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No one is talking about the biggest problem with Slack

By Quartz

When it comes to online harassment protection, Slack is slacking offRead full story

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  • Georgia  Frances King
    Georgia Frances KingIdeas Editor at Quartz

    When it comes to online harassment protection, Slack is slacking off.

    "Slack does not have the functionality for a user to mute or block anyone. In fact, the company views this kind of design utility as not productive and doesn’t think it makes sense."

    That means when someone is making your life at work uncomfortable—nonetheless downright terrible—you have no way to protect yourself. You can't simply stop using the tool without causing havoc in your teams. This leaves us at in impasse where the trolls will always win.

  • Mike Osswald
    Mike OsswaldExperience Innovator

    Wow, I always assumed the biggest problem with Slack is the useless threaded messaging. Turns out it might be creepy coworkers, or more likely creepy public Slack community members.

    But Slack paid plans have message retention policies, so the coworker is probably in for a surprise. And there are platforms like Wiretap that can scan Slack for harassment and other undesired conversations.

  • This is not such a clear cut issue. Slack for most teams/offices is as fundamental as email (more so in our company). Blocking a colleague could cause issues with work deliverables and performance for the person who did the blocking. As uncomfortable as it might be, having to involve the boss or HR is probably the right thing to do most of the time. That said, a block feature for direct messages at least wouldn’t be hard to implement.

  • I had not considered this problem with workplace communication tools, but it's a great point. Arguably, employees have more options for protecting themselves from harassment in a physical work environment than in a digital one like Slack. And a corporation has greater ability to enforce rules within systems it controls than on a platform that sets its own rules.

  • Anthony Duignan-Cabrera
    Anthony Duignan-CabreraCEO at ADC Strategy

    Wait. This isn't a platform problem. It's an HR issue. Chiding a business productivity tool for not having a mute button seems to miss the point that the larger issue in the example given is the harassment. Call me crazy, but what if this guy's overtures were being sent via email? Blocking email is now a universal part of most email platforms. But wouldn't you first forward the emails to your supervisor? Your HR partner? Your lawyer? Just as you would an unwanted Slack message? No, Slack isn't social

    Wait. This isn't a platform problem. It's an HR issue. Chiding a business productivity tool for not having a mute button seems to miss the point that the larger issue in the example given is the harassment. Call me crazy, but what if this guy's overtures were being sent via email? Blocking email is now a universal part of most email platforms. But wouldn't you first forward the emails to your supervisor? Your HR partner? Your lawyer? Just as you would an unwanted Slack message? No, Slack isn't social media, it's a productivity tool. The management and safety of employees is another department.

  • James Cakmak
    James CakmakEntrepreneur | Tech Analyst

    I get where they are going with this, fair points made. But curious why there’s so much negativity toward Slack as of late? Particularly criticism around productivity. I use it daily and cannot go back to email after Slack. Every service can be refined and Slack should always demand and recognize feedback, but it’s interesting to see how such a successful start-up that’s easily surpassed unicorn status gets so much criticism.

  • I don’t see it as a flaw in #slack, instead, it’s a work ethics matter and it should be addressed with HR

  • The fine art of missing the point: while you can have a tool built for collaboration, it should enable you the opportunity to focus on what matters and tune out of what doesn't. It's a simple productivity hack.

    In a corporate environment one is pulled into several teams and channels, not all of the content will carry equal weight.

    Email allows you to block a sender or automatically move messages to spam or other folders.

    Microsoft Teams allows you to mute conversations or whole teams and channels..

    The fine art of missing the point: while you can have a tool built for collaboration, it should enable you the opportunity to focus on what matters and tune out of what doesn't. It's a simple productivity hack.

    In a corporate environment one is pulled into several teams and channels, not all of the content will carry equal weight.

    Email allows you to block a sender or automatically move messages to spam or other folders.

    Microsoft Teams allows you to mute conversations or whole teams and channels...

    But ultimately on harassment - it's not a product feature that's missing here, it's an organization's policy and leadership backing it up with action and not words.

