“Is my Slack down or am I fired?”
February 26, 2016 1:49 PM   Subscribe

The Deactivation of the American Worker with the creepiest GIF illustartions ever.
(semi-ironically, the same day this piece was published, The Awl announced its "current editors are departing and it is looking for a new editor(s)-in-chief." The editors' Slacks are still reportedly working, so it isn't too sudden.)
posted by oneswellfoop (122 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Slack is the biggest scam... they persuaded everyone to drink the Soylent
posted by My Dad at 2:07 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


We use Slack at work but management doesn't actually know anything about it. As far as they know we're using the crappy Microsoft Chat thing that comes with Outlook.
posted by octothorpe at 2:08 PM on February 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


Didn't this happen just the same with network accounts and such? Is everyone (startup everyone, not real everyone) on BYOD/remote now so the Slack account is the first thing you'd notice?
posted by ODiV at 2:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


A worker laid off by losing her access to #sadmarketing will be replaced by someone who not only occupies her actual desk but has access to every document she’s uploaded, every meeting she attended and even the pithy asides about that very meeting; all the gifs and in-jokes and Hamilton sdlfkjsd, sure, but also the contacts relevant to the job, the advantage of being able to instantly catch-up because the information has been elegantly archived and arranged for future workers. Employees whose self-worth depends on their unique knowledge of the organization no longer have that benefit. Instead of a disorganized series of private inboxes, there is now a valuable public record. The job is a body of work; the person doing it is more interchangeable than ever.

Dispiriting!
posted by Iridic at 2:24 PM on February 26, 2016 [18 favorites]


If I was in the office, Slack is definitely the first thing I'd notice. Everyone in the company is using Slack all day. I look at my Slack far more than I look at my email.

If I was out of the office, I might notice email first because the app on my phone would complain about being unable to fetch (I don't tend to look at either Slack or work email outside of business hours, but the email client will proactively complain if there's a problem).
posted by primethyme at 2:26 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


In 1997 I was working in the call center at a freshly-national ISP, a division of a large company that hadn't completely figured out their electronic layoff policies with regards to things like network logins and electronic door badges. I worked second shift and my roommate worked graveyard, so he was there when first shift started getting to work and half of their badges didn't work. A few of those people who walked in with someone else got to their desks and couldn't log in. Panic swept the building and management called the main HQ nearby to send over security guards.

So I've spent almost my entire adult working life assuming I've been fired every time I can't access something.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:28 PM on February 26, 2016 [35 favorites]


We Slack here too, and it's great when your entire network is down including the email server.
posted by numaner at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


“I had no idea layoffs were coming—none of us did,” a former member of the editorial staff told me. “After I returned to my desk, my Slack account had been disabled. I guess the fear was that employees who had been let go would spread word to their coworkers.

They let him return to his desk? The two times I was laid-off, I had to leave the building immediately and arrange a time with security to come back for my shit. The first time that "shit" included my coat and it was, like, 40f outside.

But, yeah, you can also tell who's being laid-off by email to them getting bounced back.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


creepiest GIF illustartions ever.

Why do the chairs move?
Why?

(I've never heard of Slack before. I always thought it was a flavour of *nix.)
posted by Mezentian at 2:36 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've had an "interesting" professional life going from tech (websites) to architecture (designing buildings) back to tech and then back to architecture. Just as we were sliding into the last recession, I found my architecture office coworkers were a little disconcerted about my gallows humor related to possible impending layoffs and also didn't believe me when I pointed out the signs that our firm was going to get rocked. I was surprised the day when I got the call but I was not unprepared. I had been building up my portfolio and evidence of work for a couple months.

It's interesting this idea that everything is "in the cloud" and you won't lose knowledge. Ha! I was handed an archive of years worth of the prior PM's email (when I went back to tech) and I used it a total of once. We still aren't robots and we don't just suck up the last person's methodology through osmosis.
posted by amanda at 2:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [18 favorites]


Why do the chairs move?

Self-parking chairs are a thing!
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:39 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


In 2012 I was fired from a job this way. I got to my desk in the morning and tried to check in some code to GitHub. Rejected authentication! I ask people around me, "is anybody else having trouble with GitHub?" "Oh, let me look into it," says another programmer. Minutes later I'm asked to go into boss' office. That company fucking sucked.

Mezentian: that's Slackware. Slack is webified IRC with some other bells and whistles.
posted by rhizome at 2:39 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Self-parking chairs are a thing!

Wow. And there I was thinking they stop-motioned the gif.

What a time to be alive. I can be saved from pushing a chair 20cm!
posted by Mezentian at 2:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]




cant believe how huge slack has gotten is so little time. there are now entire companies formed around slack bots
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


semi-ironically

Not ironically at all. No one got shitcanned. Hermann's going to the Times on a fellowship. Also non-ironically announced this day.
posted by listen, lady at 2:52 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


cant believe how huge slack has gotten is so little time. there are now entire companies formed around slack bots

They have friends in high places, and because it's common in the industry, a little research might reveal funding overlap between the bot companies and Slack. There's a lot of financial incest in the internet world.
posted by rhizome at 3:00 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have trouble understanding why you'd lay off someone with no advanced warning. Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?

If I vanished from either of my jobs with no warning going through my notes without time to consolidate them would be like reading hieroglyphics to the next person.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:04 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Slack.

