Design

You asked: Going incommunicado 101

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Editor’s note: This is the first post in our new advice column. Have a question? Ask it here—it’s completely anonymous.

Pinging in the morning, pinging in the evening, pinging at suppertime…

I’ve been getting pinged on Slack by a certain coworker after work hours. It’s sort of happened gradually—first right around the end of the day, then 7pm, then 9pm, then Sunday night at 8pm. It’s happening more and more frequently, and later. I may have made things worse by replying to her messages those first several times, but now I don’t.

Should I confront her about it? Should I tell my boss or HR person?
–Feeling Attacked on Slack in Chicago

As if our phones don’t ring enough: It’s Sunday night, you’re Netflixin’ on the couch, petting the dog, and eating some pizza… when your phone dings. Shirley wants to know if you’ve had a chance to look over the TPS report she sent you late last night.

We’re conditioned to answer our phones stat. After all, many a breakup could have been prevented with more timely text messaging habits.

But, this time: stay away.

You’re right. You messed up when you answered the first few times—but now you have a chance to fix it. Next time you get a late-night hit-me-up from your not-too-busy coworker, tell it like it is:

Hey, I’m sorry, but I close the computer at YY PM. Let’s talk about this tomorrow.

And then you’re off the hook.

Your use of Slack leads me to believe that you’re not a doctor or policeman, and you’re probably not POTUS either—so chances are that whatever Shirley wants can wait.

So you’ll let her wait.

“You don’t have to make yourself so accessible.”

If stating your boundaries doesn’t work the first time, don’t be afraid to be more explicit. Let Shirley know nicely that you work from XX – YY, and you would appreciate reserving work talk for those hours.

Related: Designing the perfect work-life balance

And if that doesn’t work, and you find yourself checking your phone at the wine bar to see what comments Shirley left in the sprint summary doc, then you have to check yourselfbecause the problem seems to be, quite literally, in your hands.

I don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but: you don’t have to carry Slack with you everywhere you go.

It is super annoying and uncool that Shirley won’t lay off, but you can also make the choice to not be so accessible. Assuming your phone isn’t your primary work device, leave Slack for the desktop.

“Make your hours known—and make sure you maintain them.”

Especially on remote teams where time zones don’t always overlap neatly, it’s hard to resist sending that late-night email. You’re deep in the thing, after all, and the other side doesn’t *have* to answer. I totally get it the press-send urge. It’s almost justifiable.

So it’s up to you to stand your ground and draw your boundaries. Make your hours known—and make sure you maintain them.

If you don’t want to deal with late-night messages, make yourself as available as you want to be, and no more than that.

It can wait.

Spring cleaning

I’m really lucky to have worked with amazing teams and coworkers in my last few jobs. The problem is, well, there’s a lot of them, we’re not really friends anymore, and they’ve taken over my Facebook. If I have to “like” one more birth announcement or wedding picture, I’m going to lose it.

Is unfriending former coworkers passive-aggressive or totally reasonable? They’re not in my real life anymore, so why should they be clogging up my virtual life?
–Socially Inactive in SoCal

It’s spring cleaning season, people. And keeping your virtual life orderly is *super* important.

The thing about work friendships is, they’re almost always context-specific. Rare is the instance of a work bestie becoming a regular bestie. Where those 2 worlds meet—usually on Facebook—it’s a pretty awkward trainwreck of she wore WHAT on Saturday night? and, whoa, her friends are FINE.

Now, how do we clean up the mess from marketing design, aisle 2013?

If you’ve stayed in the same industry, and you’re planning on keeping on for a while, press Unfollow and move on.

It’s a small world we live in, and you never know when your former cubicle-mate is going to snag a job at that company you’ve had your eye on. Closing that door because she had a third kid seems short-sighted; instead, gently remove her from your feed and remember to throw her a like once every few weeks.

If you’ve moved on, or at least have no chance of needing a friendly favor from James in Accounts Payable, then say sayonara. You have nothing to lose except a happy birthday wall post.

“Unfriending a former coworker could hurt feelings. Unfollow and move on.”

When it comes to dealing with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on, we make up these alternate rules for our virtual lives when we know it’s all the same.

Unfriending someone is the equivalent of walking past them in the street and pretending not to see them; unfollowing is gracefully hiding behind a car and waiting for them to pass.

Ultimately, the decision to unfriend, unfollow, or kiss ass depends on how you want them to feel about you.

If you want to be in and on their mind all the time, then a regular liking schedule is in order. If you want them to feel like they’re a part of your life, an unfollow will suffice.

Unfriending, when it comes to career people, should be reserved for the truly awful.

Remember, the internet is quick, but it’s not without consequences. Unfriending for the endorphin rush could hurt some feelings and burn a big ol’ bridge.

And, after all, likes are free.

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Author

Shayna Hodkin
Shayna is a freelance copywriter who helps turn small startups into big startups. She has 2 dogs and lives in the desert. Shayna is Head of Friendship at The nuSchool, where she works with an amazing team to make freelancing great again. Visit her website here.

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