens, it’s better to see that than “I have a question about the teapot financials you sent out last week.”


    I am so happy for this thread! My brother got SCOLDED for not starting an IM chain with “Hi” or “Hello”. I hope the person scolding him is reading here…

    I think going from talking in person/talking via phone takes a culture change, but I definitely feel the “Hi”….silence thing is awkward. I always assumed it was a cultural thing, but apparently it is just a thing thing. I always prefer when the IM says, “Hi! Do you have a few minutes to discuss XYZ?”. It makes it so much easier to say, “Yeah, I can talk right now” or “I can chat with you about this in 10 minutes, does that work for you?”

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I can see opening the first message of the thread with a conventional greeting. But to have that being the entirety of the message? Ridiculous.

  53. Richard Hershberger*

    I use IM as little as humanly possible, as being an absurdly poorly designed mode of communication, and not at all in the work context. When someone sends me just “Hi” I take it to be like a greeting in the hall on the way to the bathroom, not the opening conversational gambit, and not something requiring a response. On those occasions I have responded with something equally content-free, it has never led to a substantive conversation. People with something to say generally just say it.

  54. James*

    Another to reason to use “Hi”: some jobs require a combination of desk work and away-from-desk work. If I’m out on a jobsite for a few hours and I see an IM saying “Hi”, I know Bob wants to get in contact with me, so I contact him. If I seen an IM that says “I need the TPS reports from last week”, I feel like Bob doesn’t respect my job and expects me to be available whenever is convenient for him. Part of that is cultural; my work group does a lot of work away from computers, and there are people in my company that DON’T respect other people’s jobs and DO expect everyone to be available at their whim.

    1. Claire*

      I feel the opposite way—if I come back to my desk from being away and just see “hi”, I don’t know what to do with that, because I have no context as to what Bob wanted or if it’s urgent or if he’s likely to still need my help or if he’s taken care of it by himself. Conversely, if I come back and see, “Can you send me the TPS reports from last week when you get the chance?” I know what he needs and how I can help and that it wasn’t, in fact, that urgent.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yep I’m with Claire here. Interesting how different folks interpret this in polar opposite ways… :)

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, plus if there doesn’t need to be much quick back and forth, email works fine for this sort of thing.

      2. James*

        This is where company culture comes into play. If it was urgent, folks I work with would have called. If they IMed “Hi” and got no response, and didn’t call, it obviously wasn’t terribly urgent. I usually call them when I get back. Half the time the person found someone else to answer the question, so it’s no longer an issue; the other half the time it’s something I need to do, but not urgently.

  55. Miss Muffet*

    there are definitely people who don’t appreciate you just launching into your issue…in my office, there’s some remnants of a culture that asks for a Hi or GM or whatever to kinda ease in, just as if they came to your desk, they wouldn’t just start spewing the problem without doing something small to get your attention. If you’re busy, it should be ok to say, hey, focused on something now, I’ll get back to you

    1. BadWolf*

      When I message someone, I expect they’ll get back to me when it’s convenient to them. But I do adapt my style with someone if they answer in such a way where they clearly think I want their attention now. “Sorry on the phone.” etc. I swap to “When you have time, where’s the link to the 2019 llama reports, for some reason, the 2019 folder is empty.”

  56. BadWolf*

    My theory is that some people think of IM as a phone call (in which you say, “Hi” and wait and it’s rude to launch into what you want) and some people view it as an answering machine where you leave your message and the person replies at their leisure.

    I am a answering machine person and feel like the OP.

    Reading this thread and I do take the point that screen sharing can be an issue. So…I will try to soften my bristle at the “Hi” followed by deadair.

    1. TechWorker*

      This is a good analogy but the ‘hi’ers are the folks who call without leaving a message :p that’s not useful!

  57. Bopper*

    My coworker used to type “hey” and I would type “hey” or “good morning”…basically it is reaching out to see if you are there and can IM back..otherwise why IM? or maybe someone is at your desk or you are sharing your desk or something.

  58. ChevyGirl*

    I work for a large 4000+ employee global high tech company and it’s not unusual at all to get an IM either saying “hi” or someone jumping right into what they want to say. What’s funny is if you want to end a conversation, you need to enter a smiley emoji to let the other person know you are done, or they will keep talking. As in “thanks” “np” “have a nice day” etc. back and forth forever.

  59. Salsa Your Face*

    I’m in the US, but I work closely with a team based in Southeast Europe. We communicate through IM a lot, and there seems to be a cultural imperative on their part to engage in pleasantries before the topic of the conversation can be addressed.

    It goes something like this: “Hi Sue” “Hi Bob” “How are you?” “I’m great, thank you, how are you?” “I’m good too, thank you for asking. Have you had a chance to pull the widget report yet?” “Not yet, I’ll have it by noon.” “Okay, thank you so much!”

    Sometimes, if I’m the one initiating the IM, I’ll try to speed through it by including the intro and my question in one message. “Hi Bob, how are you? Have you had a chance to pull the widget report yet?” But they insist on telling me how they are, asking me how I am, and waiting for my reply before answering the question, so it doesn’t save much time. And once in a while, they’ll (gently) tease me, asking why all I want to talk about is work.