As someone who, in the mid-80s, had the task of taking over and reanimating a software project on which everyone involved had left and I had inherited the entire (Vax-based, so there were revision histories) archive of design docs, source and even some email chains. I have to say that adding more dimensions to that mix will not make it any easier to pick up the reins. "Memories. You're talking about memories" - no, you're talking about dumping a large and complex archive on somebody with no context or training to assimilate it, and that is a very hard task. Ask any historian.

And on the other side of the mirror - the people who did work with the chopped party will not react well to anyone who turns up and tries to be that person. If you've ever tried to ingratiate yourself with a group who don't know you by using an in-joke or shibboleth, you'll know just how counter-productive that can be. Social systems are remarkably hostile to synthetic attempts to pass as a member and for good reason. You have to have barriers to mutually work through.
posted by Devonian at 3:12 PM on February 26, 2016 [35 favorites]


> Jobs have long been the stand-in which workers used as a shorthand for personal identity rather than what they really are: a thankless compromise necessary to participate in capitalism.

Yup.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:16 PM on February 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


I just thought everyone ought to know that I too enjoy using Slack for work communications
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Slack is what we are owed, what we deserve! It's our lifeblood! Don't let those pinks sway you. Hail Dobbs
posted by Philipschall at 3:20 PM on February 26, 2016 [41 favorites]


If you act like a dumbshit they'll treat you like an equal. - J. R. "Bob" Dobbs.

Good advice for the workplace.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:27 PM on February 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


this is why you should diligently back up everything on your work machine and in your work email onto devices that your employer has no access to or knowledge of. Get all the data out before you're fired.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:28 PM on February 26, 2016 [19 favorites]


wait, i'm still using Skype for Business like a sucker
posted by Existential Dread at 3:31 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Well, today my badge didn't work at the company and I was told to clear my desk at my firm and an uber was called to pick me up and drop me off at my company where I'd talk with security to escort me to my desk and get my stuff. Then have another uber drive me home with my stuff like pictures and such. I've been terminated from my contract and also have been fired by my firm. I was told my replacement will have access to all my previous files and email. - Reddit post on r/sysadmin via Twitter
posted by ODiV at 3:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


We've started using Slack at work, and I've noticed that my team and I have subconsciously sifted our communications into different mediums: Slack for quick queries or brainstorming, email for more formal queries or records with managers, Skype for voice conversations because we all hate the conference-call system.

this is why you should diligently back up everything on your work machine and in your work email onto devices that your employer has no access to or knowledge of. Get all the data out before you're fired.


It's both notable and amusing that a team priority for us has been finding tools to use that aren't tied into the company. Our Slack is managed by one employee just as a thing he does. We now keep calendars in Google and shared information assets in Google Drive. We bypass the company phone system.

I know this system depends on people being willing to play nicely (i.e. hoping someone doesn't shut down the Slack or revoke access to a project calendar that's in Google Calendar), but I think it says something about the culture of our company where we're deliberately withdrawing from the formal cloud-based tools we're expected to use.

The problem I keep mulling over is the one mentioned above: If I go, how can I take my stuff with me, i.e. the comments in Slack. It's telling that most of the app integrations in Slack let you port stuff into the system but getting things out is much more of a challenge.
posted by sobell at 3:34 PM on February 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


The company’s self-professed goal is to make work easier as a result of improving the efficiency of a team, a task accomplished by turning departments into hashtagged channels and maintaining a transparent record of everything that happens within them.

THEY ARE NOT HASHTAGS the channel names start with # because of IRC oh my god I'm so old.
posted by enn at 3:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [108 favorites]


Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?

I recently ended a job after more than a decade and was given 13 weeks' notice. I reckoned that because even though my job was being eliminated, much of what I had to do still needed to get done by someone, I would need to document something for someone. It wasn't until partway through week 12 before anyone asked me to do this, and even then all my requests for who I was writing this for went unanswered. (Consider your own job: if you had to explain the procedures, your explanation would be different if it were a colleague in the same department or someone from a different background in the same organization and different again to someone off the street.)

I wrote things up as best I could given zero information but I wonder if somebody isn't right now puzzling through my partly-finished projects.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm okay with Slack - among "Decacorn" startups at least they make a product that does something useful. Even if it's not reaaally something new.
posted by atoxyl at 3:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


A worker laid off by losing her access to #sadmarketing will be replaced by someone who not only occupies her actual desk but has access to every document she’s uploaded, every meeting she attended and even the pithy asides about that very meeting; all the gifs and in-jokes and Hamilton sdlfkjsd, sure, but also the contacts relevant to the job, the advantage of being able to instantly catch-up because the information has been elegantly archived and arranged for future workers.

In response, develop a culture of passing around misleading information as an in-joke.

While I've never used Slack, I can't really imagine having access to archives of some transient communication system, like IM or email, as being at all useful to anyone trying to on-board into a job. It's just so noisy and disjointed. Hell, it's already a task for me to filter out all the irrelevant crap I get emailed, and I already know the job and the company; and most of the stuff that's not immediately irrelevant certainly will be irrelevant by next week.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:56 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


I was working at The Worst Company Ever and went to check my email from home. Couldn't log in. Checked my company Google docs.... couldn't log in. My access to the payroll system -- removed. And then I didn't get actually officially fired for another 26 hours.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:58 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


And returning to this again:

this is why you should diligently back up everything on your work machine and in your work email onto devices that your employer has no access to or knowledge of. Get all the data out before you're fired.

This is where Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive have been invaluable. Thank goodness for Evernote's email-forwarding feature, because it lets me just bcc my work email when necessary and build a separate "sent" box in a digital archive. And I forward everything relevant/necessary to it.

