Your team’s Slack account has many of the same psychic qualities as a physical office. Some conversations take place “out the open,” in public channels. Others happen “behind closed doors,” in private channels or DMs.
In an office, rampant closed-door sessions, filled with complaints about folks not in the room, breed a culture of distrust and alienation. The same toxic cycle plays out in Slack when grievances are aired privately, out of view from the implicated party.
When closed-door Slack sessions get negative, the impact is more insidious than in an office. In real life, if two people walk into a room and close the door, you know that it’s happening. In Slack, you don’t know about private conversations when you’re not included. Consequently, a suspicion that people are talking behind your back can escalate into paranoia.
As a manager, I love to use Slack to talk to my team. It is especially handy for remote teams and open layout office spaces where private conversations are harder to come by. One-on-one interactions are critical for building deeper connections with coworkers, and Slack facilitates this.
Sometimes one member of my remote team complains to me about another member via Slack DM. And that’s expected and ok. It helps to talk through problems before going directly to the person involved.
But I’ve realized that conversations like this should be rerouted as quickly as possible to a Slack conversation that includes all the people involved. It’s better to talk through the dispute together, without me as a proxy. Sometimes I include another team member in the multi-person DM to serve as a buffer. This makes the interaction feel less like a confrontation. I’ve found this to be an efficient way to get to solutions while keeping the trust level high.
It’s usually best for hard conversations to take place in person. But when this isn’t possible, the same principle applies to Slack.