Slack is the opposite of organizational memory

I stumbled across this article today and it really fits my experiences with Slack:

Someone in my organization thought it would be a good idea to implement Slack and I hated every minute.

First, the application is horrible. It feels like a badly coded webpage. Search is completely broken and illogical and at least at my organization, the chat was full of irrelevant noise and people constantly “introducing” themselves as they were added (even weeks after the channel launched).

For me, it is like an inefficient form of email. I much prefer asynchronous communication so I can check communications when I have finished other work. The expectation I found from my colleagues is that I should respond to Slack messages at any time. On a couple of occasions people even called me asking if I’d seen their Slack messages (I didn’t leave it open as I hate distractions).

I had enough and deleted the app. I do not need another social app in my life and this was one of the worst for interrupting productive focus. All this happened at the start of last year, not recently. A month later the channel was closed because so many people dropped out from the organization. All I heard were complaints from people of it bothering them and making more work and distraction.

Have others had a similar experience with Slack?


Amen!! I’ve made the same observations many times to others. While Slack may have its use case for some, I found it to be a horrible productivity sink and reinforcing of very bad habits. Slack can be one of those programs that gives the impression that one is being productive when in reality one is wasting an incredible amount of time, not to mention the loss of focus.


My last company used email as instant messaging. My solution was the same as yours. I didn’t leave it open.


Slack allowed my team to continue working as a team (from home instead of in the office) when the pandemic started. I’m very grateful for that!

We’re still using it today, to work in a hybrid way (partially in the office, partially at home).


Good grief, dude’s got some issues with Slack. I’ve been working fully remote since 2016, and Slack is how we keep connected. I think a lot of the authors issues stem more from company culture than an individual tool. For us, it’s not a big deal at all if one of us is unavailable for a few hours because we know that writing code and developing applications is a creative work that requires deep concentration. Communication is, mostly, asynchronous.

Any chat program would work for us. And when we need to get something done, we just quit Slack. Start it again when we want to see what’s going on.


Yeah, that was my biggest take-away from the post. There are plenty of reasons to hate on the tools, but ultimately it’s the corporate culture and behaviours your manager(s) both display and encourage that make the tool powerful or dreadful. It is also incredibly role dependent.

As a software developer, being constantly connected is a huge burdon. But if you’re in the same space but performing a customer/application support role, it’s invaluable, though not an excuse to slack on documentation and good design.

My company uses MS Teams. While I find it to be a pretty terrible app, it didn’t really change people’s behaviours compared to when we were more email-centric. All the gripes the author listed were present then as well. Expectation of constant connectivity, poorly worded messages, irrelevant content blasted to large audiences.

Tools can be good or bad, but really makes the difference is the people around them.


Slack and Teams allow me to work in semi-realtime with distributed teams. As collaboration tools they have become invaluable. Unlike my inbox, they are also blessedly free of vendors who, “…just know that I have the product that will solve all of your cybersecurity problems and why oh why won’t I respond to me?”

In IT where I work we use Slack more as a discussion forum like Discord without any expectation to immediately reply.

When an outage or other situation occurs it has proven invaluable for coordination and information sharing.

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Well, there’s your problem. If your company insists on treating an asynchronous communication tool as synchronous, the experience is going to suck.

What’s needed for Slack (and all asynchronous communication methods) are some shared expectations of how quickly to respond. For example, when Shawn Blanc was talking about Slack in a recent MPU episode he said that their expectation was a response within four hours, during the workday. So employees really only need to check Slack twice a day.


The expectation of an immediate reply from the chat tool and constant notifications can be a problem, but both are easily solved. Turn off all notifications (or all except ones where your @name is mentioned). Also only check Slack a few times a day. The send-later function is also helpful. If I compose and send a message at 2 am when I get home from work, it doesn’t get delivered until 9 am the next business day.

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I haven’t been a Slack user for long, but do now. My business runs on Slack as it is the glue that pulls everything together. Encrypted file storage connected to Slack? Yes. Collaboration? Yep. Workflow automation? That too.

As a small shop it’s a real differentiator for me because I don’t have the resources to hire a big staff the way that my competitors do. I get where @Rob_Polding is coming from though. If I wasn’t doing this myself I don’t think I would feel the same.

