Beware the Offline Trap

Author profile picture

@dieswaytoofastMahesh Paolini-Subramanya

That Tall Bald Indian Guy...


The means and lines of communications within organization have expanded by a ridiculous amount over the last couple of years. At the same time, so have issues associated with these forms of communications. For example, you’ve probably heard the following in some form or the other

  • I find Slack counter-productive
  • Hangouts are a waste of time
  • I prefer email to WhatsApp

and so forth.

The thing about the above is that each and every one of them is absolutely valid. For example

  • I find Slack counter-productive, because the constant interruptions prevent me from getting into the groove
  • Hangouts are a waste of time, because everybody here likes the sound of their own voice
  • I prefer email to WhatsApp, because you can keep track of conversation threads

Fair points right? Especially the one about distractions, right?After all, most of us have run into the above issues, all of us hate the distractions (Squirrel!), and we’ve probably ranted about it at length with (or to!) our colleagues, friends, random strangers at coffee-shops, blog posts, and lords know where else.

The key here though, is that you need to understand why the above statements are made, and not simply imbue the statements with meaning based upon your own assumptions, experiences, and biases.

Go back and read that again — I am not saying that your reasons aren’t valid! What I am getting at, however, is that you should try and figure out why the other person detests Slack/Hangouts/whatever. If you don’t, you’ll never make explicate whatever issues you have in your organization!.

  • Too many interruptions? It might be time to start working on strategies to mitigate — and embrace! — distractions.
  • Too many people who like the sound of their own voice? You, or your TechLead/PM/… need to work on team dynamics, communications strategies, standups, etc.
  • Trouble tracking conversation threads in WhatsApp? Time to realize the distinction between async (email, documents, voicemail) and sync (WhatsApp, voice) communications, and the proper role for each when interacting with other people

That’s the easy part, most of you already know, or should know, this. The point about putting yourself in other people’s shoes is that, every now and then, they can reveal a deeper problem, and one that can be potentially catastrophic for your organization — sometimes people just aren’t very good at collaborating!
Lets redo the above statements, with a qualifier around collaboration

  • I find Slack counter-productive, because I’m not very good at collaborating with people
  • Hangouts are a waste of time, because I’m not very good at collaborating with people
  • I prefer email to WhatsApp, because I’m not very good at collaborating with people

Does this sound familiar? Is there somebody in your organization that it applies to? If it does, well, you have a problem.
If the person is somebody critical to your organization — say a #CowboyDeveloper — then you have a big problem.
If the person is also somebody in a position of authority — a TechLead / Manager/Founder — then, well, you have a huge problem (•)

So yeah, look around your company, and pay attention toe the gripes around collaboration. Make sure — real sure — that this is not because they suck at it. You won’t be sorry!!

More Warning Signs

  • I prefer Microsoft Word to Google Docs”(Unless they are an attorney, or have a really really good reason. And they probably don’t)
  • I travel a lot, and can’t be online all the time”. Yeah, bulls**t, especially these days
  • If you’re doing a presentation, and can’t (or won’t, or don’t know how) turn off notifications, you might be a problem

(•) Seriously, in this case, see if there is any likelihood of this getting resolved. If there isn’t (and frankly, it’s unlikely that it will. For most people in this space authority is the same as “I’m always correct”), then you’re really better off finding a different job if you can, this just isn’t worth the candle.

(This article also appears on my blog)



The Noonification banner

Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!