Slack, Gossip, and the Nerve to Bully
Like many in my industry I read the expose of the Away company’s (now former) CEO’s abusive behavior to her customer support staff. The story wasn’t that shocking, sadly. But what was interesting is that it was a mix of in-person and remote staff, so much of the yelling and humiliation came in written, and highly screenshot-able, form. That is new.
This knife cuts both ways. In my book I mentioned that there is less gossip in group chat than in person, because people won’t type out gossip as they think it is recorded, well because it is. I have found this to be true - people have trouble establishing relationships built on smalltalk over chat - and with this comes a reduction in negative gossip.
But it works in the opposite way as well: would a manager have had the nerve to talk to her employees like this in person? Would she have thrown the company values at them in the same way? At all hours? The tools that allow remote async communication are very similar to the tools that allow for cyberbullying. Your employee can be sitting on the couch after-hours and get a Slack message publicly berating them. They can’t escape that as easily, and they might get one of those messages where in the past the manager wouldn’t have had the nerve to call them.
Every technology has a dark underbelly.