The Secret to Better Slacking Is a Feature That Everyone Hates
Slack, the workplace chat app that dominates office culture at hundreds of thousands of organizations, embodies Atari founder Nolan Bushnell’s famous principle of game design: easy to learn, hard to master. That’s fitting, since it was originally built as part of a game called Glitch.
But if Slack is a game, it isn’t the kind that an individual can win. It’s fundamentally collaborative, and success is defined by group objectives like productive communication, respectful interactions, and the collective construction of an online office culture that people want to be a part of. You can “win the internet” with a viral joke or stunt, but you can’t win Slack by piling up killer ideas or one-liners. If anything, dominating the conversation is a way to lose Slack: It can intimidate, alienate, or just plain annoy your colleagues. Slack is won, if at all, by an accumulation of good ideas, helpful comments, polite practices, and small kindnesses — and, sure, good-natured wisecracks, if that’s your thing.
A central problem of Slack, then, is how to balance the goals of free-flowing ideas and a casual atmosphere with the goals of respect, inclusion, and, you know, getting some actual work done. Fortunately, there are some tips for how to do this that are relatively uncontroversial, along with one that is highly controversial, at least in the workplaces I’ve been a part of.
Slack is won, if at all, by an accumulation of good ideas, helpful comments, polite practices, and small kindnesses.
First, the less controversial tips.
If you’re inclined toward verbosity, take a second before each Slack to ask yourself whether you’re the person best positioned to make the point you want to make. If not, consider holding back at least briefly and creating the space for someone else to jump in. This is especially important for men, who research shows are on average more inclined to speak…