Work It Out

The 6 worst types of Slack users—and how to tell if you're one of them

Darby S. | Twenty20

Slack has come a long way since it was officially launched 2014. Today, the messaging app is used by many companies as a way for co-workers to instantly reach each other via online and chat. But as a team collaboration tool, it comes with a whole new set of edicts that have yet to be laid out.

From gossipy coworkers to misinterpreted messages or jokes that fall flat, communication on Slack can be strife with miscues and potential landmines.

Here's a breakdown of the most frustrating and awkward situations Slack can present, along with solutions from experts.

1. The Slack Stalker

This person immediately follows one mode of communication with another. They might reply to your email with a direct message (DM) on Slack or consistently @mention you directly in a public channel to get your attention. The Slack Stalker always expects an immediate answer, and they'll keep bugging you until they get one.

How to handle: If you can't respond, acknowledge their message by giving them a time frame in which they can expect to hear back, communication technology expert Erika Hall tells CNBC Make It. She's the author of "Conversational Design" and works with companies like Slack to design user interfaces.

What to say:

  • SlackStalker: @You Did you see my email?
  • SlackStalker: @You ...
  • SlackStalker: @You Hello?
  • You: Hi, I got your email. I'm in a meeting, but I'll get back to you in about an hour.

If you're the Slack Stalker: Limit your follow-ups after your initial message. It's okay to follow-up once (by asking a related question) to remind them, but do it a second or third time, and you'll come off as impatient and annoying.

2. The Passive Aggressive Slacker

This person's comments always seems aggressive or insulting enough to bother you, but aren't outwardly offensive.

How to handle: First, consider whether your co-worker is a passive aggressive person in general, or they just play one on Slack, modern etiquette expert Diane Gottsman tells CNBC Make It.

"If you've given them the benefit of the doubt, but continue to be bothered by their pattern of communication, it may be best to address in person," she says. "Chances are good they're just stressed about a big project or issue and are unaware of how they're coming across to others." This also lets them know that their behavior is getting some negative attention.

What to say: "Taylor, I wanted to check in and see how things are going. Your communication demeanor lately feels curt, which is unlike you. Is there something on your mind?"

If you're the Passive Aggressive Slacker: It's easy to misinterpret tone or connotation without nonverbal cues. Hall suggests taking a second to reconsider how your communication habits on Slack might appear to others, or try and imagine it the other way around (a.k.a. if you were dealing with a Passive Aggressive Slacker.

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3. The Off Topic Slacker

This person posts cat videos, memes and amusing work-life articles in every channel except the appropriate ones, like #random, #watercooler or #OT (off topic).

How to handle: When addressing someone else's behavior, remember the golden rule of leadership: Praise publicly and correct behavior privately. Gottsman recommends messaging them directly.

What to say: "Hi, while we all appreciate the needed levity in the workday, I wonder if you'd consider dialing back the off-topic dialogue to the Watercooler channel?"

If you're the Off Topic Slacker: Remember, Slack is meant to streamline communication, not to add an ongoing stream of unnecessary chatter to everyone else. While it's clear that you only want to build relationships with your colleagues and not things too seriously, do it within reason. Check yourself every once in a while, and if in doubt, post it in #Watercooler.

4. The Midnight Slacker

This person works after hours frequently posts updates and messages after work hours. Those around-the-clock updates make everyone feel on call for fear of missing something or make them feel they should be working after hours, too.

How to handle: Set your notifications to "Do Not Disturb" during off-hours and set your boundary, advises Hall. "We should feel comfortable asking for something and saying when we need it. That's what Slack is for. But giving people clarity makes it easier for everybody."

What to say:

  • MidnightSlacker: Just a quick reminder: I need your report soon as possible.
  • You: Thanks for the reminder. I plan to send it in the morning when I finish.
  • MidnightSlacker: If you're already online tonight, can you shoot it over to me now?
  • You: Actually, I'm just responding to Slack on my phone. I won't be able to work on it tonight, but I'll have it to you first thing in the morning.

If you're the Midnight Slacker: Keep your channel and mentions to a minimum. If you have an urgent channel-wide message to share, use the "@here" tag to grab the attention of your team members in the channel. If it's not urgent, preface your message with "Read when you get back to the office…"

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5. The Beat Around the Bush Slacker

This person is notorious for sending day greetings ("good morning!" or "good afternoon!") to you and wait for a response. Only until you've responded do they dive into the topic of conversation. You wish they'd just cut to the chase and make the ask right upfront.

How to handle: "People contact and communicate with you the way they feel most comfortable, so if somebody does it differently, know that they're not intentionally trying to annoy you," says Hall. "I think there's a sense that everybody should just know these things, but they don't. If we came from a place of compassion and just admitted that communicating effectively is hard, then I think we'd realize we're doing the best we can."

If you're the Slacker Who Beats Around the Bush: Instead of tiptoeing into a conversation, try asking "Is this a good time? I have a question for you whenever you get a second."

6. The Irish Goodbye Slacker

One minute you're collaborating with this person, sharing updates and information, and the next minute you're talking to yourself and don't get a response. Was it something you said, or did this person just give you the Irish Goodbye?

How to handle: A friendly @mention is appropriate since they've essentially left you (or an entire group channel) waiting. They'll likely get the hint. And don't be afraid to be direct. Off Slack, you can also let them know it's confusing when he or she leaves the chat without notification.

What to say:

  • You: @Jason, are you still there? Was hoping to wrap this up.

If you're the Irish Goodbye Slacker: Be sure to announce when you're leaving an active conversation. It just takes a second to say you're stepping away, and it's more effective than just setting your status as "Away."

Shelby Skrhak is a Dallas-based writer and host of "The Secret to My Success" podcast. Before her freelance career, Shelby lead digital content and social media efforts for SUCCESS magazine for 12 years. Follow her on Twitter at @ShelbySkrhak.

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