This week on “The Community Corner,” The Hoya had the chance to sit down with Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, to discuss workplace communication and, most importantly, Slack.
Slack, a digital business messaging platform launched in 2013, has grown into an essential communications app used by business leaders as well as Georgetown students. Why switch to the colorful app? This is what multimedia employee Mia Rasamny (COL ’24) tried to find out.
Hear from Tannen and student club leaders about what Slack has to offer their organizations, especially female members.
GB: From The Hoya, my name is Grace Buono (COL ’23), this is “The Community Corner”, a weekly show about the life and stories of the Hoyas near and far from Hilltop. This week, multimedia employee Mia Rasamny (COL ’24) was on a mission to learn more about everything from linguistics to Slack, a communication and messaging platform used by businesses and student groups. Here is Rasamny with more.
MR: Have you ever felt lost in translation when communicating with others? Today we have hundreds of ways to communicate, but obviously some ways are more effective than others, especially in a professional environment. This week I met one of Georgetown’s linguistics professors and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Deborah Tannen. Dr Tannen focuses on how the language of everyday conversations affects relationships.
DT: We all have different styles of conversation. And if you talk to someone whose style is similar to yours, you can assume that they mean what you would mean if you said the same thing and the same content. But if you talk to someone with a different conversational style, it can cause you to misunderstand what they mean and they might misunderstand what you mean. And more importantly, you misjudge yourself.
MR: Throughout this conversation, Dr Tannen and I have discussed the role of gender in communication, especially in the workplace. One of Dr. Tannen’s books, “This Isn’t What I Wanted to Say,” was written based on a course she teaches here in Georgetown, “Intercultural Communication”. Additionally, she wrote a book on women at work called “Talking 9 to 5,” which is the one we’ll be discussing today.
DT: In a position of authority, you are faced with a double constraint. Now, it’s different from a double standard: you are supposed to meet the expectations of a good woman. You are supposed to meet the expectations of a good leader or manager, but anything you do to meet one set of expectations actually violates the other.
MR: There has been a significant improvement regarding women in the workplace, in part due to the increase in more inclusive methods of communication, which many of us are probably familiar with, Slack. Slack is a more organized form of communication and increases productivity through organized spaces called channels. Channels give teams a shared view of the work in progress because channel members work in sync and can stay up to date on all work done within a group or company. Many Georgetown clubs use Slack, in addition to employees of large companies such as Target, Uber, and Lyft. I first discovered the benefits of slacking with the President of the International Relations Club here in Georgetown, who is a junior at the School of Foreign Service, Emily Hardy (SFS ’23).
EH: We had the Slack vs. iMessage debate two years ago, so when I was a sophomore on the board. It was about whether or not we wanted to switch from a traditional group chat, like iMessage, to Slack. It took a shocking time, to say the least. What we ultimately decided was that Slack would make it easier, not for outside members, but for executives who aren’t necessarily exclusively board members. So tangential leadership is not the right word. But to have all layers and levels of leadership integrated into one workspace, which is why we ultimately went with Slack, like iMessage or GroupMe. It’s also so much more organized, I found, and it works like – it works like a real communication catalyst.
MR: In addition to my conversation with Hardy, I wanted to hear about Slack’s role in other student organizations. So I contacted Georgetown Student Capital’s director, Phoebe Martin (MSB ’23), who is in second year at McDonough School of Business.
PM: So we started using Slack this fall after hiring our first class of analysts, because we needed a way to communicate with everyone, in a more professional setting as well. The great thing about Slack is that everyone on a general group chat is treated the same. We all have the same access to a general chat. Another thing to note, obviously sometimes people can have separate conversations about recruiting events – we are all in different messaging channels and have different connections and receive different opportunities, and so it is very important to me in as a GC director we put all of these recruiting events in Slack. I think from that point of view everyone is on an equal footing in terms of recruiting. You don’t have people talking about recruiting in separate forums. Everything is in one place to make sure everyone has access to the same information.
MR: Dr Tannon adds to the conversation regarding the benefits of Slack, especially in how it empowers women in the workplace.
DT: People tend to look at women for the way they look, more than anything we say. I remember when I was on TV when you just didn’t understand what got a lot of attention, so it frees up out there in face-to-face meetings, and that’s so, so it’s a advantage. You don’t have to worry about interrupting someone or getting, you know, attention. In a workplace, we talk about important things. So if it’s talked about on Slack, you hear about it and can participate if you want.
MR: Slack can be liberating for women because it strengthens communication in the workplace. Dr Tannen mentions how women face negative reactions to assert themselves at work. Yet with apps like Slack, the way women act is no longer criticized as it once was, as the only thing that matters is the sentences they type into the app. Slack lets women worry less about how they present themselves at work.
EH: I think the most important element and the biggest obstacles that we find are relatively institutional. So, for example, if informal or, like, secret methods of communication are ingrained, private group chats, private messaging channels, you know, private GroupMes, things where it’s impossible even for executives to know the types of communication that occur within an organization. , that it becomes much easier to generate exclusivity. However, when you have something like Slack, where as the chairman I can see all the channels available in the GIRC / GIRA sub-table and in, like, the GIRC / GIRA Chats, I have the ability to know that there is no such kind of exclusivity or under the table that occurs on work opportunities or on IRC opportunities. So even though there are personal discussions beyond IRC, there is no communication about IRC events with a large number of people if it doesn’t happen on Slack. The institution of the formalization of communication and the centralization of communication is the component that enables empowerment.
PM: I’m going to be completely blunt, I never really thought about how my gender might affect my post, but it might be easier for the girls to come up to me and ask for my contact details and send me a message. a message through other means of communication because maybe I would be considered more of an older sister or something like that. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who is more like you. So I think the great thing about Slack is that no one has to ask me for my contact details in advance. They can just send me a private message right away. There is something about Slack that feels very professional, very corporate, which is great in the sense that we want to give our students the option to use Slack because it is software that they could use at the future.
MR: While Slack has many advantages, Dr Tannen shared with me a story that shows us that apart from Slack there is so much progress to be made when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, even digitally through on-screen communication. .
DT: I was interviewing him for a book on another topic. She had only been working for a few years after graduation in a company and an intern was assigned to work with her. And after a few months, she thought things were going pretty well. They had one of those conversations that you have with people after you get to know them a little bit. “What did you think of me when you – when we first met?” And this young man, the intern, said, “I thought you were a bitch.” And she was shocked and asked, “Why? And he said, “Because your emails get straight to the point, you know, no caps, no exclamation points, no emojis.” And that’s an absolute nonverbal parallel to the double bind that if women don’t speak in a way that you would expect from a woman, they just speak like a leader – you know, get right to the point, talk about what you’re good at being assertive – then you’re going to be seen as a bad woman.
MR: Dr. Tannen ends our conversation by offering advice on communication in the workplace and ways in which individuals can increase their confidence when communicating in a professional environment.
DB: The advice I would give at all levels is this: listen to these different ways of speaking and see what seems to be working well, what does not seem to be working well. If you find that you are not getting the effect you want, try doing something different. And it could be ways of speaking, you know, it could be more emojis or less emojis. And it’s always a good idea to talk to people, to ask people you trust. How do I meet? Is there something you think I’m doing that isn’t helping me that maybe I should change?
GB: This podcast was recorded and edited by Mia Rasamny and produced by Grace Buono. Special thanks to Deborah Tannen, Emily Hardy and Phoebe Martin for taking the time to speak with The Hoya. That’s all we have for now, tune in for more soon.