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For better or worse, it makes work life more like digital life, albeit a digital life where you can also smell what everyone else is eating for lunch.
The question is, what does this intrusion do to the delicate diplomacy of office life?
One day last summer, a saleswoman was looking for a conversation she’d had with an account manager, so she typed her own name in Slack’s search bar.
She found a public Slack channel, says Laura (not her real name).
In which case, some explanation: Slack is a workplace messaging app that lets co-workers easily carry on an assortment of group and individual conversations, some private and some public, all organized in a simple user interface; it’s chattier than sending an email, less of a hassle than scheduling a meeting.
It’s also easy to use on your phone — not so different from sending a text — and perhaps because of that ease, or because of the bright Silicon Valley affect it shares with services like Facebook and Instagram (Slack’s headquarters are in San Francisco), it tends to foster a dashed-off, emoji-laced vernacular. Such was the case in Laura’s office, where the salespeople, who are generally more senior, use Slack less than the account managers, who are generally more junior.
These functions aren’t so different from those of previous chat apps, but Slack makes them look good (a friendly interface) and run better (speedy, reliable, with a strong search function).
All of this has earned Slack word-of-mouth enthusiasm, not something generally associated with workplace software.
The fight-or-flight impulse was not particularly useful here: They could make the channel disappear from their own view of Slack, but running away did nothing to delete its history.
“It was eight account managers, and it was pretty much dedicated to just bashing everybody in sales, from the top, top people, all the way down.” Within two hours, word had spread to the entire sales team, which spent a Friday afternoon reading the channel’s history start to finish.
“There was some borderline racist stuff,” she remembers.
Its default color scheme is that of a ’90s mall or movie theater (purple, pink, teal), and if you announce that you’ve completed a task, colleagues can respond with a chorus of custom emoji.
A widely beloved Giphy integration allows users to express themselves via gif.