Search Slack to Discover Office Secrets at Your New Job

Graphic: Slack/Nick DouglasWhen you join a new job, there’s a lot you need to learn beyond the official orientation. You need to figure out your unspoken responsibilities, the relationships between people and departments, and a little of the office gossip. If your workplace uses the chat app Slack, you can pick up a lot of…

Search Slack to Discover Office Secrets at Your New Job

Graphic: Slack/Nick DouglasWhen you join a new job, there’s a lot you need to learn beyond the official orientation. You need to figure out your unspoken responsibilities, the relationships between people and departments, and a little of the office gossip. If your workplace uses the chat app Slack, you can pick up a lot of that info by searching the archives. You don’t have time to read everything everyone wrote, so here’s how to find the most important (and juicy) stuff.You don’t need to go as far as the aggressive new employee described in the New York Times:There was the guy who told of an ambitious new employee at his firm who spent his first weeks scouring thousands of Slack logs dating back years before his arrival. “He has an encyclopedic knowledge of why certain decisions were made and every personnel thing that ever happened,” the employee said. “Every little interpersonal tiff. Every interview we ever conducted!”Just a couple hours of searching, spread throughout your first week or two, can help you get the lay of the land. You can either keep your research to Slack, or use it to hit the ground running when you talk to your new co-workers face to face: “Hey, I saw everyone was discussing a Florida retreat last month. No one mentioned that to me. Should I know?”How to SearchYou can start a search in the top-right corner of the Slack window, or with the Ctrl-F keyboard shortcut (Cmd-F on Mac). Slack will suggest some autocompleted terms as you type.After you hit enter, your results page will include a right-hand column with powerful filter options. You can select specific channels to search, or messages from specific people. You can also search only the channels you’re a member of, or all public channels too. You can include or exclude automatic messages form apps and bots, and you can specify a date range. You can combine any and all of these filters, such as everything your boss said about “invoices” in a specific channel in 2018.You can’t see other people’s direct messages or private channels where you’re not a member—but you can learn a little about how much people are talking in private, as you’ll learn below. Search These Three Most Important PeopleThe very first thing to do is search your own name, in case anyone discussed you before you joined. You’re about to get mentioned much more often, so search this now before the results are cluttered up.Second, search the name of the person you’re replacing. See which channels they spent time in, and which other channels talked about them. Unless you work with idiots, you won’t find a lot of gossip. But if the right channels are public, you’ll see if another department handled your predecessor’s internal requests a lot, or if their work was discussed throughout the org
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