    I know, I know. Cultural differences and all. I have respect for my non-American colleagues and I don’t mind spending an extra minute or two to make them comfortable…it just seems like such an annoying time waster to me.

    1. Avasarala*

      This is such a fascinating thing! I’ve studied this before, where different cultures fall on the “how much non-work talk is desired in a work meeting” scale.

      Now I work in a culture that is more on the “work is for work” side than the US, and they often ask why Americans are always wasting time in meetings! The truth is we talk about the same pleasantries, we just do it after hours. Maybe you can think of it as combining water cooler/happy hour talk with the meeting.

  60. juliebulie*

    You know what it is, maybe… when someone initiates an IM session with me, I get a notification sound. As far as I’m concerned, that IS the “hi.” It’s also an interruption. So when I look in the chat window, I really want to see a real message, not wait for it.

    1. allathian*

      Or alternatively, just mute your IM app? I find it much easier to let an IM notification blink at the bottom of the screen for a while, but if I hear a sound, I need to respond immediately.

  61. Annie J*

    Something that has been super helpful for my 75% remote org (even before COVID, now 100% remote) has been establishing “mission rules” for forms of communication. Obviously, it helps that we’re only 13 people and have the ability to create these but it could work for smaller teams within large orgs as well. We came up with how we want to use all of the ways we have of talking to one another. Email is the standard form of communication, slack is for small or quick questions, phone calls are for immediate decisions or longer discussions, and after hours texting is absolute last resort/putting out a fire/etc. This way I can ask coworker “can you send me that link to x?” out of the blue and it’s not odd or unwarranted (and educating everyone on how to turn on “Do Not Disturb” while screen sharing was my best decision haha). We only started doing this at the beginning of the year and it’s already been super helpful.

  62. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I agree that a greeting of some sort is polite/necessary, but I HATE when people just type “Hi” and wait for me to respond. The point of IM is to get to the point fast. So I always start with “Hi person” press Shift to move to a new line and then type my question/comment, and THEN press Enter to send. That way my greeting and question show up at the same time.

    1. dragocucina*

      Right. It’s Instant *Message*. “Hi” is a salutation/greeting. It’s not a message. Hi is fine as long as there’s some content to go with it. I think you’ve combined the two well.

      Perhaps it grates on me because most of the people who have sent me this type of IM tend to be needy. They are the same ones that follow me to my office the second I walk in the door to chat. Nothing important. Just chat.

      Usually my quick IMs are ‘Stop by when you have 5 minutes. Not big, just want to check on something.’ Or, ‘I have the info you wanted.’

  63. ErinFromAccounting*

    I think it’s really just a greeting. “Hi!” “Hello!” “Do you remember what the testing deadline is?” “Yeah, we have to be done by EOD Friday”

    I used to just ask my question right away, but everyone else says “Hi” first so I adapted. Sometimes I split the difference and do it all-in-one: “Hi! I have a quick question about x”

  64. amp2140*

    Given today’s mix of sharing programs, it’s common courtesy in my company to start with a hi or hey. Otherwise, if you’re sharing on a non-native platform, it could pop up because the program doesn’t put you on do not disturb. Once the recipient responds, you’re free to talk about what you want.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “Well, hiiiii!!!” and watch them scatter away.
      (Don’t really do this.)

  65. Liz*

    Sorry but disagree with the answer here as this depends based on company culture. In my company it is very strictly NOT allowed to type your question as we are commonly screen sharing with clients. So our process is designed to say “hi”, “have a second”, etc., and wait to see if the other person is available and not screen sharing. Then type the question. We are on and off screen sharing and client meetings so often it a best practice in case people forget to mark themselves as do not disturb.

    1. Friendly Comp Manager*

      I just responded and wish I had seen your comment first. I am in HR, and I think that is why we have developed this habit with each other. I like it because I quickly know if I need to spend time writing out my question NOW, or write the person an email / set up a meeting. I am a bit dismayed to know we have been doing it “wrong” …

      1. JanetM*

        I think, as others have said, it’s as much a matter of local / company culture as it is a matter of personal preference. Either way is fine; it’s just that mismatched expectations can be bad.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      Thankfully, our system shows us if someone is “Presenting” (i.e., sharing their screen). No one sends an IM in that case. We wait until the status indicator changes back to “Available” or even “In a Meeting”.

      My last company had this, too.

    3. Liz*

      To add on to my first comment, our IM system also shows if we’re in a meeting but the nature of our work means I’m in meetings or client calls 80% of the day and most of the time can still IM. And funnily enough, I just asked me husband about this and he said it drives him crazy when people just say “hi!” – I had no idea because my company always does it that way!

  66. Friendly Comp Manager*

    Seems like I am in the TOTAL minority here, but I like this approach! A lot of my peers and I do this with each other, and that allows all of us to quickly say, “No, please email,” or, “Need 15 mins,” or something else. However… now that I think about it, I don’t do this with people outside of my core team, so it’s probably the mutual understanding my peers and I have developed with each other. I honestly do not mind it, and even when I was not used to it, it really really did not bother me.

    That said, I guess I struggle to understand why this is so hated, seems like a fairly neutral thing that really isn’t that big of a deal. :) But then again, we all have our strong preferences about work habits, mine is bad/vague email subject lines, I will die on that hill!

