How to Survive Your Online Co-Workers and Boss

We learn in grade school how to properly communicate in person. We then take those traits to the office, shop, or market. Meanwhile, many Americans in recent years have had to learn to communicate digitally at work. And it turns out, working with someone in an online workspace is a much greater task than doing so in person.

It’s easy to understand why Americans dislike their online co-workers. We know it’s difficult to read a person’s intended meaning over Slack. Snark plays better with a smile than a period or comma. It’s also easier to diagnose a jerk face-to-face than over an inauthentic profile image. Worst of all, employees misinterpret the tone of their boss or co-worker nearly half the time after an email. As a result, a new study finds that employee frustration and miscommunication are both at an all-time high.

In an attempt to save America’s online workers, CNBC put together a list of tips to help change our online discourse. First, the outlet says we must stop sending passive-aggressive messages at work. Passive-aggressive lingo is so common that we don’t realize how unlikable it sounds.

Have you ever sent a “per my last email” follow-up? If so, you are part of the problem. CNBC finds that most recipients read that routine message as “You didn’t really read what I wrote. Pay attention this time!” In other words, “per my last email” makes readers want to ignore the email again. And many do.

Many employees also find their online bosses more cringe-worthy communicators than the office manager who walks around in a too-tight dress shirt with a Starbucks coffee. Thus, when some middle-manager loser sends an employee a “going forward” note on Slack, the worker reads, “Do not ever do that again.”

So how can bosses and employees who work digitally solve these grave concerns? Of course, the best solution is to quit and learn to fit pipes. However, most people who work online don’t have that skill — or any useful skills for that matter. Therefore, they must learn to communicate better.

One way to do that is to take a few extra seconds to show excitement, encouragement, and understanding. For example, rewriting a period with an exclamation point could change the entire mood of an email.

If you must have a complicated conversation, pick up the phone instead of engaging in a long DM over Slack. The person on the other line deserves that much respect. No one ever walked away from a productive phone call and said they would have preferred to have that hour-long discussion over several text messages. 

Finally, don’t hit send too fast. If you are emailing or Slacking in a mood of frustration, you will regret your word choices. Unfortunately, online messages last forever. At least over the phone, you can deny saying something you obviously said. Just saying.

Oh, wait, one more piece of advice:

Those online coworkers with whom you work closely have already searched for you on social media. They may even follow you. Therefore, don’t subtweet them — that could make the following email exchange incredibly awkward. 

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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