How to shoot your best performers in the head

Do you use Slack? Great, it’s a terrific tool that makes organizational communication 10x more productive, keeping knowledge and discussion all in one place, integrating with a ton of useful applications and overall boosting productivity, if it is used right. Yet, it could be a tool that completely ruins your work and your people. This a public service announcement, meant to stop this communication cancer from spreading around otherwise perfectly functional organizations.

A friend of mine lost his job this morning because he was not “actively participating” with his remote team, which translates in not spending enough time on Slack. Literally, he was told that he needed to be more active; he wasn't talking enough.

It sounds crazy, but I have seen and heard of too many people in the last year with similar stories - pressure from bosses to “stay connected,” and it is ridiculous.

Some people are communicators, and some jobs require to be ever present. If you are a sales person, or a customer support person, or a project manager even, then your jobs are all about communications. You need to stay connected to and to support your people. Same goes for CEO, CTO, and Chief-something. By an extension, your jobs are not functional, but rather support jobs where you help your employees to be successful.

Slack might be a great tool for support, or might not be. Helping people do great work, whether your employees or your customers, doesn't mean checking on their progress, or interrupting them with meaningless emojis and gifs. Helping people means understanding their struggle, and enabling them to be more effective. It starts by talking to them, using the medium most comfortable for them.

For doers - developers, designers, creative people, Slack is the biggest hindrance to work imaginable. To be productive, to add value, creative people need to disconnect from the world and to focus with utmost intensity on the problems they are solving. For some that means a quiet room room, for others a loud coffee shop, yet for others it’s a beach and a surfboard. All creatives know this, understand this, and respect this constraint.

Yet, when bosses come from the world of communicators and expect the whole team to do the same, problems arise. Both parties get really frustrated and no work gets done. The communicators think they are “working” because they are talking on Slack all the time, but the “doers” are not able to get anything done because they are being constantly distracted. Ask any developer and they tell you that good code comes from thinking, iterating, and trying, which is only possible with enough concentration. When one's time is being constantly diverted away from work and towards chatter, the best hours of work die in the process and everyone is unhappy.

I am not saying everyone is a bad actor, and there are a TON of companies out there which recognize the value of both sides and work tirelessly to meet in the middle, and yet too many companies fail to do a good job. I’d encourage you to reconsider where you stand with Slack and to have an open discussion in your company on whether you’re doing the best for yourself and your customers.

P.s. I have not had time to edit this post, but someone getting fired over Slack really got my blood boiling. More organized thoughts to come. This is important! Follow me @kirillzubovsky and if you know someone who can relate to this post, please send a link to them.