I implemented Slack in a few organizations, one of which I led. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, but I had to work hard (I’m sure at times unsuccessfully) to ensure it was used correctly (asynchronously, not for emergencies, etc.). It helped my organization by a hybrid one and ensured my people got the information they needed when they needed it.


100% this. My company uses Teams and there are some people who use it ‘badly’. The worst is those who send an email, then a Teams message saying “have you read my email” about 30 seconds later, and if I don’t respond within a couple of minutes, I get a phone call!

The only one I will (mostly) always deal with straight away is the phone call because most people know that a phone call (to me at least) is something that conveys urgency (unless pre-arranged, of course).

I am part of a team of 6 people. On a daily basis, if those who have an office are in said office, we are in 4 different locations. When the lockdowns hit, most of the rest of the company discovered Teams and were all excited about it. We’d been “working remotely” for many years. So many, in fact, that Teams is the fourth different company provided technology we have used.

And in this sentiment from @ACautionaryTale is the secret to efficient use of Teams/Slack/etc… teams, or more usefully, streams. Just within my team we have a whole-of-team chat, one for programming matters (which only half of the team use), and we spin up additional ones for particular projects or significant tasks we’re working on. Additionally, there are cross-team, task-specific chats and channels.

Then we have the one-to-one chats, for those things a co-located team might deal with by wandering over to another’s desk and having a chat. These most often centre around the team member’s particular skillset.

A good segregation approach and a clear understanding of what each channel/chat is for are crucial to reducing noise.


I used it about 6 or 7 years ago. It worked great for a smallish team with an agreed comms strategy (7 of us), but as soon as we tried to grow it into other areas of the business it felt more like a hosepipe. I made an assumption that other would use it like we did. Big mistake.

We used MS Teams at my previous employer (about 150 people) and it worked really well. People knew that they weren’t expected to answer immediately, and that if you needed an answer immediately then you called.

Your description above sounds like a failure in implementation of setting standards, either how it should be used and/or to give people the ability to use it in their own way.

Tools are just tools (even comms tools) it’s how they’re used which makes a difference.

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It is true that how we use a tool makes a difference. But, our tools are not neutral objects. Their design affects how we use them just as communication mediums affect how we think and learn. As Neil Postman (author of Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), Conscientious Objections (1988), Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992), The Disappearance of Childhood (1982) and The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, points out:

the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television. If all of this sounds suspiciously like Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism, the medium is the message, I will not disavow the association … I found intimations of the idea that forms of media favor particular kinds of content and therefore are capable of taking command of a culture … Each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility … And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture. (Neil Postman. 2006. Amusing Ourselves to Death. Penguin Books.)

Our communication tools shape and steer conversation and in doing so not only affect our productivity, but also the meanings we glean from our communication. I would suggest that asynchronous versus synchronous communication affects not just our productivity, and how we use our time, but the quality of our thinking, and the quality of our productivity, not merely the efficiency of it.


That article is ancient, the guy’s complaining about Slack from 2014-2016 and who’s using Slack for “organizational memory”?

Not everything is for you and that’s okay, but it sounds more like you had a really poor implementation. You’re lucky though, opting out of Slack at most places would get ya the 'ol Southwest “Buh-Bye!” as the door hit ya on the way out.

Today’s Slack search can be pretty good; you can search by person, by channel, by time period (after, on, before, during) by link or rating, filter out by term… There’s a whole lot of goodness in there and Slack captures and exposes a lot of really hard to get at information; I learn a tremendous amount from my peers this way.

And if we’re talking inefficient, yeah, that would be email. Who enjoys seeing FWD:RE:RE:RE:RE: in their inbox with the base message repeated again and again (threading does not entirely solve this)? Or emails with lots of back and forth because they just need a little clarfication. Slack wins hands down.

I find sending reminders/action items is much better received on Slack than email, it’s more conversational, less formal.

Did you ever set a status? I set a status when busy and if someone chirps, I’ll jokingly ask if they noticed that big red dot when they sent the message. Same for PTO- love the palm trees.

Did you try muting any channels? You get all the benefits of ignoring them without the “Artisan has left the channel” tattle-taling Slack likes to do.

Slack for me is asynchronous and I’m delighted to relegate email to the background more and more.

I think if you had the right guard rails in place, you might like it. Then you could join me in complaining about the real problem with Slack- people who just can’t seem to reply-in-thread. Now that’s annoying :wink:

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