  • Adèle Salin-Cantegrel
    Adèle Salin-CantegrelFounder at scikoop

    With a CEO bragging about how his product is so good that it is bound to replace emails, it comes with no surprise that it is now open season for Slack.

  • Maggie Chan Jones
    Maggie Chan JonesproFounder & CEO at Tenshey, Inc.

    I can see why Slack doesn’t see a block/mute feature being productive when the tool is for collaboration. But, I could see corporate companies demanding it given potential risks of harassment shared in the article. No one should feel uncomfortable in the workplace.

  • Joanne Herzog
    Joanne HerzogBusiness Systems Analyst

    Blocking teammates is like tipping over the 1st domino, unleashing a whole host of issues. Yet the premise that the workplace environment offers other avenues of protection from harassment besides blocking is suspect--particularly for remote/contract workers.

  • Dilip John
    Dilip JohnOwner at Apple's Heart Corporation

    Wow, and just about to do their IPO.

  • Weiyee IN
    Weiyee INChief Strategy Officer

    The challenge with free solutions that do not have any records much less anything that can serve as an audit trail is that they are easily prone to misuse or abuse. Although Slack isn't a social media, as a technology vendor, it is important in the software development cycle to consider technology ethics and look at as many of the possible ways that technology can be abused as possible. It is a fundamental product and corporate responsibility.

  • Spiro Pappadopoulos
    Spiro PappadopoulosCEO at Schlow Restaurant Group

    Wouldn't this be the purvue of the HR department, if slack is blocked will the harraser just stop? It's a communication device not a HR enforcer. We should not be looking to slack for that.

  • Jon Michael Ossola
    Jon Michael OssolaWeb developer

    Honestly, I think that we should learn to address these situations as well.

    I wonder if it is not good for women to learn to say and tell co workers when they feel uncomfortable. I feel like that should be the first communication to happen.

    But Slack should definitely change this.

  • Matt Taylor
    Matt TaylorDigital Product at The Times

    Slack allows you to mute a channel, or a multi-person DM, but it has no way of muting a single user's direct messages to you. They'll be prioritised as highly as anything else and there's no way to stop that.

    This + no moderation tools. 😑

    It's not just persistent coworkers, it's inappropriate jokes and culture clash in public channels too, with no way for offended employees to call out the behaviour anonymously.

    So many communities online have jumped on Slack instead of a chat tool like Discord

    Slack allows you to mute a channel, or a multi-person DM, but it has no way of muting a single user's direct messages to you. They'll be prioritised as highly as anything else and there's no way to stop that.

    This + no moderation tools. 😑

    It's not just persistent coworkers, it's inappropriate jokes and culture clash in public channels too, with no way for offended employees to call out the behaviour anonymously.

    So many communities online have jumped on Slack instead of a chat tool like Discord or Spectrum more focused on moderation. The gain of everyone already using Slack at work is surely outweighed by the fact that you can't join these communities without trusting everyone like a coworker.

    Slack expects any problem to be solved offline, it's just not good enough.

  • Steven Rodas
    Steven RodasReporter at machineByte

    There’s a difference between being confronted by and professionally dealing with ‘tough conversations’ and someone whose being a nuisance. Something tells me the latter is a symptom of other non-Slack related work practices, which would empower people to abuse this lack of option.

  • C Hardaker
    C HardakerHead of Producr at YEAY

    Surely creepy coworkers using a company tool to harass is simply an HR issue? A simple visit from the HR manager and done. Without this, there is no escalation process.

  • Lame defense that blocking would impact teamwork. We’ve learned nothing.

  • This

  • Silvia Bassi
    Silvia BassiPublisher at Íon 89

    Welcome to the real world Slack. Quando o mundo real dá as caras

  • Ashley Chiampo
    Ashley Chiampo

    Blocking a colleague is a passive way of addressing the issue of harassment - and doesn't solve the problem.

    Without blocking, the victim has to go to HR and have it dealt with properly.

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