Outstanding or Obnoxious? How do you chat online?

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As a self-employed contractor working my way through the world, I’ve been added to at least fifteen different Slack teams, two Yammer groups and one Microsoft Team. Even if you work a 9 to 5 in one office, you might have many channels within the same team. Chat etiquette used to be remembering someone’s name and removing off-colour jokes from your vernacular. Now, it’s about avoiding notifications and worrying about whether your tone of voice was understood by . Here are some of my top pet peeves, and how to avoid them.No Hello

This first one is so universal; someone has made an entire webpage dedicated to this phenomenon. In fact, I’ve seen some people update their status and various profile bio links to nohello.com. In short, chatting online is not the same as chatting in real life. You don’t need to greet the person (Hi, hello, hi there), and often the notification that I receive once you have done so, may mean that I then sit around for a few minutes while you type the actual request. Just ask for what you need. If you can’t bring yourself to do this, then keep it in the same line, like this:

Hi – if you’re not busy, I was wondering if…

Save your Enter key

Which brings us to the overuse of the Enter key. It might feel that a large paragraph is a bit much, and so some people hit the Enter key

at the end of

each sentence.

And sometimes not even at

the end!

Depending on how you have set up your notifications, you might get a ‘ping!’ or some other such noise for every single one of those lines. Gather your thoughts, and coherently post one paragraph – your colleagues will love you for it.

Do you know where you are?

With most chat systems, someone will have attempted to set up some kind of structure. Perhaps there are channels for different projects, or for different departments. Make sure you use the right channel for the right task. If you aren’t sure, check in with someone (preferably offline, or in a direct or private message). It will mean that your request gets actioned quicker and you stand less chance of annoying that entire team that sits across the corridor on Level 3.

Or, who you are?

Most chat systems come with some version of a personal avatar or picture. If your chat system added the whole office at once, you might be faced with a sea of generic logos. Worst yet, photos of people’s cats or their kids. Save the cutesy avatars for your personal social media, a nice clean headshot might mean that you get that nod of acknowledgement in the kitchen when you bump into the CEO next week. This goes for the name too. If your company has allowed you to choose your name on the system, just use your name, okay sport?

Learn the lingo

Every chat system will have its own way of notifying other users and its own etiquette. If you are new to the chat system or new to the company, take a few moments to learn what it is. For example, in Slack, there is a difference between using @here and @channel. The @here before a message means you will notify everyone in that channel, that is currently active, but the @channel will send a message to everyone on that channel…active or not.

Be Direct…

Which neatly segues into this point. In most chat systems, you can direct your message to someone, while still talking in the private channel. The online equivalent of facing someone in a crowded room, using their name and addressing them directly. Think of it as being the conference speaker who is answering a question to the member of the audience. The rest of the audience can hear and take it in, but they didn’t get that prickly sensation from hearing their name being called out. In a busy chat channel, sometimes being direct will mean that your messages get through while ensuring team transparency over the work at hand.

…But not too direct

Sometimes I get a message, and then I get five more. “Did you get this?” “Hello?” “Are you there?”. Just because most chat systems are real-time and you can see that they are active, does not mean they have to reply to you straight away. If your message is time-sensitive, perhaps use the word URGENT, or just pick up an old-fashioned phone.

If you can’t say something nice…

Sometimes being online means that the nuance of a real-life contact is missing. This could simply mean that your tone is misunderstood, or not conveyed through being written, and your colleagues feel hurt as a result. Worst yet, some people feel that they can be blunter or ruder online that they would be in real life. We all make mistakes, but being mean online just makes for an unpleasant work environment.

, or

Sometimes knowing just the right emoji to reply with can be tricky. If you’re new to a company, it’s a good idea to take your cue from what has happened before. Some companies encourage a more formal feel, and some are all about the gifs!

Replying with a simple emoji can often just acknowledge that you received the message and that there was no further reply required.

Have you got any other pet peeves of your own? Please share them with us.

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About

Vivian is a tech strategist and feminist social justice warrior.

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