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      For some, it’s a waste of time and especially a waste of attention. If you’re going to take my eyeballs off my current project, please do it in a way that gives me some context, and lets me know how urgent things are.

      1. dragocucina*

        Oh yes. If I’m in the middle of writing a grant and I’ve received an IM that’s just “Hi” and it broke my train of thought…..I would not be happy.

      2. allathian*

        This, absolutely. Combined with the fact that on our system, flagging someone as DND if they’re screen sharing is automatic. We’re also expected to blank the screen and pull out or smart ID card whenever we leave our desk at the office. I admit I haven’t been doing that at home, but I do lock my screen whenever I leave my computer for more than two minutes, and that shows me as not available.
        If someone says just hi and nothing else, I’m quite likely to say “Hi, how can I help you?” This isn’t a commitment to handle their request right away, though. Some people use IM because they think they’ll get an answer faster than on email and that can be true. But I’m also not shy about asking someone to contact me through email because I’m in the middle of something urgent and I can’t answer their question off the cuff.

  67. Aquawoman*

    This whole conversation is making me really happy that we don’t use IM. We just email.

  68. iglwif*

    My workplace uses mostly Skype, and I find that people’s approaches vary along several axes:
    – people I “talk” to all the time will usually just say what they need to say and trust that I’ll get to it when I get to it.
    – people I “talk” to more rarely will test the waters with a “Hi” or “Hello” or “Good morning” message to verify that Skype isn’t lying about my online status (it sometimes does!) and that I’m not only logged in but actually physically at my computer answering messages right now.
    – some of those people start with “Hi” or whatever and then immediately proceed to the thing they want to talk about, but others wait for me to respond.
    – one person on the team has disabilities that mean it’s a chore to communicate by typing, so that person’s “hi” means “if you respond in any way, you’ll be getting a Skype call from me immediately thereafter”. If I can talk right then, I plug in my headphones and then reply; if not, I leave the message sitting there until I am able to talk on voice/video.
    – people who aren’t in or near my time zone tend not to use IM at all–they’ll send me an email, and if we need to have a conversation that will take more than 3 emails back and forth, one of us will schedule a call.
    – I personally make liberal use of the line break (shift-enter in Skype) so I can say “Hi Name, [break] I have a quick question about the dragon teapots, do you have a sec?”

  69. SusanIvanova*

    Please, just ask the question! I worked with a team in China who would start their questions with “Hi”. They started work just after we left. So the conversation would go, in my local time:

    7PM Monday: Hi
    9AM Tuesday: Hi, what’s up?
    7PM Tuesday: I have a question about llamas
    9AM Weds: OK, what’s the question?
    7PM Weds: Do we start grooming from the head or the tail?
    9AM Thurs: From the tail, so you’re not pushing knots into fur that’s still tangled

    If they’d just started with “Hi, I have a question about llama grooming: do we start grooming from the head or the tail?” they could’ve gotten their answer the next day!

  70. YouMustBeKidding*

    I’m really surprised that people haven’t grasped this concept and that they may be “upset” or annoyed by this. It’s really just a courtesy check to see if that person is available. Our system shows current status of available or away but they aren’t always accurate or, as others have said, someone could be at their desk that doesn’t need to see what you are sending. I, personally, turned my pop ups OFF so I just see an indicator on my task bar. But, some folks haven’t figured that out yet either, or they don’t have that option. :)

    1. TechWorker*

      It’s not that people haven’t grasped it – I get that it’s a check that I’m available, I just find that way less courteous than asking the question directly.

      In the case that I *am* available I have had my concentration broken and need to them wait for the question to be typed out. In the case where I’m not available and only see the message later it’s beyond useless :)

  71. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    The one that gets me though is when I ping a “hi, what do you think about the [controversial] email from Client X?!” or something similar to a co-worker in another part of the building, and then we send a few messages back and forth every few minutes about deciding what to do with Client X — and then “apropos of nothing” co-worker shows up at my desk to discuss the Client X Issue in more depth in-person as “I felt like we were going too deep into the weeds over IM” aaaaarghhh!

  72. SpecialSpecialist*

    Soooo glad somebody else thinks this is annoying. Sometimes I just let them sit there at “Hi”. At the very least, say “Hi – I need to talk to you about something”.

  73. Lucia Pacciola*

    My job is basically interrupt-driven problem solving.

    Just tell me the problem first thing. I’ll take it from there.

    No need to waste your time and mine trying to force a synchronous conversation when an async conversation actually does the job faster.

  74. WorkingGirl*

    OMG I can’t stand “Hi” in IMs (just like in text messages… ugh!). I’ll IM my boss to say “good morning!” when I sign on first thing, since he likes to check in early in the day, “good morning!” and then “Getting those reports out today, but FYI I’ll probably need to push the follow-ups till tomorrow”.

  75. Pennalynn Lott*

    I answer every single “Hi, Pennalynn!” or “Good Morning!” IM with, “Howdy! What’s up?” Every. Single. Time. Cut to the chase, people! :-)

    And if I’m IM-ing someone, I say, “Hi, Person! Do you happen to know where the TPS reports are filed?” So I cover the niceties and I also get straight to the point without leaving them hanging.

