Weekly Editorial

Hey Hanging - The Silent Office Stressor

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • April 29, 2024

The Insider_Weekly_editorial_4.29.24

Last week, we covered the idea of bed rotting — basically the act of working from your bed (and not working from your bed) while working from home. This week, I’ve come across another new workplace term: “hey hanging.”

I found this one in the April 25 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Hey hanging simply means sending a one word message to someone like “hey” without any context. It appears these simple messages send workers into a tizzy.

What does “hey” mean? Is it a positive hey or a negative hey? Hey hanging might happen on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat or over text, but it results in the same fear-induced panic for workers.

Bryan Robinson, a psychotherapist and author of a book on hybrid work, told the Journal that the word can engage a fight-or-flight response. “The brain has to know ‘What’s going to happen?’ for survival,” he says, and it often jumps to the worst-case scenario. “Our minds go, ‘I’m in hot water.’”

The whole hey hanging hubbub comes down to effective communication. For an older worker in the office, a “hey” text might simply be a way to get another worker’s attention. But for younger workers, “hey” might come off as something entirely different.

Employees spend nearly 90% of their workweek communicating across multiple channels, according to a 2023 Harris Poll survey of more than 1,200 workers and executives. One in four said they experience miscommunication multiple times a day, according to the report, which was conducted on behalf of proofreading software company Grammarly.

According to the article, part of the problem is that instant-messaging forums at work are still relatively new. Microsoft says its heaviest users now send and receive about 150 chats a day—gaining on the more than 250 emails a day they receive. Slack says 700 million messages are now sent across its channels each day. Discord, which got its start in the gaming community, is increasingly used among friend groups at work.

Though these instant-messaging apps are new, communication is not. So the next time you send a single world message like “hey” or “hiya” or “yo,” you might be causing your co-workers undo stress. It’s better to include some information with the message. “Hey, we need to talk about the deadline for submitting the proposal to XYZ Company” is a much better way to communicate.

In case you think the Wall Street Journal is overblowing the problem, you might want to visit the website no hello, which has tips for responding to the single word chats. How does it feel to suffer through hey hanging? According to the website, it feels a bit like this: Imagine calling someone on the phone, saying “hello!” then putting you on hold.

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