How to kill your co-worker by ignoring his Slack messages

Julja S
The Startup
Published in
7 min readMay 29, 2019

Or how to stop virtual team members suffering from isolation

One of the surest ways to lower individuals’ self-esteem is to reject them. (Forsyth, Donald Group Dynamics)

Imagine: You are on social media, Facebook, Slack, Whatsapp, you call it. You write a message to a contact that is online. The addressed somebody received the message and read it. But then: nothing. Minutes pass, and nothing. The person you texted does not reply to you. How do you feel?

The time we have between reading and answering a text message is 8 minutes. If it takes longer, it is like rejecting our communication partner (Smith, A. & Williams, K. D. (2004). R u there? Ostracism by cell phone text messages. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8(4), 291–301). Even if you did not mean so, the person who texted us will feel like we rejected them.

A wall post that does not get a single comment. Or a negative comment on our status post. We experience it like a face-to-face rejection. It is as strong as a snubbed conversation or a vocal insult. Not answering this social media message is like a slap in the face. And it gives us the feeling of being isolated.

This is a remote team’s ultimate nightmare

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Working from home, living alone, having a small social network. Isolation is one of the most named disadvantages of remote work. And isolation is dangerous.

As their isolation wears on, they report fear, insomnia, memory lapses, depression, fatigue, and general confusion.
(Forsyth, source: Burney, C., 1961. Solitary confinement (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin’s Press.)

Being isolated for a long time gives people psychological stress. We are all individuals and we all react in a different way to isolation. But we all react sooner or later with negative outcomes to isolation. Without exception.

John T. Cacippo and William Patrick, authors of “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection”, highlight the…

Julja S
The Startup

Virtual team building coach at . I facilitate fully virtual workshops for remote teams.