  76. Uranus Wars*

    I avoid IM as much as possible, but I think opening with “do you have time for a question” or “is this a good time?”. Kind of the equivalent of a soft knock on an open door is the most appropriate IMO.

    But like OP I assume what I like is what I do and that’s not fair, either.

    However, if I am busy and someone just launched into a litany of questions – esp when I am set to “in a meeting” I will ignore them until I am ready to engage. Last week someone actually opened with “I can see you are in a meeting but on the off chance your not…” and then sent 3 or 4 individual messages. All of which should have been emails anyways because they needed documents and copy for a marketing project.

    There is one person who will just launch right into his question and the start sharing his screen so I can help him with his problems before I even have time to respond to him and it DRIVES. ME. BONKERS.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I once worked with a coworker who would apparently IM me whenever he was bored with whatever random things he wanted to say or ask, many of which had nothing to do with the job. He would of course do it when I was busy, even if I had set my status to busy deliberately because of him. I had to learn to draw firm boundaries and tell him when was IMing at work, he needed to stick to the work topic. Otherwise he would want to chat like we were in college or something and it drove me nuts. I was 20 years older than him. There are some people who you have to have boundaries with.

    2. allathian*

      Ouch, I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. Can you push back on the screen sharer at all? “Please don’t share your screen until I give you the go-ahead to do so.”

  77. Glenn*

    Chiming in to agree with Alison that you should learn to deal with this, but to disagree that your coworkers are doing it wrong. I mean, maybe they are, in some greater cosmic sense, but this is one of those situations where you need to recognize that there are multiple cultures at play, and if you declare your culture “right” and their culture “wrong”, you will cause problems for yourself _even if you are absolutely correct_.

    Google has had an ongoing internal flamewar among employees, about the polite way to open an IM conversation, and specifically whether it is polite or rude to open with “hello”, for at LEAST a decade at this point. You should get used to existing in a world where people legitimately and openly disagree about this, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      Was just going to post something like this and you said it better than I could. Why get so upset that someone has a very small difference in the way of communicating than you do?

  78. whistle*

    I think a lot of this etiquette is really context-dependent. A coworker I regularly work with who I’ve already said hi to that day – I’m sending an IM with just the question. A coworker I regularly work with who I haven’t said hi to yet that day – “Good morning! [questions I need to ask]?” A coworker who I don’t regularly work with – “Hi, Name! Can you let me know[questions I need to ask]when you have a chance?”.

    But, yeah, if you IM me with “hi” and nothing else, I’m unlikely to respond. It’s like a friend asking “are you free this Saturday?” I mean, maybe, what’s going on?

  79. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    In my workplace, I think it’s more “the person I’m messaging knows A. how much time they have available B. that I’m messaging for a business reason and C. know they can tell me it needs to wait” so “hi” is used to put up a sign saying “I need your time for something business related, but you know your availability better than I do.” I get IMs from friends at work and I blissfully ignore it if I don’t have time. But if the IM comes from a specific, separate office, I know they need me to do something in a system they don’t have access to, so I know the conversation will be “here is what I need, can you do it?” Sure, I’d rather they just tell me what they need, but it’s how they all start the conversation to give me a chance to decide when we can talk.

  80. 3boysnotime*

    I have a co-worker who just uses a single period. Not hi or ? or what’s up, just
    It’s such a trigger for me! I get him back though by answering “k” for any affirmative, since he hates that….

  81. AcademiaIsWeird*

    Depending on the urgency of the question/response I try to say something like:
    1.Hi NAME, let me know when you have a few minutes for a question regarding TOPIC. Not time sensitive!
    2. Hi Name, I have a time sensitive question regarding XXX. Will you let me know when you have a minute today/this morning/etc. to discuss?
    3. Hi NAME, just replied to your e-mail regarding XXX but wanted to let you know that I’m available over Teams or Zoom if it would be easier to discuss that way.

    A lot of my work deals with immigration that changes on a dime so people know if I say it’s urgent I’m not BSing them and it truly is urgent.
    These scripts give them context for what I want to discuss but doesn’t reveal any sensitive details if it were to be seen by other people

    If it’s not work related and I want to vent or share a funny meme or something I try to start with something generic like good morning/how was your day before jumping into a longer conversation. I only have 2 or 3 colleagues I would do this with though and this is how we communicate. If I had a truly work related question I stick with the above script.

    1. CM*

      This is perfect!
      And if it’s really so sensitive that you wouldn’t want it to pop on the screen, then you can still give a sense of the urgency by saying, “Hi NAME, can you please call me as soon as you can?” or “Hi NAME, I have a quick question for you, can you give me a call or IM me when you’re free? Any time in the next few days is fine.”
      I agree that just “Hi” is fine for friends or colleagues who you’re friendly enough with that they’d be up for random chatting and not just work-related requests.

  82. Rude*

    To me, it comes off as extremely rude to just message someone randomly (after not speaking to them for several hours, or perhaps for the first time that day) with a request or a demand. I would never just walk up to someone in their cubicle or office and starting asking for stuff, if we were speaking in person; in person, I would greet them with a “hello” and a smile. Why would you do this over a message, especially in a day and age of people feeling lonely, isolated, and not in as much contact as we usually are? If your colleaguee says “hi” to you on a message platform, you reply back hello / hey / what’s up back, then wait for them to make their request. It’s very simple – and very polite.