The other tip I'll pass along for free: Remember that you have no privacy at work. I was working late one night, and when I came back from a bathroom break, I found a coworker turning on people's machines, going through their email (a lot of folks just had their machines sleeping overnight, with no password required on wakeup), casually opening up desk drawers and rifling through the trash. That's when I realized how this coworker maintained his reputation for visionary foresight into the company's direction.

Work is a campsite: Pack in and pack out, and leave nothing behind.
posted by sobell at 4:00 PM on February 26, 2016 [61 favorites]


I have trouble understanding why you'd lay off someone with no advanced warning. Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?

They're more afraid that you'll write a time-bomb into their code base or use your corporate contacts to steal all of their customers. Plus the people who make these decisions have no idea what you actually do and don't care.
posted by octothorpe at 4:00 PM on February 26, 2016 [25 favorites]


Email bouncing, hah! At all of my workplaces as a W-2 employee, email has never bounced; it has simply been forwarded to a separated worker's supervisor who can handle any needed re-routing or new introductions.

Once upon a time, one of my colleagues screwed up what was supposed to be a silent mass exodus by accidentally emailing his supe's old account instead of the address at the new place. Management of the old company had a quick powwow and immediately began strategic moves to screw the new place as well as solicit loyalty pledges from key employees regarded as possible separation risks. It was actually kind of funny watching C-level guys go from "you'll drive 150 miles a day to our OC office and like it!" to "hey we're re-opening our Santa Monica office just for you folks!" over the course of a day.

Lower-level suits threatened, well, suits, in one-on-ones or over IM. Not a big fan of Slack, Basecamp, or anything else like that for those reasons as well. Too deniable.

As long as employers require remote access and all-hours connectedness, employees will be able to hold on to their knowledge and skills, even if it they have to do something as ham-handed as take cell-phone snapshots of key data.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:02 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


semi-ironically

okay, I should've said 'pseudo-ironically' or 'quasi-ironically' just because of the timing of the announcement the same day as the article about job insecurity that started with a story about a 'web journalism' competitor...
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:03 PM on February 26, 2016


I have trouble understanding why you'd lay off someone with no advanced warning. Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?

Because you're already useless so your projects can die for all they care. I had 18 months warning of my last layoff but only based on foresight, not anyone telling me. I got it all from subtext and prepared accordingly.

And you can just delete and lock the crap out of things (hello 256-bit encryption) bad enough to defy all backups if you're enough of an asshole.

this is why you should diligently back up everything on your work machine and in your work email onto devices that your employer has no access to or knowledge of. Get all the data out before you're fired.

In some places even forwarding an email to yourself 'at home' or moving anything to an unauthorized online site or personal USB or burning it to a CD can be grounds for termination. Granted, after having been here there and everywhere since the last place I was at that had such a policy I now realize not everyone works that way ... but I operate on (portfolio wise) "if it was ever posted publicly then I can put it in my portfolio".
posted by tilde at 4:15 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


You naïve fools with your "updating documentation" and "training replacements" as if employees weren't all identical, interchangeable cogs.
posted by ckape at 4:18 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


The last time I was laid off, I got an email the next day from a co-worker asking if I knew the admin password to the test results server because no one left knew it. I was nice and gave it to him but they would have been stuck without that.
posted by octothorpe at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


  I have trouble understanding why you'd lay off someone with no advance warning. Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?

You'd think, but business process, smh. F'rinstance, we were all let go by phone because this news release had an investor conference call at 10 am that day, and it had to be a done deal before they spoke to the market. I got so many calls asking for info after I was let go I had to investigate a restraining order.
posted by scruss at 4:27 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


this is why you should diligently back up everything on your work machine and in your work email onto devices that your employer has no access to or knowledge of. Get all the data out before you're fired.

Why would I want access to my work files after I'm fired? If I'm fired (or even if I quit), I don't want to give my former employer another second of my time, or another drop of my energy. I don't ever want to look at those email threads and documents again. Having that stuff disappear from my life is a blessing, not a curse. And if someone else is assigned to take it over and deal with it, I wish them well, but I will not give them a passing thought.
posted by primethyme at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2016 [15 favorites]


Why would I want access to my work files after I'm fired?

Speaking personally, it would have given me the evidence I needed for an age discrimination case.
posted by rhizome at 4:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [17 favorites]


srsly, as someone coming up on the last day of a job, I find the idea of leaving all that shit behind liberating. I cannot fathom actually taking it along with me.
posted by indubitable at 4:51 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why would I want access to my work files after I'm fired?

If you work in an industry where you need a portfolio of past work, it's useful.

I am also not the most diligent at keeping my professional contacts list updated, so an email archive can be useful for searching & finding contact information, as well as reminding me of how we worked together and how to approach someone.
posted by sobell at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why would I want access to my work files after I'm fired?

Hey, your employer might not give a fuck, but there's good work in there. Maybe it's not valuable to them but it could valuable to you. I created some nifty tools to manage my work at my last job and for the most part the management did not give a crap how I was doing my work as long as I got the job done. And, yeah, I could re-create that stuff later but why should I? There is a ton of innovation that goes on daily in offices around the world that cannot be directly monetized by management but is valuable to the employee. I was also handed some work tools from the last person at my last tech job that my manager assured me were total crap and I could ignore them. I ended up using them as a springboard but they weren't total crap. Just because he didn't understand them or appreciate what the tools were accomplishing doesn't mean they were crap.

