4 Reasons Why Dependence on Chat is Dangerous.

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A buzz on the phone sparks a miasma of reactions from a person. Right in your pocket, every single buzz promises to be something important, something unmissable.

Maybe you read our anti-email manifesto and have switched your team over to chat. It is easy, convenient. But you’re kidding if you can say that you never had an issue with managing information from your Skype chat or Whatsapp.

It is very easy just to message someone expecting an answer, but in the long term, dependence on chat to get things done is just absurd.

1. Chat is a Monster Impossible to Manage

Chat is the bad kind of monster. Those who use chat fall into the trap of initiating the conversation, getting a reply and thinking that the work is done. Guess again, buddy.

Most of the time, this gives senders a false sense of security that they are getting something done, when in reality the communication is lost possibly in Skype, between Sunday 29th August to Tuesday 14th of July. It might as well be in Rome, and by that we mean there are 22 places named Rome so good luck finding it.

At some point in time, this might have been you chatting with your colleague.

Chat makes you hesitant to archive conversations, as you’d never know when you’re going to need the transcripts at some point. Everything gets lost, and they get lost too easily.

This is especially true if you’re speaking to the one person, but in order to talk to them you’re using a combination of email, Skype, Whatsapp and LINE. In order to search what this person has said at some point, your work become fourfold as you have to go through each platform. You might not even find what you’re looking for there. (Maybe it was actually a text?)

2. Chat Breeds an ASAP culture

Clients will always want a response as early as possible, that is a truth that will never change. Thing is, it is just impossible to reply to the client with the right response every time at their earliest convenience.

Answering chat as early as possible actually provides a dangerous precedent, as your client, colleagues or suppliers will expect lightning fast response time every time. Work begins to spill into dinners, weekends, and holidays. This is not healthy for you or the project.

ASAP culture diverts away attention from the task at hand and makes you less productive. Everybody tends to go over each other’s boundaries, and resentment will breed, and sooner or later armageddon is nigh. Don’t be the person that brings about armageddon.

The only ASAP for you at this stage is to get rid of this ASAP culture that is sucking away everybody’s productivity. Which brings us to the next reason:

3. Chat is Distracting You

Did you stop and check a phone notification during this article? How often do you spend an hour not checking various chat platforms?

Technology is a good thing (in moderation.) But dependence on it will only hurt you over the long run. Your phone demands attention all hours of the day.

This automatically makes you less productive, as you take the phone out and see the message. Worse, re-shifting your attention left and right will bring you mental fatigue. You will not be performing at your peak if you allow yourself to get distracted that easily.

Convince clients and co-workers to use their time more efficiently. Don’t let the seemingly urgent overtake the important.

4. Chat is Ambiguous

Ambiguity begets ambiguity. There are times when a stakeholder or client sends you a message at 10 P.M. with a message directed maybe to a U-Boat captain instead of you:

“OTP Crash. Please solve.”

There is no context, details or push to actually resolve the issue. The message is only as good as a message in a bottle lost at sea, especially in a group chat (that is a topic we will cover in its own entirety).

Look at the message above. There are no further details of the issue: no phone numbers, no device details and when the problem needs to be solved by. We don’t even know who it is directed to. The context is lacking.

Chat exacerbates a user’s online disinhibition effect. This is a phenomenon where the user does not behave online as he/she would in the real world. Timid people may be paper tigers, but may not have the same inhibitions in real life.

Online behavior blurs the lines of a person’s behavior to the point that the context itself becomes ambiguous. A misdirected word could be a bomb to your team’s fragile dynamics if there are any office politics at play.

So Should We Avoid Chat?

Chat is a recent feature in 21st century communications, and it is here to stay. Don’t let it hinder, but harness: establish some important rules for your team to use chat at the right time.

Used rightly, chat can be super effective. Used excessively, all the problems above are going to haunt you.

Schedule Your Chat

This article isn’t anti-communication. It’s advocating for effective communication. Chat breeds an environment where clients or other working groups are contacting you several times a day.

This tapping on the shoulder effect eats up hours of your day. Urgency is passed down the line, which stifles the attention of your team and prevents them from doing their best, focused work.

Convince clients to batch their questions in the morning with things they want to address for the day. Removing the constant back-and-forth frees up your time and allows you to create more value for your client.

Set the Rules for Your Team

Chat is not all bad, especially within your team. Urgency will arise, just make sure your team knows what constitutes as urgent. 

Are you delivering a baby? That is urgent. Is your proposal that you’re presenting to a client tomorrow missing a part from your colleague? Could be urgent. Set the rules of what is urgent and use chat for those situations. Give clear direction on what channels to use for non-urgent issues, check out Mäd’s Handbook under “Communications”as an example.

If you’re not working in a remote environment, chances are your co-workers are sitting right next to you. It is ludicrous to use chat just to communicate with somebody in the same room. Don’t use chat if you can see the person physically, it’s just common sense.

And don’t send messages after hours when it can wait until the morning. It’s not fair on your colleagues, who need their private space.

Everything Else Should Be on Blue

If it’s not on Blue, it never happened.

Chat is a trap. It is an illusion of work, but it only adds more work later on. Blue stems this issue of work for the sake of work, and curtails things being lost in chat.

Each project will have separate tasks with realistic deadlines. Those who contribute to the task will have a private space where they are able to do their work unimpeded and those who need to be in the know will know where the task is at any given time. Everything is transparent.

Team members will comment and perform the task at their convenience, so the work still gets done, but in a controlled, manageable pace.

Give Blue a try, and skip all the chat headaches today.

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