Microsoft Teams Etiquette Part 3: Private Messages

May 12, 2020, MOQdigital

teams part 3

With Microsoft Teams rapidly (and mandatorily) succeeding Skype for Business, a lot of people are going to need to learn about an unfamiliar software program – fast. Here’s Part 3 of our series on how to make Teams into a fun and productive experience for your entire department.

How do private messages work in Microsoft Teams?

Private messages in Teams are essentially what they sound like – private chats or channels in which only the chat’s creator and their invited participants can read messages. Although Microsoft Teams has been around for a couple of years now, the private channels feature (as distinct from private chats) has only been around since late 2019. This makes learning the ins and outs of private messaging even more important.

By default, any team owner or team member can start a private channel, but this is changeable. Administrators have the ability to limit who can create private channels, and they may want to limit it due to the fact that Teams is largely designed to facilitate open collaboration. Reasons for creating private channels might include:

  • Discussion confidential or compliance-protected work that must be kept private

  • Sharing compliance-protected data through the channel’s SharePoint site

  • Allowing executives to discuss departmental performance with managers

Because private messages may involve sensitive information, the records of a private channel are archived within the personal mailboxes of each group member, rather than a group mailbox. In addition, administrators and legal department personnel may still perform eDiscovery searches for records.

Making private messages and channels easier in Microsoft Teams

While private channels may seem intimidating, private messages are much simpler. Although they work just like private chats in Skype or Skype for Business, there are still a few considerations, etiquette-wise.

For one thing, private messaging someone implies that it’s important to speak with them. For more low-level requests, it’s better to @ someone in the channel. In addition, private messages are designed to be more manageable when they’re with just one or two other people. Larger discussions should either involve their own Team or a private channel if they’re discussing more sensitive information.

Confidentiality is also an important consideration in private messages (although less so than in private channels). Adding someone to a private message thread means that they can see all of the previous messages in that thread. If you were talking about business decisions or office gossip, it’s worth asking whether they need to see what’s been said there. With that in mind, private chats can also be audited like private channels – if someone really wants to, they can always see what you wrote.

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