Companies bluster about keeping all their intellectual property but, honestly, just asserting that right to keep employees fearful is about the most value they can wring from this stuff. You are the only one who really stands to gain from keeping a copy of your files.
posted by amanda at 4:53 PM on February 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


It's telling that most of the app integrations in Slack let you port stuff into the system but getting things out is much more of a challenge.

Something to think about before you start using Slack or any other similar service.
posted by technodelic at 5:08 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a .vimrc file that I'm fond of and a few other scripts that I'd have to recreate but not much else that I'd care about losing.
posted by octothorpe at 5:09 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


We Slack here too, and it's great when your entire network is down including the email server.

IIRC, Slack came out of the ChatOps branch of the DevOps discipline, so this actually makes perfect sense. When you're the team responsible for keeping the company's infrastructure running, you really don't want your primary communication tool to be part of said infrastructure.

Speaking personally, it would have given me the evidence I needed for an age discrimination case.

This is one of the few reasonable justifications for taking copies of your work documentation home with you after termination. In a lot of cases these days, you'll have signed an NDA as part of your hiring paperwork that explicitly forbids it. But, if you've got grounds for a discrimination suit, fuck the NDA.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, today my badge didn't work at the company and I was told to clear my desk at my firm

the links include this information - but just to say it in thread, this happened after she reported sexual harassment and sexual assault at work.
posted by nadawi at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


What a time to be alive. I can be saved from pushing a chair 20cm!

If it's any consolation, the chairs are driven by the spirits of HR people who became too inhuman to interface comfortably with humans. The downside to this is that they feed on you while you are sitting in them. This is why meetings leave you so tired.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2016 [23 favorites]


this happened after she reported sexual harassment and sexual assault at work.

And the saddest part about that whole thread is the slave mentality expressed by the OP. No recourse, no unemployment, just unemployed and guess-i-gotta-deal-with-this.
posted by rhizome at 5:43 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is why I'm so glad I'm not a contractor anymore.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2016


Ugh. Too close to home for me right now. I ususually see the old boot coming, too, and I did at my last gig, but the timing caught me off guard because I was dealing with so many other hassles, I just started studiously ignoring all the office political stuff and got myself squished while I was distracted. Not sure how I'm going to find a gig that works with my new, heavier child care duties and scheduling irregularities. Anyway, Slack sounds way better than Skype for Business. Maybe I'll get a chance to use it soon.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


...yinz do realize that Slack is where Metafilter's Own™ mathowie works now?
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:11 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


They have friends in high places, and because it's common in the industry, a little research might reveal funding overlap between the bot companies and Slack. There's a lot of financial incest in the internet world.

Oh Jesus. It's not exactly a secret: Slack launched a fund back in December to invest in bots for their service.

(Disclaimer: I used to work there.)
posted by asterix at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Shucks, I do remember that news. I didn't mean to cast aspersions (I use it, too!) so much as highlight the sometimes-hidden overlap, criticizing the financial side of the VC world. Which may not be particularly germane, in hindsight.
posted by rhizome at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


As someone who, in the mid-80s, had the task of taking over and reanimating a software project on which everyone involved had left and I had inherited the entire (Vax-based, so there were revision histories) archive of design docs, source and even some email chains. I have to say that adding more dimensions to that mix will not make it any easier to pick up the reins. "Memories. You're talking about memories" - no, you're talking about dumping a large and complex archive on somebody with no context or training to assimilate it, and that is a very hard task. Ask any historian.

My initially reaction to the part about the value of archived Slack conversations to the company and to your replacement was actually to laugh out loud but... I think I will assume that the person who wrote this does a job that is quite different from mine and works at a company that is quite different from mine and that it could conceivably be true in some situations.
posted by atoxyl at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh it's cool to bag on HR people now? The people who make sure I get my overtime and benefits, and make sure employee and workplace laws are observed?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


It has always been cool to bag on HR departments.

Personally, I have never had any direct experience with any HR types, but "the people who make sure I get my overtime and benefits, and make sure employee and workplace laws are observed" doesn't really sound like anything I have ever heard anyone say about HR types before now.
posted by Mezentian at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah that sounds more like labor lawyers, not HR.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


I was HR for two years and was the only reason anyone ever got a raise.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:10 PM on February 26, 2016 [21 favorites]


Right now layoffs don't appear to be a likely thing where I work but I still keep copies of my best projects and keep working on my skills. I just assume that Something Could Happen or that I could get a better offer.

I did slip a bit by encouraging a fellow co-worker, in my boss's hearing, to do something because "it will look really good on your resume." Boss: why does she need to have a good resume??? And I had to backtrack. I didn't mean co-worker was planning on leaving, just, in general, you need to keep good stuff on your resume. But that was being a little too honest and realistic.

Now the boss seems worried I'm planning on leaving and I have to make noises that I never think about doing that, oh no! Office power dynamics are weird and uncomfortable and I think about burning down capitalism on a daily basis just so I wouldn't have to fuck with them anymore.
posted by emjaybee at 7:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been laid off once and quit twice, and every time there has been three months notice, where I continued to do my work properly and in the last weeks documented and prepared stuff for handover. The "you're fired and here's a box of the personal stuff from your desk, bye" thing you do in the US seems fairly dystopian to me. I imagine it doesn't really do employers as a whole any favours either.
posted by Harald74 at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


My last company would even lock you out immediately when you gave two weeks notice. They'd give you the two weeks pay but escort you right out of the building as soon as you said you were leaving.
posted by octothorpe at 7:41 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]



I have trouble understanding why you'd lay off someone with no advanced warning. Wouldn't you want to give them time to wrap up projects and document stuff?


