Kill The Hi
Yeah, you read it right; I mean the “Hi”; the ‘hi’ people often use as the first message of a conversation in online chat, the same ‘Hi.’ That “Hi” is a productivity killer, a waste of time, and an unnecessary formality that does not suit today’s remote-enabled chatting modes.
The Game Of Hi And Seek
Have you ever started your work day to see a “Hi” from a random person on the office chat? You naturally respond with a “Hi,” what else can you do?. But the other person is away from their desk at that time, is in a meeting, or is having lunch, or is logged in on mobile, and they need to ask you a question with a screen-share, whatever. But they don’t immediately respond. When they do, enough time has passed since the previous “Hi and run” conversation, and they start over with another “Hi” (or a “hey,” you know, for variety). And this may be tea-time for you, and when you come back, ah, you get where this is going? This is unlikely to progress unless they give up on asking the question or you retort with “Just tell me already,” and they dump the question they had for you all this time. A nice game of office hi-and-seek!
These “Hi”s always remind me of the old funny stories my corporate-ping-pong-skilled friends working in service companies used to tell me. Someone would be, as they call it, on-site at a client location. They would ask a question on the internal ticketing system for the offshore team to respond, which would be sleeping when the question is asked. When the offshore team resumed work, it would be the night for the on-site team. If the offshore folks wished to avoid work, all they would need to do is respond with “please elaborate” on the ticket; and they would be free to have fun till the on-site member wakes up! I had heard of similar stories in the era when QA and Dev used to be separate teams; all a developer would do to avoid work is post “unable to reproduce” on the ticket; done for the day! Super fun!
Our offices today are mixtures of online-offline or colocated-remote settings. This means not every person would be present simultaneously at their desk or in front of the computer. And the only way to tell if the other person is at their desk, working, has the time to respond, and is ready to talk to you is by sending them a message!
Make that message mean something. Make it say what you intend to say. So when the other person reverts, or when they read, they can respond with a productive answer!
Types of Communication
In this context, I categorize the types of communication as sync and async.
Sync communication would be when all parties are actively available simultaneously. These would include a physical meeting, a phone call, or a Zoom conference call.
In these settings, the callee/invitee demands the attention and the time of the attendees. The attendees must be actively present, listen, and respond to the live conversation. These types of conversations are also very costly for productivity, the cost of required tools, and the demand it puts on everyone’s time, an expensive resource.
Async communication would be when all parties are not actively available simultaneously but are still in active conversation as and when they are available. All written forms, like text messaging, slack, other chat apps, and e-mail, would be in this category. In addition, some of the newer technology examples are sharing a video recording and asking for feedback (slack’s video message), skipping a meeting, and listening to the recording later.
In these settings, the callee does not demand active time. The attendees are free to, of course, within limits, take their own time to respond.
Call to action: Quality-Hi Communication
Our communication, especially in today’s remote-enabled setting, is often async. Well, even before remote work became the norm, workspaces have always preferred inherently async modes, not for the same reason, of course, but because all the written forms are also suitable for record keeping. And for async communications to be effective, we must give the other party as much context as needed!
Imagine sending an e-mail to someone with just a “Hi”; why do it on chat platforms that function similarly?
And that is the intent of this piece!
Instead of pulling a Hi-Houdini on someone, ping them the full context! Here is an example of such a substantive exchange:
Mr. Greenhorn: “Hi Nikhil, I am new here. My task is to conquer the world. Can you please help me with it?”
Nikhil: “Hi, Mr. Greenhorn. Welcome to the team. I have moved out of the Global DomiNation Division. Please ping Mr. Genghis regarding this.”
End of conversation, onward with world domination, no more Hi-bernation.