Instant messaging (IM) has evolved into an important tool for collaborative work. It supports informal near-synchronous communication and fosters awareness of the online presence of one's communication partners. Like all awareness systems, IM runs into concerns regarding privacy. Drawing upon prior literature and exploratory interviews, we postulate a model that posits impression management as an underlying cause for privacy desires of IM users. We verify our hypotheses using linear structural modelling on data from a large online survey of IM users across the US. The model establishes that the desire for privacy in IM arises due to the desire for impression management (both directly, as well as indirectly through the desire for visibility of one's impression to oneself). Based on this model, we suggest that IM systems could support privacy needs of users better by providing them with more knowledge and control over aspects that affect their IM-conveyed impression on others (i.e. by making impression management functionality available). Specifically, to help convey and sustain appropriate impressions on IM contacts, IM systems should allow for increased visibility of one's actions to oneself, facilitate easy comparison of one's practices with those of others, and allow one to view oneself from the perspective of others and to make finer-grained adjustments to IM settings than is possible today.