Digital Project Management Office Culture

Slack Etiquette, Part 1: Organize & Be Mindful

March 28, 2018


In our previous blog post, Internal Communication: The Dangers of Laziness, we talked about tone and use of language.

This time, we’re going to offer up some tips on using Slack, which is quickly becoming one of the most commonly-used tools used for internal communication. But because Slack can be misused, we’ve put together some suggestions on better ways to use it with your team.

1. Organize Your Slack into Channels
To help keep Slack organized and easy to digest, ensure each project has its own channel. This way, you can ensure that only the relevant team members who need to be aware of the information will get the associated Slack notifications. In addition to project-related channels, it can be useful to create channels for specific topics (that may or may not be work-related).

Here are some channels that our company has created to organize Slack conversations:

  • #in_and_out: Used for team members to post their status. For example; “Working from home”, “Going to be late”, “Running to lunch”, etc.
  • #general: Designed for discussions that are company-related but not project-related. General announcements, reminders, etc.
  • #random: All the fun stuff. It’s “gif central”! Don’t let the water cooler chats stop just because you’re not actually standing at the water cooler.
  • #netflixandshows: So we can keep up on Stranger Things memes and the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
  • #process: A place to discuss internal communication and process.

These channels all have a set purpose and help to organize conversations for the team.

2. Mind the Channel’s Purpose
Each channel should have a stated purpose. This is the reason it exists, and it defines the type of information that should be shared in the channel. It is okay to go off-topic sometimes—a Stranger Things reference in a project channel can be light-hearted and funny. But if the discussion turns to plots and theories, that means it is time to move it over to the #netflixandshows channel!

3. Don’t Bloat the Channel
The purpose of maintaining specific channels is to make information easy to find, and to help keep the conversations within easy to follow. However, information can still get lost within a channel. Because conversations can become very lengthy, with a lot of back and forth between team members, you might find yourself scrolling for the information you need—which can be very frustrating if you’re in a time crunch.

If you have a lot of information to share, try placing it in a Post instead. Slack imposes a character limit for a reason, and it can feel overwhelming to see a very long message in Slack. Posts are also easy to Pin for future reference.

4. Use Threads
Slack recently introduced threading for messages and documents. You can use these to help organize conversations and declutter a channel. Consider using a thread when answering questions so that the channel stays clean, and the information is easy to find and respond to.

5. Slack isn’t a Vault
Slack is a communication tool, not a collaboration tool. As we suggested earlier, we don’t want to bloat the channel, but even with a concise channel it can still be easy to lose documents or end up downloading the wrong version of a file. It can be stressful to search through Slack for that one document you need.

Instead of relying on Slack as a file repository, we’d suggest it’s better to store those in a collaborative tool like Basecamp or Google Drive, and reference the documents in Slack. This will help keep you organized, and also keep Slack from getting bloated. There is nothing worse than scrolling through Slack trying to find a missing design file when you could have found the live file living on Google Drive much faster.

6. Don’t Slack Bomb
While no one likes to see giant messages in Slack, it is also important not to “Slack Bomb”. Slack Bombing is when you send a multitude of short messages in a row that don’t convey any information.

For example, poking an unresponsive teammate can quickly turn into Slack Bombing:
Hey! (1 sec ago)
You there? (1 sec ago)
Busy? (1 sec ago)

Chances are, Slack will notify that person with a private notification for each and every message you send. Remember, your team members have deliverables and meetings. They may be busy and trying to focus. Try to send only one message.

Example:
Hey, I’m looking for this file, and was wondering if you knew where it was? Let’s chat when you’re free.

7. Use Mentions Mindfully
Slack will notify someone every time you mention them (or when you mention @Channel). Before you mention someone, make sure that you want that person to act on something, and make it clear what that is.

For example, when someone asks whether a task is being worked on, you might respond with:
Don’t worry, @Steve is on it, and we already met to discuss.

There are a couple of ways to improve this response. First, if you’re going to mention anyone, it should probably be the person asking the question. Second, every person mentioned will be get a notification, but Steve—who is “already on it”—probably doesn’t need to informed again. It isn’t respectful to pull them into a conversation for no reason.

Additionally, only @Channel if everyone needs to know! Otherwise, consider using @Here, which will only notify everyone in the channel who is currently online.

Generally speaking, try to limit notifications that don’t require a response. If you are using a mention, be aware of what action you want the recipient to take.

Summary:

  • Use channels to organize projects and topics.
  • Give each channel a specific purpose.
  • Minimize channel bloat by using Posts and Threads when appropriate.
  • Be mindful with your @mentions and messages.

Together, these tips will all go a long way to making your team’s Slack communication more efficient. A better-organized project with a more mindful team can only lead to better outcomes!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

@mandamwright on all things social!

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