This would also give them time to shit on your desk.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've never had a face-to-face interaction with an actual HR person at my current place of employment. We don't even have an HR person at our office, despite the fact that we have about 200 people on staff there. Even when I got laid off once (they hired me back before the end of the severance period, it's a long, dumb story), it was a manager who flew out to do the honours, by himself.

I did have a good relationship with some of our local recruiters, who were technically third-party contractors despite one of them having been with the company for something like nine years, but then they got laid off as well.

So anyway, if HR is fighting for raises and benefits and whatnot, I sure as hell can't see it at my company. I think this is one of those things that depends greatly on the size of the company involved and who happens to actually be in charge of the HR department.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:46 PM on February 26, 2016


okay, I should've said 'pseudo-ironically' or 'quasi-ironically' just because of the timing of the announcement the same day as the article about job insecurity that started with a story about a 'web journalism' competitor...

I just don't think it's either? I think it's a weird accident. Why do people fixate so weirdly on The Awl over here? It's not just because Choire's a member.
posted by listen, lady at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2016


My last company would even lock you out immediately when you gave two weeks notice. They'd give you the two weeks pay but escort you right out of the building as soon as you said you were leaving.

This makes me want to give 12 months notice.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:04 PM on February 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


this is also why the responsible worker leaves a variety of dead-man's switches embedded deeply in their work processes. The easiest way for office workers to do this, if they have any knack for programming (or just a knack for making good excel spreadsheets) is to develop a set of incredibly useful scripts that everyone you work with will want to use, but that will start silently failing at some point after you're fired.

Note: do not hard-code in a specific date or anything. ideally your scripts should rely upon information in a database that's infrequently updated and also outside your control, but should not automatically pull from that database. Instead, hard-code in whatever you'd pull from that database, and manually update the code each time that information changes (so like you're looking for something that changes regularly but not frequently. Something like a products list works well). If the hard-coded stuff matches the product list or whatever, the script or spreadsheet works properly, but if it doesn't it starts yielding results that are subtly but undeniably wrong.

(also note: do not do this if anything your scripts do could result in anyone's death).

If you're having fun with it, you can hide the hard-coded information somewhere completely unexpected — a function that purports to change input to a more convenient format but subtly breaks output if you haven't updated it recently, or a complicated spreadsheet formula that yields a real sum, say, but also causes other parts of the spreadsheet to yield results that are subtly broken when the hard-coded stuff doesn't match the database stuff.

Anyway, the point is, the moment at which the company you work for commits violence against you, it's already too late to get back at them. As such, you need to silently prepare your revenge beforehand, in the form of subtly coded time bombs.

I'm not sure there's any purpose to this, though I suppose someone more entrepreneurial and sneaky than me could turn a scheme like this as a machine for manufacturing consulting gigs at the places that lay you off. I suppose you could say that if the idea that office workers tend to leave time bombs were to become commonly held, it would give office workers as a class more leverage over their employers, but really that argument is a bit of a stretch to say the least.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:09 PM on February 26, 2016 [31 favorites]


also if you're being really diligent you should design your scripts such that the errors aren't really noticeable until about a month after they start getting introduced, but are at that point very noticeable indeed.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


also also it goes without saying that it should be plausible that the damage was introduced accidentally. this is easy, though, especially if you're a novice programmer, since everyone's code always has some sort of damage, especially code written by novices writing it to scratch their own itch instead of for people you don't know to use. This is regardless of whether or not those programmers put the damage there on purpose.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your periodic reminder:

King Missile - Take Stuff From Work
posted by rhizome at 8:20 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thing I hate about Slack... well there are three things:

1) It never, ever stops. It's worse than email. It's just a flood of chatter, and I don't think it is more efficient than threaded email (Gmail). I've turned off all of the stupid notifications that are a real distraction and just check it once an hour or so. Of course, people are impatient and expect immediate answers so whatever problem I was asked to help address has been solved. This is a feature, I guess, but Slack seems designed to encourage employee presenteeism.

2) There are few "integrations." For example, I have never come across a foolproof integration of VoIP or video hangouts. And creating group calendar invites is also tough... why do I have to exit Slack???

3) Saving common files is a mess. Luckily people are moving more and more to Google Drive, which is my main productivity suite, but it's still chaos trying to organize assets for a project.

I prefer Podio. It does everything (except for VoIP, but I can live with that).

Slack just reminds me of all the smug bearded Crossfit techbros desperately trying to channel Marc Andreessen.

It's trendy but not functional.
posted by My Dad at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure there's any purpose to this, though I suppose someone more entrepreneurial and sneaky than me could turn a scheme like this as a machine for manufacturing consulting gigs at the places that lay you off.

I couldn't possibly comment. I will however provide ad-hoc production support for a nominal monthly fee after my contract ends.
posted by Damienmce at 8:33 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


But obvious caveat, The Dark Arts should only be deployed in evil mega corps or cases of warranted douchbagery.
posted by Damienmce at 8:41 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is also why the responsible worker leaves a variety of dead-man's switches embedded deeply in their work processes.

I have no space to evaluate whether you know what you're talking about, given that you always talk in the abstract about what the ideal worker should do, but I really hate reading these screeds where you call us all suckers for failing to work our arses off for to fulfil some weird ideological games that you want to play.

No, I don't want to make my work harder by leaving man-traps all over the place in it. Because the only person those man-traps are going to catch is me, because my overview of my work is tenuous enough already. I suspect that's the case for most people.

