The problem with text messages in an office environment is the ambiguity of the way they can be read. Emo-Cons solve this problem in our daily lives, but at work they are considered unprofessional.

In today’s example, we wonder about the Cultural Differences in interoffice ping (instant message) etiquette. Observe the following interaction between myself and my European based counterpart.

(Note: names changed for discretion, wording also changed to more general office terms)

T.Ellery(Me) 8:48 AM  Hello Robert

Robert 8:49 AM Hi T. Ellery…

T.Ellery 8:49 AM does your team need backup today?  I am having trouble reaching Janice to ask, her status is listed as in a meeting though, isn’t it like 6 pm there?

Robert 8:49 AM Janice already left the office…

Robert 8:49 AM  For today, we don’t need support. I see we have only few emails left in the inbox. Could be that Janice still has some in her personal inbox to follow up tomorrow, but that should be fine…

T.Ellery 8:51 AM ok, have a good evening

Robert 8:52 AM Thanks for pinging…

It’s the damn ellipsis […] that bug the crap out of me.

I really really really want to ask him if he realizes that by putting an ellipsis at the end of all his responses, he is suggesting passive aggressive impatience with the topic. If we were best buds, I’d see sarcasm. At least that’s how I would interpret it in North America, in Europe I don’t know[…]

hmmm, thought for consideration, can one pun with an ellipsis?

Now of course, I want to mention to Robert how it comes across in the US, but the obvious problem is that it might not be a cultural difference and he is passive aggressively showing his impatience.


A fleeting annoyance I know. It made me laugh when I thought about how it would play out if I asked him the other day. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. Gold star to whoever can send the most ambiguously rude message with with use of a […]

Cultural Differences | Office Politics | The Ambiguous Co-Worker Ping
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