    1. Claire*

      But why does it have to be a separate message? Why can’t you just say, “Hi Bob! Can you help me with the gorilla farming report?” Is that not more similar to what you’d do in person than just going up to Bob’s desk, saying, “Hi,” and then staring at him until he responds?

      1. MsSolo*

        I can’t imagine many scenarios where I wouldn’t wait for a reply to a greeting before launching into a request, especially in an office where they might be busy in a way I can’t immediately discern (video call, paperwork, mentally prepping for a meeting). We definitely have some people in our office that do that, and the number of times I’ve had to interrupt (or try several times, then give up and wait out the lengthy request) to say I’m actually busy and can’t help with anything right now, frustrates me because it’s such a waste of mine and their time when if they’d waited for me to respond I could have told them I’m in the middle of something and they could have asked someone else without breaking both of our trains of thought.

    2. TechWorker*

      Again this depends on the work culture – it’s absolutely not rude in mine. Get on with it, get to the point…

    3. Coder von Frankenstein*

      When talking in person, do you walk up, say “Hi,” get “Hi” back, and then stare at them in silence for 30 seconds before explaining what you want?

  83. George*

    My two cents: They are either trying to be polite (because you’d say ‘hi’ in person first) or they are just greeting you like they’d do at the office.

    I’m noticing that, especially for people who work mostly independently, there is a desire/need to maintain those work relationships that occur in the hall/break room/over lunch.

    I’d just imagine they are walking by your desk and going, “hi” or “good morning” or whatever.

  84. Amethystmoon*

    I think starting with “hi” or good morning, whatever is fine but it may depend on the company and the norms there. Where I work, some people do think it is rude to launch into a demand right away. Our software is supposed to automatically show in a meeting and presenting, but it doesn’t always work with some people. Also if something is really confidential, I would send an e-mail instead of IMing.

  85. Henchwoman*

    “Hi. Can I ask you a quick question?”

    Hate hate hate hate that sentence. They’ve already interrupted me. Their question is quick to ask, but take time for me to reply. But now I have to acknowledge and engage to find out if this is important and to solve now, or could be in a nice email for me to deal with at a better time

  86. It's Me*

    I have a coworker who jumps straight into whatever they want and it drives me NUTS, because the expectation is “Stop concentrating on your thing and do this for me.” But JUST “hi” is also super inefficient too. And that’s before you get into the whole dance of “Do you NEED this NOW or?”

    My current preferred message is greeting + general description + urgency clause. So something like “Hi! I have a nonurgent question about the teapot grid when you have a second.” Some politeness up front, no need to drop everything, and here’s generally what it’s about so you can prioritize on your end.

    1. TechWorker*

      Tbh even this doesn’t fully solve the problem because their urgent =/= your urgent.

  87. Susana*

    I feel you, LW. It’s the same lack of manners that leads people to call your cellphone, NOT leave message and then just expect you to call them back, since you see there’s a missed call. I would not respond at all to “hi,” which is just…. hi. If someone asked if I was there, I would write back (if it’s convenient) and say, what do you need?

    I also get professional emails – pitches from folks – who put in the subject line only “Hey.” FYI, PR people – that’s not adorable or familiar or whatever you think it is. I delete them without opening them.

  88. ragazza*

    I read a journal article about this when I was in grad school studying communication. It pointed out that norms are still evolving, unfortunately, which results in a lot of frustration.

  89. Emma(LW)*

    I’ll add to that I dislike “IM?” Much more than hi and get it more frequently. If you say hi you obviously expect me to say hi back when I have a moment. But “IM?” Is asking a question and hi back doesn’t actually answer the question but it seems odd to say “yes” or “yes I am available” but I hadn’t considered the context of making sure you weren’t screen sharing or otherwise having people looking over your shoulder, but it does make more sense in that context.

    1. Rach*

      “IM?” is the standard at my company and what I reply depends on our relationship. Someone on my team or someone I work closely with “what’s up” or “yes” is fine. A manager or someone I don’t know “How may I help you?”.

  90. Sella*

    This is just standard practice in Australia. And in fact if you didn’t open with at least a quick greeting, most people would consider you quite rude.. But I do find this difference between the two cultures in general; I work with our head office in the US and often receive emails with just ‘Name’ rather than ‘Hi Name’ which isn’t the norm here.

  91. Anonymoose*

    Curious if the could be a standard chat sent out when you add someone? When I go to add someone as a chat contact it inputs something like “let’s chat!” I think you overwrite this but I usually don’t. So I’m not sure if the first “message” from me ever is that “let’s chat!” statement. I also agree that there isn’t really a “right” way and a “wrong” way just different ways. Though there may be more work appropriate ways than others. I think if it bugs you enough and depending on the size of your team maybe you can talk to your manager/lead to set up some come on ground rules for chatting. So that way everyone knows a “hi” isn’t an urgent message.

  92. Jedi Squirrel*

    Interesting how this comment thread has divided into two camps: “Please don’t waste my time” vs. “Please don’t be impolite.”

    I am firmly in the “nohello” camp. Apparently, this is just a cultural thing?