And anyway, I don't want to sabotage my work even if I'm laid off, because I carefully choose to work in an industry that's useful.
posted by ambrosen at 8:52 PM on February 26, 2016 [14 favorites]


Also, my workplace resentment is nearly all based around not having access to basic tools like Slack, or indeed even a version control system, and having basically no institutional knowledge management.
posted by ambrosen at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


The list of things I like about working for myself is slowly but steadily starting to shrink as I get older, but not having to deal with shit like this is definitely still on there.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:30 PM on February 26, 2016


okay i admit it i'm actually just a really terrible programmer and I'm just trying to retroactively justify to myself a really grotesque hack I had made when I was working for megacorp-subcontractor and then forgot to fix before leaving. and because narcissism through pretending I'm super tough and sneaky.

complete respect to the people smarter than me who can actually get consulting gigs out of things like this, though.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:37 PM on February 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure there's any purpose to this

A desire to spend time in prison would be the only purpose to do any of the things you said.
posted by sideshow at 9:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


sideshow: “A desire to spend time in prison would be the only purpose to do any of the things you said.”
You say that, but one time I got brought in on an emergency basis to replace a guy who deleted all his work on the way out the door. When I mentioned that was actionable, they all gasped as if I were the one who had done something wrong. They also wouldn't hear of installing git or even subversion. I got them back on their feet, meticulously documenting everything of course because I'm a goddamned professional. Last I heard they had hired that guy back and put him in charge of the department.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:19 PM on February 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


Deactivate the worker? Deactivate seems like murdering or something. Let's not be melodramatic robot slaves.

Maybe it's rude, like someone breaking up with you by text. I mean, you don't want to make things awkward right? Alright, make a scene or at least a funny face to express yourself. Rage? Flip the table, do the hand swipe across your desk crap like in the movies...if you really need to.

Then there's this thing called a parking lot. You walk out on in that direction after work and there is nothing out there except finding your car. On some days you are fired and then you discover that your world is momentarily bigger. This can be relief (however momentary before poverty kicks in).

Then you eventually end up somewhere else (better or worse) and maybe if you are really good you get access to a brand new chat thing. But you never feel the same way about chat applications again.

They are not to be trusted, and you hate them for a while but at the same time you need their attention. Then you find a really cute chat platform that catches your eye and you find that you have loads in common. Bam. The chatting is happening fast and hard for a while, which is great. Super fun and efficient, before you know it the emoji and animated gif meme juices are flowing again.

Then you relapse and go through a period of an attachment/detachment thing with the chat client whenever you feel threatened by being cast outside the chat tribe. And one day you remember that the parking lot isn't just a place to find your car. It's the journey to who you really are and having that one great chat mechanism isn't a threat to your identity.

It's a great relief for a while, but coming back to that chat client makes you realize that you can never achieve total victory, that you will have to learn to live with your vulnerability. But then you really start the see that everyone has the vulnerability and you don't feel as alone, but glad to be alive and each chat really means something more than it did before.

But by now you are drinking heavily on the weekends and you don't know entirely why. Some part of you knows that the journey of self-exploration has just begun. So you send a few texts that make you feel like you can always do something. That makes you glad that if nothing else you can drunk text someone you care about and they (unlike the hatchet people who cut you off from slack) will forgive you and probably not block you.

Or delete your comment for being too pedantic. One can only hope for good things, and maybe even learn to accept the tough realization of our vulnerability.

But being vulnerable makes you a more compassionate chatter, so you find that you are now more open and honest than you could have ever been without being cut off from that slack account. You are not afraid to show people that you have some chat based scars. Some people can't handle that, but you are glad that you can put more energy towards the people who can appreciate you as you are.
posted by thebestusernameever at 1:18 AM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's telling that most of the app integrations in Slack let you port stuff into the system but getting things out is much more of a challenge.

So I guess no company using Slack has ever been the target of a lawsuit?
posted by effbot at 2:11 AM on February 27, 2016


It's telling that most of the app integrations in Slack let you port stuff into the system but getting things out is much more of a challenge.


i disagree- it's not as straightforward as plaintext, and you need proper access privileges, but they'll give you a giant, datesharded, zipped json full of everything you'd need to effectively reconstruct the entire thing.

https://YOURTEAMNAME.slack.com/services/export
posted by duende at 3:51 AM on February 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, my workplace resentment is nearly all based around not having access to basic tools like Slack, or indeed even a version control system,

And then there's the time I got fired by the person responsible for the official information security policy for asking too often why we weren't in compliance with the official information security policy's requirement for version control.

I mean, like did she *not* read my resume and see all that background in the finance world of IT Audit, and how did she think I wouldn't notice the compliance issues???


fucking people....
posted by mikelieman at 3:59 AM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick, I feel like you should be writing an entry or two for the annual International Underhanded C Contest.
posted by indubitable at 5:18 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Brocktoon: Oh it's cool to bag on HR people now? The people who make sure I get my overtime and benefits, and make sure employee and workplace laws are observed?

