Articles and Commentary
October 12, 2021 The Atlantic
SLACKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! Why employees love the software, and bosses don’t
By Ellen Cushing Illustrations by Maria Chimishkyan
In 2014, the executives at a brand-new start-up called Andela made a decision whose consequences they would only understand much later. Andela’s model was to recruit and train
promising African engineers, then place them at Western tech firms, which meant its employees and clients were scattered across time zones; it desperately needed a way for its distributed workforce to share information and make decisions easily and asynchronously, ideally without subjecting anyone to a deluge of emails. So the company started using Slack.
The maker of the chat software had recently become one of San Francisco’s trendiest new companies, based on a promise to make work communication more transparent and fluid. And at Andela, it did. As the company grew, Slack became its central nervous system, the place where business was conducted and where the company’s culture was formed.
Over time, it also became the site of a workplace revolt, as the company’s fellows—engineers in training—began to agree that they were being mistreated. The complaints started in private messaging groups, where they’d discuss priorities before big meetings, in order to act as a sort of bloc in front of senior leadership. But when the fellows stopped being invited to those meetings, they created a private Slack channel where they’d air their grievances, especially about pay.