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      My comment posted before I finished typing. I guess some people view IMs as a form of written communication, where you can just get to the point, and some people view them as a form of verbal communication, where you have to use social niceties the same way. Interesting.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Even in written communication, I am getting either “Hi Gollux,” or (less often) “Dear Gollux,” at the beginning of the email, paper letter, or card.

  93. RB*

    Don’t feel bad for getting annoyed. I got annoyed just reading your first sentence. And I don’t have a lot of extra mental capacity for annoyance these days, so they’d be likely to not get a response from me.

  94. Citrouille*

    This could just be me, but I often send a “Hi” message by accident!

    I don’t use our IM software very often—I’m more likely to send an email unless I need an urgent response.

    So when I do use IM, I might intend to send a message along the lines of “Hi Boss, can you tell me if the head llama groomer is coming in today?” but about 50% of the time I’m on autopilot because I’m more used to sending emails (where the salutation is on a separate line) and accidentally hit the Enter key after I type “Hi Boss,” which, in our IM software, sends the message. I feel bad immediately but apologizing would look weird.

  95. nonethefewer*

    I’ll open my Slack messages with folk with “ahoyhoy!” if they’re new to me, or diving right in if I work with them constantly. Usually I’ll prepend it with a custom emoji that means “low priority” or “FYI” when it’s relevant.

    I frankly have so little brainspace these days for important things that the idea of holding onto a huge ignoring-coworkers opinion about whether to say “hi” first or not in Slack is… beyond me.

  96. outragedvulcan*

    Hi is totally a way to see if someone is actually reading their chats or not. If someone doesn’t answer, then you email.

  97. Sparky*

    Over on Reddit someone shared a text they sent their professor, while they were sick and high on cold medicine. It began,”Dear hello,”. I need this to become the standard greeting everywhere! I love this, it cracks me up.

  98. Eliza*

    I work with people in a lot of different time zones, so we tend to treat IMs like a less formal version of email: people send enough information to make it clear what kind of response they need and don’t necessarily expect that response immediately, so I’m on the side of those who see a “Hi” with no further information as a pointless message, at least in my own work context. The main advantage over just using email is that people can actually be relied on to check their IMs on a daily basis.

  99. StrangerThanFiction*

    I used to do this until I realised that there wasn’t a separate ‘Send’ button, so it sent whatever you’d already typed when you press Enter, while you carried on with the lengthier rest of it. Shift-enter got me round that, but I do tend to compose anything but one-liners off-line now, then paste them in one step.
    Maybe some at least of OP’s co-workers haven’t got their heads roud this yet?

  100. MsSolo*

    I was thinking about putting something about this in our ‘culture’ doc for new starters. We’re mostly a ‘hi’ culture at work. We don’t have an automatic ‘busy’ thing, and IMs go through even if you’re on annual leave or off sick, so it’s very much a testing-the-water phrase to see if someone is even online before launching into their question. It helps that most questions could be answered by multiple people, so if your hi doesn’t get a response you can move on to someone else and see if they’re in. The answer to ‘hi’ is ‘hi’, when you’re at a point in your work where you can spare a bit of time to figure out if you can help them, and if they don’t reply assume they’ve found another solution.

    It’s so awkward coming back from a holiday to find someone’s sent you an eight paragraph IM about something that was due before you got back and having no idea whether they still need the info or if they eventually figured out you weren’t responding and tried someone else (there are specific people on my team who do this, who unsurprisingly are also the people who never check people’s calendars to find out if they’re in or in a meeting, because their question is much more important than your capacity to answer it immediately).

  101. coffee cup*

    This is quite different for me depending on time of day and circumstances. Especially now, working at home, if this IM is the first interaction of the day I’ve had with someone, you bet I’m saying hi and asking how they are before I ask them a question or ask them to do something for me. Even if I didn’t want to know how they are (and I do!) I wouldn’t just open with ‘Can you please tell me where you are with X project?’ That just really jars with me, like that’s all I want from them. I understand in some places, it is! But in a small company like mine I’d always greet the person.

    If this isn’t the first interaction, I won’t ask how they are, but I’ll still start a message with ‘hi’. For example, ‘Hi, Rachel, could I ask you something?’ Different from saying hi and waiting, though, which I wouldn’t do. I have, however, worked under someone who was incredibly difficult to ever interrupt, even to ask for more work, and it was *never* a good time, so I just took to sending her IMs to ask if it was a good time.

  102. Byron*

    I get this a lot from our overseas billing office, when they say ‘Hi’ I’ll just say ‘Hi, how can I help?’ because I don’t really have any time for that sort of needless chit chat.

    That said, I don’t have time for people who ask work questions over Skype/Teams anyway, because that says to me that they don’t want to put it in writing. If it’s work related, I tell people to email me.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      You don’t ever have people who are junior to you who want some quick help with something, for instance? Teams works well for this now that talking to people in person isn’t possible: you can respond to each other in almost real time, or hop on a voice call and share your screens if needed. There are definitely non-shady reasons for using Teams!

      (Also, those messages are saved, so if you did have something to hide, Teams would be a bad choice anyway.)

    1. James*

      I’ve been shot at, stalked by mountain lions, worked in pits full of hazardous waste, stranded in a desert, gotten chemical burns from alkali soil, had field staff openly rebel…. On the list of “Things That Bother Me” weird IM etiquette is pretty low.