HR people are like fire extinguishers. They take up space and are useless on a day-to-day basis except for their one true task: protecting the company. Whenever I've asked HR questions about benefits and payroll at two out of the three adult jobs I've held, I was always told to "look at the website" before their returned to other pressing tasks like minesweeper and looking out the window.
posted by dr_dank at 5:27 AM on February 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


My company doesn't adopt anything until it's almost dead in the market. Seriously. Whenever we get something new it's time to sell that company's stock.
posted by tommasz at 5:35 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


HR = Procrustean bed. If you fit just right, they aren't usually a boon, but they aren't all that harmful. If you are too "tall" or too "short" (metaphorically speaking) you are in for a certain measure of pain. I do know of one place where the HR people were pretty good at helping people, proactive in helping employee-organized charity initiatives, community outreach, brown-bag discussions about work-related things, etc., but they all got canned, err, "encouraged to seek other avenues of opportunity".
posted by Chitownfats at 5:48 AM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick: the first rule of Fight Club ...
posted by Chitownfats at 5:57 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


  complete respect to the people smarter than me who can actually get consulting gigs out of things like this, though.

Except that it would likely constitute professional misconduct, and when discovered, would make you unhireable ever again. Might even get you a felony, too.
posted by scruss at 6:10 AM on February 27, 2016


For what? Pretending like you're a little shittier at your job than you are when they aren't paying you more for being competent? Please.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:19 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I live in a small city with an even smaller tech community so even as attractive a time bomb sounds in theory, it would be suicide for my career in the long run. As an example, the manager who laid me off in '08 now sits three desks down from me as we've both bounce around a bit since then and landed at the same place. And he's a nice guy who was as blind-sided by the layoffs as I was and wouldn't have deserved someone sabotaging his project out of spite.
posted by octothorpe at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


My friends and colleagues can barely be bothered with email so I haven't played with it much, but my impression is that Slack is just IRC that you have to pay for. Am I wrong?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2016


I'm okay with Slack - among "Decacorn" startups at least they make a product that does something useful. Even if it's not reaaally something new.

Most importantly, they actually charge. For value.

Creating this weird exchange of funds for services that I really hope catches on in the world!
posted by DigDoug at 7:23 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's IRC that has been made accessible to non-nerds, yes. This has the knock-on effect of making it even more indispensable because now all your non-nerd colleagues are reachable there.

I'm now on about ten Slacks, including one for each of my previous jobs in an #alumni channel. It's astonishing how much Slack has taken over this area. Unfortunately, it's a terrible medium for planning anything.
posted by migurski at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are few "integrations."

Just to clear up a possible misconception here... Have you looked at the App Directory? There are more in there than I can count quickly.

(Plus they have a team dedicated to building more all the time.)
posted by asterix at 7:45 AM on February 27, 2016


Because you're already useless so your projects can die for all they care. I had 18 months warning of my last layoff but only based on foresight, not anyone telling me. I got it all from subtext and prepared accordingly.

The last time I got laid off we knew about it ~1 year in advance, because the company president gave a "pep rally" kind of talk where he mentioned how we were holding on to market share, how we had money from x and y to ride us through the recession, etc.

The one thing, he said, was that we couldn't sustain our contract employees anymore. So they'd probably all have to go. And he waited smugly for applause.

There was silence.

Because 95% of the people in that room were contract workers.

Our poor (permanent) bosses had to deal with us for an entire 12 months after that. I can't imagine they enjoyed it any more than we did--at least we could keep busy salting away money and taking super-long coffee breaks.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am desperate to get my company on Slack. DESPERATE. You can say that it's no better than threaded email, but even threaded email has the problem of multiple people in an reply-all situation all typing email responses at the same time. I tend to be a bit more meticulous in my emails so I'll spend some time thinking about the issue and articulating my response and meanwhile 8 emails have gone back and forth, some overlapping each other and all without my Esteemed Wisdom and Insight and it's infuriating. At least Slack has "several people are typing".

Email absolutely has its place but not to replace instantaneous conversation, especially in a world of telecommuting and calendars already full of too many meetings that make real time, in person conversations more difficult.

Also, re: how awful it would be for the new hire to go through the fired/"future endeavor'd" employee's Slack convos, I can't imagine it would be literally spending hours reading conversations. But Slack has good search so I could see something like "hmm, I wonder how this situation came about on the Anderson account" and searching to find that out. Unless the employee has been good about email inbox folders/tags, that's harder to do in email IME.

I have found myself eyerolling at HR a lot, and I get the "they are there to protect the company, not you" argument, but personally I'll take a company with an HR department over one without one any day.
posted by misskaz at 7:55 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


HR absolutely does represent the company's interests and it's important to keep that in mind. That said, "company interests" include civil lawsuits, workplace law violations, and employee harassment claims. Young companies, and tech companies in particular, are full of first-time managers and executives who don't know the first thing about employment law, much of which is counter-intuitive. HR isn't perfect, but its absence is a near-guarantee that current or prospective employees are getting screwed out of benefits or legal protection they are entitled to.
posted by nev at 8:15 AM on February 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


BTW, for anyone who thinks that Slack sucks... their CEO agrees with you!
posted by asterix at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2016


i always wonder if the overwhelmingly disdain for hr, seemingly greater than the disdain for the actual company hr is protecting, is related to the fact that hr is seen as a field dominated by women. when people really get going on their hate for hr you can usually find stereotypes that go hand in hand with middle age women.
posted by nadawi at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


I can't recall an HR department that wasn't led by and/or half stocked with men, because *diversity*.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mmm yes and no. Yes: the disdain is fueled by sexism in many cases but, also, there are a lot of people who have been affected by bad HR policies, decisions and callousness that caused massive pain and turmoil for employees. So the response may be flavored by sexism but the wounds are real.

Still as many point out, an HR department is like a government: even a bad one is better than the alternative.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:29 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't recall an HR department that wasn't led by and/or half stocked with men, because *diversity*.

