‘Hey Hanging’ Is The Rudest Workplace Behavior. Are You Guilty Of It?

'Hey Hanging' Is The Rudest Workplace Behavior. Are You Guilty Of It? - The Times Post
'Hey Hanging' Is The Rudest Workplace Behavior. Are You Guilty Of It?

Three letters. One syllable. It may seem like an innocuous enough message, but in digital workspaces such as Slack or Google Chat, few words or phrases are as anxiety-inducing as a simple “hey.”

And “hey” with no follow-up or with a heavy pause? That can be downright unnerving when it comes from a manager. (“Hey what? Am I about to be called into a conference room for layoffs?”) If you’ve never chatted with the person before, a “hey” out of the blue can leave you second-guessing yourself, too. (“What does this person from a random department want? Am I being pulled into something?”)

Even if you mean well ― you might be thinking, what’s so wrong with saying “hi!” to someone before getting to the point? ― leaving someone “hey hanging” is generally ill-advised, said Pattie Ehsaei, a senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions lending at a major bank. (Ehsai also runs the TikTok account Duchess of Decorum, where she teaches financial literacy and workplace decorum.)

“All communication at work via email or Slack should have a clear agenda and purpose, either providing information or enough context for the receiver to reply,” Ehsaei told HuffPost. “‘Hey’ leaves the receiver confused as to the purpose of the communication and doesn’t initiate a reply.”

“Hey” ― with no other text or context accompanying it ― suggests that the sender is waiting for a little chitchat before getting to their point. That doesn’t always make sense for Slack, which has 10 million-plus daily users.

Though it depends on your work culture, people don’t necessarily get back to Slack messages right away. That’s because it’s a form of asynchronous communication: One person says their piece, and there’s generally a lag time before the recipient replies. (The opposite of asynchronous communication is synchronous communication, where a person is expected to reply immediately, like they would on the phone, in person or on a Zoom video call.)

Because so many people are on the move in an office, on different schedules, or working remotely, asynchronous communication is oftentimes the preferred means of communication at work.

To avoid any awkward pauses, it’s better just to explain what you need right off the bat, said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and host of the weekly podcast “Were You Raised by Wolves?”

“Human communication often involves a lot of nuance, much of which is lost in text format,” he said. “When communications are especially brief such as ‘hey,’ there isn’t always enough to go on and it’s easy to come up with a lot of different interpretations, not all of which are good.”

Most of us crave closure and clarity in the workplace, Leighton added, and a lone “hey” feels too open-ended. Some online have noted that hey hanging is more common among baby boomers, and Leighton generally thinks that’s true.

“Attitudes towards hey hanging are somewhat generational, and whether or not this is maddening or innocuous may depend on how old you are,” he said. “But generally, if you’re the sender, it’s best to get it all out there in the first message.”


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