Digital Project Management

Slack Etiquette: Part 2 – Respect your team, and be Mindful

April 24, 2018


In our previous blog post, Slack Etiquette: Part 1 – Organize & Be Mindful, we provided some tips for using Slack. We talked about how to organize slack into channels with purposes, as well as the use of Posts and Threads for organizing information and conversations.

It’s important to be mindful when using Slack, so here are a few tips on how to be respectful when using Slack:

1. Acknowledge Messages and Requests
We get it: you’re busy! You get a notification on Slack, and you decide to use the Reminder feature to review in a few hours. Now it’s out of your mind until then. But the person who is requesting the work doesn’t know you’re planning to review it later.

Instead of snoozing on the message and making the sender feel ignored, it’s good practice to tell them you’ve read the message and let them know when you’ll be addressing it. Even if you don’t know the answer, a simple “I’m not sure, but I’ll look into it after my meeting” is likely all that they need. They want to feel heard, and to know their ask won’t be forgotten.

If you are a person of few words, or are extremely busy, another option is to use the ✅reaction. This will let them know you’ve read their message. It isn’t quite as nice as identifying a time frame to respond, but at least they know you are not ignoring them.

2. Use Statuses & the #In-and-out Channel
Slack has introduced the use of a Status feature that allows you to insert a message and add an emoji beside your name to let your team know what you’re up to. Our company also uses an #in_and_out channel. Both of these help to manage expectations, and ensure some transparency when not everyone is in the office.

Not sure how to use your statuses? If you’re on your way to work throw on “🚎  Commuting”. That way, if you’re late, people will know you didn’t just sleep in. You can also use them when stepping out for lunch,  jumping on a client call or when you’re in a meeting. When you use your statuses like this, it lets your team members know WHY you’re not responding.

The use of statuses is even more important if you have any remote staff, both for the people in the office, but also the remote workers. The remote worker can’t get up and look to see if someone is at their desk. They also can’t hear that someone’s on a client call in a nearby room. Additionally, people in the office can’t see whether the remote worker sitting at their desk, or “🐕 Walking the Dog”.

Using statuses is a good way to let everyone know what you’re currently working on, and is a great way to maintain transparency in the office. Still, it is better to use the #in_and_out channel when you’re running late or you’re signing on or off for the day, to ensure your team has been informed actively,  and not just passively. Even if you’re going to be off-site all day, but are still working, it’s helpful for the team to know where you’re at.

3. Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ Feature when Trying to Complete Deep Work
In our previous post, we asked people not to “Slack Bomb”, or @mention someone without a specific request. We also suggested the use of the #in_and_out channel for keeping your team informed. And the use of statuses for transparency and expectation management. Not everyone will follow these tips all the time. So, when you need to stay focused, we suggest using the Snooze function.

Sometimes you gotta do some Deep Work; work that requires concentration, no distractions and some serious time to focus! And the last thing you want while working on this deep work is to be pulled out of the zone by non-urgent Slack messages. Slack includes a Do Not Disturb feature that is active by default so that you don’t receive notifications outside of working hours. But you can turn this on at anytime. You can even snooze your notifications for 20 minutes or an hour while you’re getting some work done.

When you use the Snooze Notifications feature on Slack, it’s best to couple it with a message in the #in_and_out channel, so that your team is aware that you’re heads-down. You can also use a status like “⏰ Working on a Deadline” so people understand WHY you’re ignoring them.

Please note that people can choose to push a notification to you while on Do Not Disturb incase it is urgent.

4. Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately
Constructive criticism and feedback in the office is important. It helps with the growth of your team and bettering the product. But it’s just as important to handle this delicately. A public forum isn’t really the right place for this.

Never criticize someone in a public Slack channel! It’s not just poor Slack Etiquette; public criticism can be disrespectful offline, as well. Feedback and criticism should be done one-on-one. This can be in a private message, over a call, or face-to-face.

Criticizing or giving someone negative feedback in public can feel demeaning. Some people can feel very embarrassed if they’re criticized in a public forum, no matter how good-hearted it was intended to be. It doesn’t just affect that person’s morale; it can also affect the team’s morale to see a team member called out publicly.

On the flip side of this, share the praise publicly! Our company uses HeyTaco🌮 to help promote public praise. We share tacos in a project’s channel or in the #general channel. It’s important to share praise publicly when hyping up your team members. Sometimes a project only requires a small team of 1-2 people, and it’s hard for the rest of the office to appreciate their work when they are not directly involved.  So when you are able to share a team members success with the company, they know they’re appreciated!

5. Know when to Communicate In-Person or Over a Video Call
Slack isn’t ideal for every conversation. A simple rule I’ve gone by to help determine whether something should be communicated over Slack is this:

If a response requires 1 sentence = Slack/Email

If a response requires 3+ sentences = Video Call/Meeting

The more complicated an issue, the better it is to be communicated verbally, either with a call, or walking over to someone’s desk to talk in person.

Additionally, the more sensitive a topic, the better to discuss it offline. For example, one-on-ones or meetings for feedback should be verbal, in person or over a video call.

Finally, if that is all way too much to take in, and you can only remember one thing:

No matter how you communicate with your team, be sure you are communicating mindfully and with empathy!

@mandamwright on all things social!