  103. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I think a lot of this is dependent on office culture, but I like to assume that anyone I need to IM is busy. So I get right to the point so they can decide if they’re able to help me right away or get back to me later. If I haven’t spoken to them all day, I’ll start with a quick greeting and then launch into what I need. If someone just says HI and you’re in the middle of something, ignore it and respond when you’re at a stopping point. It’s not that serious. And if it’s really an issue & affecting your productivity, have a conversation and let others know what you need from them.

    On a somewhat related note, I used to work in an office with a guy who would come over to my cube (my back was to the opening) and just stand there until I noticed he was there. No knock on the wall or a greeting to get my attention. I’m a “get to the point” type of person, so I would pretend I didn’t know he was there. I told him several times that if he needed me for something, he needed to knock or say something, not just stand there silently. Eventually he figured it out.

  104. Dan*

    I have to completely disagree. As many IM programs will pop-up a message, even when displaying to alert you to it, a simple “Hi” or “Good morning” or something along those lines is the appropriate first message. It is not for the sender to decide what the receiver seems appropriate to show in any situation, and the sender should send an opener to ensure the receiver is in a place to view and answer before starting anything more.

  105. NoWittyName*

    Is this a US v Europe thing? Because where I work (UK), it would be odd to launch straight into the request on IM – some form of greeting gives people the chance to indicate they have time to deal with the conversation. It’s no different to talking to someone at their desk for me – I wouldn’t launch straight into a request, and I’d be annoyed with anyone who didn’t check I had the time for the conversation.

    If it’s urgent, then IM probably isn’t the way forward

    1. Dan*

      I work in the US, and while some people jump right in from my US co-workers, I find the ones from Europe & Asia do it far more often without any greeting first.

  106. Schrutebucks*

    This is one of my biggest work pet peeves. My company uses IM pretty heavily and I support a sales team of about 150 sales reps so receiving 10-20 IMs a day that just say “hi” is absolutely maddening to me. Stop playing cat and mouse games with me and just ask for what you need!

    1. Dan*

      Unless you know where I am, what I am doing, and who may or may not be looking at my screen, “Hi” without anything more is the appropriate first message. Wait until you get a response, and then jump right into your question.

      1. Schrutebucks*

        I don’t have time to play those games with people. I would prefer they at least say “do you have a minute to chat?” rather than just “hi”. At least there’s a clear response to the former, yes or no, and then I can move on with my day, rather than sitting there debating what is the best response to “hi”.

        1. Dan*

          I respect your opinion, but disagree. My response back is simply “Hi” or “Hello” back when I am ready, and then they proceed with their question. Always works for me.

    2. CM*

      I’m seeing a clear divide between people like you and me, who work with a bunch of different people on different projects or tasks, and people who work closely with a small group of people or focus on specific tasks. For the former, “Hi” is infuriating. We are juggling so many different things and we have no clue what the person wants, nor are we necessarily working on their thing right now. For the latter, “Hi” makes sense — you already have an idea what it’s about just by seeing who’s “hi”-ing you, and they’re probably asking you something related to the work you’re doing right now.

      1. Dan*

        I do not believe my position is so different. I am involved in a number of different projects at any time with about 75 people that may reach out to me on any given day on any number of different topics. The person approaching me typically gives me no indication of the topic. And yet, “Hi” is still the correct first message. I am in a lot of meetings, and have people at my desk all the time. Any content or question beyond that is not appropriate because it may be seen by others. If you have no direct interaction with others via meetings (virtual or not) or at your desk, maybe you can support having people send more, but that is not the case for me or most of my department. It has become our standard due to the number of times people have asked questions via IM without considering who may be seeing it.

  107. Frenchie*

    I do that. And I wish others would do that, too. In my work setting, we come and go from our office desk. I don’t want to send out a query to one person, have them be away from their desk, wait, send the same query to another person, and so on. Then, when they all return to their desks, they are all answering the same question.
    So, I say “hi”, if I get no response, I then move on to the next person. The first non-responsive hi receiver can later reply, and I can say “hey, thanks, but I got what I needed, so and so had the answer.”
    Our IM system doesn’t have a subject line. Obviously, office culture and IM systems vary from office to office. So, I might also be annoyed by the “hi” if I worked in OP’s office setting.

  108. mdv*

    I have friends who are “coworkers” — in other departments at the university we all work at — to whom I will just say “hello, feel like chatting?” if it’s friend talk, or “hey, have a quick work related question when you’ve got a minute” if it’s not … which still has at least some indication of why I’m writing. For any coworker, I just go ahead with the question or statement. “Hey, do you have a minute to do X for me?”

  109. NoHelloForYou*

    Oh man I’m glad I’m not the only one! This is my biggest chat pet peeve. I’ve gotten to the point where I simply ignore people who just write “Hi” – they assume I’m occupied and move on to their question/statement, which I then answer. I’ve especially noticed the people who start with “hi” are the people who can chat about minor things forever, and never realize how much of a timesuck they are.

