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Your Slack Messages Are Probably Stressing Out Your Co-workers

Slack can be a useful tool for improving employee communication — until its pings turn irritating. Here’s how to avoid the four most annoying Slack habits.

You’re sitting at your workspace, head down on some important business, when ping. A red notification, courtesy of Slack, commands your attention. Sometimes you’re grateful for the interruption — like when someone notifies you about leftovers in the kitchen, saving you from making a trek for lunch, or when a co-worker “releases” you from a meeting you felt would be a drag on your time. When used thoughtfully, Slack, a workplace instant messaging platform with over 10 million daily active users, streamlines communication and makes our jobs easier. But just like email, Slack can also be a source of stress and even irritation. 

So how can you tell if you’re Slacking wisely, or if you’re veering into annoyance territory? Here, a breakdown of four Slack behaviors that may be stressing out your colleagues, and how to curb them.

You’re using Slack for conversations that you should be having IRL.

When used as a tool to deliver small bits of information, like setting up a time to meet in person, or giving someone a heads up that you’re going to be late, Slack is efficient. Slack is not, on the other hand, an ideal way to communicate complex instructions, introduce a new project, or deliver critical feedback. “Instant messaging tools should be used when one-way communication makes sense; they should not be used to replace two-way communication modes,” Kyra Sutton, an H.R. expert in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, tells Thrive. “As a general rule, if I have to send more than two instant messages about a topic, I take that as a sign that it’s time to pick-up the phone or schedule a meeting.” Other situations that should not be addressed via Slack, according to Sutton: inquiries about additional resources (time, money, people), telling someone “no” about a work-related request, or voicing customer/client concerns. 

You’re using “@here” more frequently than you should be.

When a person tags @here in a group Slack, every single person in the group is notified — even those who don’t really need to see the message. This is an abuse of the channel, Gerald Kane, Ph.D., visiting scholar at Harvard Business School and author of The Technology Fallacy, tells Thrive. Our attention is scarce as is, and dominating the group with an unnecessary tag is frustrating and disruptive. Such disruptions, in fact, are a main source of stress for today’s workforce. In a survey of 2,000 workers across the United States, one-third of participants reported having interruptions 10 or more times a day, and two-thirds reported that those dings — whether via email, text, or other push notification — were irritating. Before you tag @here, think about who your message is intended for. Unless you really need the (immediate) attention of literally anyone in the channel, don’t use the tag that sends out an alert.

You send a “hi” or a “hey”… followed by absolutely nothing (or too long of a delay).

We’ve all gotten the “hey” text before. The one that’s quickly followed by bad news, or another dread-filled message like “we need to talk.” So when a person slacks “hey” in the workplace, and then takes forever to send a follow-up message, cue all the same anxiety. The receiver is left wondering what the hey is about, and likely can’t move until they hear from you. Instead of subjecting your co-worker to this misery, just say what you have to say all at once. 

You’re being a bit shady. 

If a person asks a question in a public slack channel, and you have the knowledge to respond, keep your answer public — preferably by sharing it in a thread. If you take your answer outside the thread — even if it’s within the same channel — people who may benefit from your response can miss it. If you think the original question should have been private in the first place, it’s fair to respond (in the thread), “hey, I have some thoughts on this and I’m happy to discuss offline!” 

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