Slack Laughter Is Becoming a Problem

What to do when your co-workers aren’t laughing with you or at you but around you

Lauren Larson
Forge
Published in
4 min readJan 9, 2020

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Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Is there any sound more anxiety-inducing than the ding of the seatbelt sign on a plane? The brief click that happens before your alarm clock’s soothing piano starts to play? The sound of the person behind you in a movie theater wetly chewing a banana?

None of those sounds compare to the total horror of several co-workers simultaneously bursting into laughter over something on their computers that you can’t see. Slackter. Slack is a useful workplace instant messaging platform, but for anyone with social anxiety, it’s a digital prison: 90% of the conversations that happen on Slack are worthless, but you can’t log off, lest you miss the essential 10%.

You look through every Slack group you’re in to see if perhaps you were included in the in-joke. You weren’t. You consider the factors that might unite the laughers: Are they working on the same project together? Are they in a fantasy football league? No, they’re not. Nothing unites them — you didn’t even know those three people were friends. There is, you realize, a 100% chance that they have a private Slack group devoted to making fun of you. They hate you. You’re going to be fired tomorrow, and everyone knows it.

Late last year, when The Verge published a story investigating the stressful culture at Away, we saw how Slack inclusivity can be taken too far: At Away, former CEO Steph Korey was using Slack to publicly reprimand staffers, embarrassing them. Korey had also taken steps to prohibit employees from starting private Slack channels, nixing a channel including largely LGBTQ employees or employees of color. Korey’s Slack use was the worst expression of inclusivity: She wanted conversations that are usually private — for good reason — to be public. But the private Slack channels she objected to were the best expression of exclusivity: a safe, casual space for marginalized employees to vent.

That’s not the kind of Slack clique I’m talking about.

A 2017 post on Slack’s blog addresses how feeling left out at work can affect your job but curiously avoids discussing the role of Slack in workplace ostracism. One interviewee lived my work nightmare: She…

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Lauren Larson
Forge
Writer for

Gossip-at-large. Writing in GQ, Men’s Health, Allure, Bon Appétit, here, there, everywhere