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Should a departing manager say goodbye to staffers on Slack?

“I’ve been a manager at a small company that has recently adopted Slack as a communication and project platform. I recently accepted a new opportunity with another company, which I’m excited about. I am wondering, though, about how appropriate it is for me to use Slack to thank everyone I’ve worked with. I do plan to send notes to my boss and the managers I’m closest to, but I would like to thank others who have been part of my time here and at the same time, remind them that I’m leaving. Because Slack is new for us, it’s hard to know what to do. Please advise.”

It is difficult to know what to do – especially when the platform is relatively new – and you’re in the somewhat awkward situation of leaving the team and the company.

But welcome to the world of collaboration software – aimed at improving messaging, teamwork, project management, communications, file sharing, online meetings and working with remote teams.  For a growing number of companies, traditional email is becoming more important for communications with the outside world and tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business have become increasingly popular tools for internal communications, along with other sites like Google Hangouts and Cisco Webex Teams.

Indeed, surveys show that buyer demand for these collaboration tools has jumped from 22 percent in 2014 to 61 percent in 2018, according to Capterra, an online business-to-business company that helps companies find software for their businesses. Slack’s popularity has grown so quickly that the company that owns it is valued at more than $20 billion.

“People love Slack because it establishes a clear boundary between work-related communication and the huge dump of emails you receive from friends, other businesses and your clients,” writes Harsh Vardhan, content marketer on Hiver, a software company based in India and California. He noted that its centralizing communications in one place and ability to handle third-party integrations are also a plus.

With its rapid increase in popularity have come questions about whether Slack actually improves productivity along with complaints that the constant “noise” of Slack channels causing distraction. “Just as open office environments can lead to employees plugging in headphones to tune out their neighbors, some employees opt to mute communication channels to focus on their work,” wrote guest writer Suresh Sambandam in Entrepreneur.

Given the popularity of these tools and not knowing how your end-of-job thank you would be perceived in a general Slack channel, etiquette experts were not in total agreement about how to handle your situation.

Diane Gottsman of San Antonio, Texas, a national expert on etiquette and author of a book “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life: Master All Social and Business Exchanges,” gave the Slack thank you message idea a thumbs down. “I suggest keeping it off Slack and making it personal,” she says.

But etiquette expert Patricia Rossi, a Florida-based author of “Everyday Etiquette: How to Navigate 101 Common and Uncommon Social Situations,” was more positive about it. “We’re moving away from email. If that’s the medium you want to use, it’s fine as long as you’re kind and professional,” she says. “I would just keep it brief and be gracious.”

She also suggested providing a forwarding email address for anyone who wants to keep in touch.

Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette and communications expert and author of a book, “The Communications Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes,” commended you for taking the time to send individual notes to people that you’re closest to. “You’re on the right track. The variable is how close you are to people,” she says. “The good news is that you’re thanking people and you don’t want to burn your bridges. That’s really important.”

She said she thinks that Slack seems a little less personal than email. “But for younger people who use it all the time, maybe it’s not.”  She said her first instinct would be to send the same message of thanks to everyone but on email, not on Slack.

Pachter said she coached a woman who wrote a message to her colleagues like this: “I wanted to reach out to everyone to share some news. This Friday will be my last day. Over the past year, you have provided me with the opportunity to grow, have challenged and supported me and helped me to become a better account supervisor. I am grateful and couldn’t leave without expressing my appreciation for your many kindnesses. I have enjoyed working with all of you. Although I am sad to leave, I will be moving on to a new opportunity to continue my career development. I hope to have a chance to see everyone to say goodbye in person.”

Letting people know and thanking them are two of the four key actions Pachter recommends when leaving a job. Others are not burning your bridges and doing what you can to make the transition easy for your replacement. Not burning your bridges is key, she says.

“No matter how long you have fantasized about telling your boss off—don’t do it,” Pachter writes in her blog. “You may feel wonderful for 10 seconds, but later, you’ll probably feel bad about it. And the only thing you have accomplished is that you have lost a reference. That also means no posting of nasty comments on Facebook.”

With the popularity of Slack comes yet another set of communications issues to think about at work. In his blog, Vardhan offered a few additional tips for the newcomer:

Don’t treat Slack like email.  “It is OK when you star an email to work on later. It is not okay on Slack,” he says. “The idea behind Slack was to overcome the shortcomings of email for internal communication. Taking your email habits to Slack defeats the entire purpose.”

Understand the communications style first. “Do not start talking the moment you are added to a new channel,” Vardhan says. “Spend some time going through older messages to get a clear sense of what is acceptable in the group.”

Don’t use emojis like you would on Snapchat. “While emojis have gained some acceptance in professional settings, you have to be careful not to look unprofessional.”

Keep “slacking” to a minimum on nights and weekends. “With Slack’s notifications and pings across devices, it’s a good idea to wait until the morning of the next working day.”

Remember that Slack does not replace face-to-face communications. “No matter how comfortable you become on Slack, you cannot discuss everything there. It can never replace the face-to-face interaction where people always connect better.”

Managers at Work is a monthly column exploring the issues and challenges facing managers. Contact Kathleen Driscoll with questions or comments by phone at (585)249-9295 or by e-mail at kadriscoll@aol.com.

About Kathleen Driscoll