Engagement, Formality, and Visibility: Managing Paradoxes of Using Mobile Instant Messaging for Work

Lei Vincent Huang, Ke Zhang


Supporting dyadic and multisided messaging with various communication modalities as well as social networking, mobile instant messengers provide a communication tool that alters processes in not only social but also professional interactions. In this study, we employ a paradox-based perspective to examine how WeChat, the most popular mobile instant messenger in China, is a productive and problematic tool for work-related interactions. Findings from interviews with Chinese employees suggest that, although enhancing connectivity and coordination among employees, WeChat use is associated with paradoxes of engagement, formality, and visibility. Technical features, organizational norms, coworker expectations, and conflicts in individual understandings of WeChat contribute to the perceptions of these paradoxes. Participants respond to the paradoxes by developing their own rules, exerting control, or withdrawing from some features of WeChat. Implications of this study on mobile communication research and organizational communication practices are discussed.


mobile instant messaging, work, paradox, microcoordination, smartphone, China

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