It’s easy for an open office space to develop a negative atmosphere. One employee starts complaining about a particular piece of tech or a legacy codebase, and everyone in earshot piles on. The result: A 15-minute whinge-fest (look it up) with no clear gains and some definite downsides.

Even when the negative comments are directed at real problems, like badly-written APIs or monopolistic companies who seem dedicated to making developers’ lives miserable, they are still a source of overall negativity. That can make the workplace feel less welcoming and diminish morale. Recently, one of our newer developers raised a flag and asked if there might be a way to tone down the complaint-fests that seem to occasionally wash over the office.

Problem Solvers To The Rescue

We liked the idea of making our office conversation more positive. But we also know the importance of venting frustration and getting feelings out in the moment.

We’re a company that solves problems for a living. So we came up with a solution to our negativity problem: The #5-minutes-of-hate Slack channel.

Yes, it’s a loose reference to the Orwell novel (because we’re nerds). More importantly, it’s a dedicated space for complaints that our employees can opt into.

Now, instead of venting aloud, if you are feeling frustrated, simply open up the #5-minutes-of-hate channel and pour your emotions out there. We encourage our team members to mute the channel so they don’t get notifications. After all, we didn’t want the whinging to overwhelm our Slack the way it had overwhelmed the office.

The Unexpected Hilarity of Whining In Plain Sight

In the weeks since we created it, the channel has had some surprising outcomes.

One unexpected result is how funny the channel becomes in hindsight. Developers are using it to express minor frustrations more than they did in open conversation. In a recent glance through #5-minutes-of-hate I viewed posts lamenting the following: “mushy brains”, “CSS” and “coughing.”

The channel is still serving its intended purpose as a repository for dumping more significant frustrations. Complaints against developer tools and frameworks certainly come through. But they are silent, and participation is optional.  

Overall, collecting the frustration in one channel has resulted in a more positive office environment. There’s less negative conversation out loud in the office. And collectively, we now have a timeline in which to look back on the ebb and flow of office annoyances — and laugh at our past, frustrated selves.