  110. Beatrice*

    I used to HATE this too, and then I joined a team where it was the norm, and I’ve gotten used to it. It used to feel like the person was trying to trap me into acknowledging I was there so they could spring a request on me that I may not have time for, and I felt like the gap between acknowledging them and hearing their actual request was a huge waste of my time. My new team is WAY more relationship oriented, and now I struggle with feeling like I’m being rude and abrupt by launching directly into what I need without a quick, separate “Hello, fellow human!” first. I try to vary what I do depending on the norms of the team I’m communicating with, and I always try to send the request almost immediately after the greeting (sometimes I even type it in a separate document so I can copy/paste/send right away.)

  111. MicroManagered*

    I have a coworker who always begins with “Hello?”

    It used to irrationally annoy me, because it seemed weirdly rude. Then I started picturing her asking in a confused-granny voice, like she doesn’t know what a computer is.

  112. Echo*

    I have a coworker who always goes through a round of exchanging small talk and pleasantries on company IM before asking me a work question that usually takes about five seconds to resolve. Once we had an entire very pleasant conversation about our weekend plans and…she never actually asked me whatever the work question was!

  113. SpicySpice*

    For once I am going to disagree with Alison! I don’t see “hi” as rude. It’s more like a ping to see if someone is available. I am the person who used to always launch into whatever my topic was without even a hey or good morning, and someone actually pointed out to me that it was better to start with a greeting.

  114. somebody blonde*

    I just say, “hey/hi, what’s up?” While I personally tend to just launch straight into my question, that is definitely not the norm at my workplace, so I’ve had to adapt a bit to not seem unfriendly. Nowadays I usually put “good morning!” or “Hey,” at the beginning of my message and then the question.

  115. JM60*

    As my brother went to Burning Man in the desert he received a Slack message just saying “Hi” just before losing cell phone coverage. He ended up spending all weekend stressed, wondering what the “Hi” was about, and whether it was over something important that spells gloom after his return to work. All because of one word. It ended up being something low priority, but it caused him anxiety.

    Please people, say when you want/need in the first message so the other person can know how important it is.

  116. Wintermute*

    This might be a cultural thing, I don’t know why they tend to do this but there’s a strong background correlation here. About half the people I work with over IM are Indian immigrants and they often do this, where most people of other backgrounds don’t. Though among the people that don’t just say “hi” a lot start with a little small talk “Hi, how are you?” or “good morning” or the like. Since I’m usually watching a few alarm panels, plus handling scheduled tasks and several IMs at once it can get a little annoying but I view it as people trying to be respectful rather than feeling like they’re barking orders at me, and trying to create a collegial atmosphere.

    I try to focus on appreciating the intent rather than being annoyed at the impact.

    I usually respond, “Hi, *Name* what can I do for you?” or if I know the context already, “Hi, *name*, is this about my email about the check printing?”

  117. dog in a bag*

    I see a lot of people say they send “hi” in case the person they are messaging is screen sharing–all the IM programs I’ve used at work had configurable settings to hide IM pop-ups while screen sharing. For our work programs at least, if you send “hi” and then immediately send a second IM with your question, the second IM still pops up as its own notification.

    I’m firmly team “no hello”. /Everyone’s/ time at work is too valuable to be spent exchanging hellos over chat. And it doesn’t mean you are rude! You can always begin your IM like a warm email (“Hi So-and-so! Hope you’re doing well. I had a quick question for you–are llamas washed in stone tubs or wooden tubs in your region? Thanks!”)–that also avoids the issue of a sensitive question appearing in the IM notification, since they always cut off after a certain number of characters.

  118. SleepyBri*

    I have to be honest in that I’ve been the guilty party of sending just the “Hi, so and so.” Usually this occurs because I get pinged while typing my standard “I had a question about x, do you have y minutes?”

    Being on the receiving end can be frustrating, however since I’ve been guilty of this myself I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt. I’ll usually respond with “Hi, I have 5 minutes.” Or “Hi, give me 10 minutes and I’ll ping you.”

    That way if the person messaging me just got distracted or whatnot, they know my availability.

  119. Nom de plume*

    This is so not the answer I expected and I’m surprised to see so many people agreeing! To be clear, I definitely prefer the “no hello” but I’m not sure I’ve ever had an IM with a coworker where I jumped right into the question and they actually answered me. I’ve been conditioned to say Hi first because I see that otherwise the other person doesn’t cooperate! But finally I know “my people” – the no hello people – are out there! I must find you all and work with you.

  120. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    Ugh- I hate that! But people do it all the time. I usually just answer “Hi Jane” and the leave it to them to ask whatever question they had or tell me whatever they wanted to tell me. If they’re IM-ing me, it’s on them to ask the question. When I IM people, I state the question immediately (as in Hi Jane! I have a question about the TPS reports…”)

  121. Not all Hi's are bad*

    I always start with a Hi “name of person” and sometimes a hows it been? depending on context, but I don’t wait for them to reply. I always just tell them the reason I wrote. I look at it like I’ve approached them at their desk. A bit of normal chat then into work chat pretty quickly.

  122. Jojo Potatoe*

    I don’t respond to no-content messages from anyone anywhere. If you can’t be arsed to tell me what you’re on about, I can’t be arsed to drag it out of you. Even my mom knows better than to play that with me. “Got time to chat?” is fine from her & inner circle; all others, state your purpose or step off. My much younger, superhelpful self would be shocked and terrified of getting into trouble, but not receiving or missing an IM is plausibly deniable, and what are they gonna do, complain that you didn’t respond to “Hi?”

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