I wonder if this is one of those things where any group that's more than 33% female is perceived as being dominated by women.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


HR employees will help you sort out issues with vacation time, benefits, etc. HR employees will also cheerfully assist your boss in setting you up to be terminated. Then you'll see the HR rep someplace else, and they'll wave cheerily to you, as if it's not personal.

HR is loyal to the employer. period. As long as you understand that in any conflict, they'll support the employer, it's fine, but you should understand that unambiguously.
posted by theora55 at 10:39 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't help but feel we're moving closer and closer to Vernor Vinge's sort of "Human Resources" departments.
posted by Zonker at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find that more often than not, HR is advising me to take action against people. I've come to learn that at least in my business, that's the answer to the "you can't fire a government/union worker" myth. Usually when that's the case, it's because I haven't been doing what HR told me I should do before it got this bad, because I'm a nice guy who likes to assume the best about people and handle things informally. HR has seen all the cases where that doesn't work, so they're usually more pessimistic. I think that's a good tension to have, and if I'm always doing what they recommend, that's not ideal.

That's a good thing to keep in mind if you're tempted to think HR is going to act like your union or your lawyer against management. They're not. They're my advisor, telling me how not to get in trouble. Often they're calling for your head and I'm resisting.

Even in the cases HR is on your side (and sometimes they are), they're still just an advisor. My HR person often tells me well, in the past we've done this, and this is our policy, and if you do THAT then the person will have a valid complaint against you, but it's your name on the paper so do what you want. Disregarding HR's opinion has been known to end badly, so the wise manager listens and makes sure they really want to do that first. Not everyone is a wise manager all the time.
posted by ctmf at 12:23 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but Vinge knew what he was talking about. IE, the people you thought least like to understand human interactions were the most likely to surprise you.
posted by pjmoy at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2016


I subscribe to an email list that sends out "20 Years Ago Today on Suck.com"... it's what I call "penicillin-resistant nostalgia"... and today's (or 20 Years Ago Today's) entry was a horror story of how they used to treat people connecting their work lives and private lives. Or is 'used to' correct?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


it's odd how people seem to hate hr for working for the company, but rarely put the blame on the company or bosses. hr is the scapegoat often times.
posted by nadawi at 12:59 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


nadawi: I have these thoughts too; I read hatred for HR as dog-whistle misogyny.

I've seen a couple small to medium-sized startups operate without meaningful HR for far too long (sometimes years!), then haphazardly hire people when they run into some crisis or legal clusterfuck. They often fail to choose competent or appropriately experienced people or support them well, because a) they've never hired or onboarded people with the guidance of HR (ironically), and b) it's usually a bunch of men whose idea of HR is Some Nice Lady Who Does People Stuff. Then you have unsupported HR people falling down on the job, leadership distancing themselves from their decisions and/or laundering their own shitty organizational decisions through HR, and employees heaping vitriol on HR for shilling for the company. I see this as a variant of the Glass Cliff, tbh.

I don't have any experience with how HR operates at larger companies, but I'd be curious to know if it's a less over-the-top, crisis-driven version of the above. The thing about startups is that with the lack of structure and all, the sexism and racism are kind of cartoonishly larger than life.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Of course, the HR people are scapegoats for the Evil Management. It's part of their job description. So is "minion"... in fact, I've known HR people who are short, yellow and speak unintelligibly.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:21 PM on February 27, 2016


It's bizarre how this has become a thread about two topics that don't appear to touch at all!
posted by rhizome at 7:43 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I bet if someone mentions that they love to use Slack on an Apple iPhone we can get it up to at least three
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:42 PM on February 27, 2016


I love to use Slack on my iPhone to talk to my incredibly helpful HR person!

(Okay, love is an exaggeration. But I do use it for that. )
posted by Night_owl at 5:57 AM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


let's make it four

My team use a Slack bot tied to Jenkins and subversion that tells the team when one of us pushed something to production, as both an announcement thing and a backup of recent history so when something really breaks we can see what code was last deployed.
posted by numaner at 8:19 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read hatred for HR as dog-whistle misogyny

I can see that as one possibility. Especially as incompetence by women employees tends to be less likely to be ignored by management, in my experience.

But then I think of my most recent job, where they were very proud of their awesome HR department. Which screwed up my initial benefits choices so badly that it was delayed two months and required me pointing out 5 times that they still hadn't gotten it right. They didn't stop there, there were a few more disasters, most recently when they sent out 3 incorrect W-2s to all their employees this year before sending a correct one. Soon came along an email detailing how to tell the good W-2 from the bad ones, and congratulating themselves on what an awesome job they did, going above and beyond, by figuring out they'd screwed up. Here's one case where the HR hatred comes from its incompetence. But that place is a company growing out of its start-up past, where most of the managers are out of their depth anyway.

Also, no Slack.
posted by conic at 10:47 PM on February 28, 2016


The Awl has hired Silvia Killingsworth, managing editor of the New Yorker, to take over both Awl & Hairpin duties.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:19 AM on March 2, 2016


The Awl has hired Silvia Killingsworth

It weird how they just come out and say the last 7 years of The Awl is characterized by a lack of enthusiasm.
posted by rhizome at 11:23 AM on March 2, 2016


I still don't quite get Slack - how is it different from regular old IM (Lync/Skype for Business or GChat)?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:12 AM on March 3, 2016


Slack announced voice chat this week, so the differences are getting smaller. I imagine video is on the planning board.
posted by rhizome at 11:29 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, it's a huge difference that Slack doesn't require installing any software.
posted by rhizome at 11:50 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


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