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Do You Need Slack Etiquette?

March 25, 2021 Collaboration and Productivity
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Slack has become a go-to tool companies use for communication between employees. The San Francisco-based company, started in 2013 and acquired by Salesforce in 2020, offers helpful ways to get work done and build company culture. But misuse can also lead to confusion and frustration. 

With the rise in Slack's popularity, there has been a surge in questions about usage and etiquette. Originally used by startups and fast-moving small firms, the platform is now used by businesses of all kinds as well as consumers and communities to share news and connect with one another. Knowledge of Slack etiquette is essential to keeping teams productive on the platform.

Here is what Slack etiquette is and five tips for how best to use the platform.

Slack Etiquette Defined

Just because you're not in the company office anymore doesn't mean you can throw etiquette and manners out of the window. Just as there's an etiquette to regular, face-to-face communication, you need etiquette for Slack as well. Apart from having multiple channels to communicate different information to different people, it's important make sure that everybody is kind to each other and that they reply to messages as quickly as possible.

But in reality, Slack etiquette is like any other etiquette. Just be mindful of people's time, space and feelings. For Slack specifically, this means not annoying colleagues with unnecessary notifications. Just because you can push notify someone, doesn't mean you should.

Mindfulness is important as well. Provide enough context to your messages and respecting the channel's intent and purposes by staying on topic.

Related Article: Slack Tips for Remote Team Collaboration

Slack Etiquette Tips

1. Send Longer Messages Instead of Multiple Short Ones

One of Slack's main issues is that people use it like Whatsapp or similar SMS platforms and end up sending dozens of short messages that can be easily condensed into a long one. This clutters the channel and results in nobody being able to follow the conversation. Lauri Kinkar, CEO at Finland-based Messente, a messaging and communications company, offers a tip to avoid that.

"Compose a message within one post," he said. "Avoid sending Slack messages as soon as the thought enters your mind. Clarify your message in the shortest way possible so that the reader won't be confused and overwhelmed with a series of messages in a row. Don't forget that your co-workers are busy doing their job, and it will help a lot if you don't distract them with many notifications." 

2. Use Threaded Replies

One important etiquette rule for Slack is to use threaded replies. Not only does this help keep conversations in channels organized, but it will also cut down on unnecessary notifications for those to whom the thread does not apply. In these cases, a good idea is to set up multiple channels and use threads all the time. Create a channel for each department and sub-channels for department-specific tasks, but most importantly, reply to each message and start a thread so information can be followed quickly by other people and that way, you don't clutter the channel with a single conversation.

3. Simplify Conversations Using Emojis

In the same vein as threaded replies, communications can be simplified using emojis. If your company policy is emoji-friendly, another etiquette rule you could implement would be to use emojis for simple approvals.

Rather than replying with a message like "Sounds good," simply click the message you're responding to and add a thumbs up. It's a quick response showing that you saw the message and approved it, but don't need to clutter up the thread with extra messages.

Related Article: Is Your Business Data Safe in Slack and Microsoft Teams?

4. Always Acknowledge Receipt

In communication, silence is not a yes. Not waiting for a response to a message and acting upon it as if you got a positive response is a big no-no. Wait for a reply before taking the next step.

That makes it equally important for the message recipient to acknowledge the message. A quick response even if it's just to let the sender know you've seen the message will put them at ease. 

5. Be Patient

Remember that Slack is not a WhatsApp conversation with your friend or romantic partner. So if someone isn't responding immediately, don't bombard them with reminders and messages. Patience is fundamental to Slack etiquette, said Claire Glisson, director of marketing at Charlottesville, Va.-based Hum, a software platform used by associations.

"Be respectful of time zones," she said. "We have common hours between 9 am - 1 pm EST and we keep open channel communication to a minimum outside of those hours." 

The main drawback of written communication between team members using platforms like Slack is that sometimes things get a tad informal. While informal communication and friendliness aren't bad, a lack of etiquette can be, leading to misunderstandings and arguments that can be avoided simply by following a few simple rules.

Sometimes, sending a long, well-thought message with a few friendly emojis and waiting for a reply, positive or negative, can work wonders for company communication. Just be patient and think twice before you type.

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