Water Cooler Gossip: Is it all bad?

Although social media websites are being dubbed as the new water cooler, but if the observations made around any office are any indication, ye old water cooler gossip is alive and well.

Let’s face it; the water cooler is where we go to when sitting at the workstation and browsing through irrelevant websites becomes tiring. It is the obelisk around which all workers gather and pay their homage to the gods of gossip. It is where we hydrate our bodies and nourish our minds with the latest, juicy, mouthwatering gossip.

But is that all there is to water coolers? Several studies have indicated that water cooler gossip is actually a good thing for productivity.

Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? After all, how can personal news about person X and Y improve productivity? If anything, unnecessary rumors can inspire other people to promote rumors of their own, and before you know it, the whole office is one giant cesspool of procrastinators divulging in meaningless grapevine.

However, surprising as it may be, that’s not what water cooler gossip is all about. Water cooler gossip allows people to socialize, providing a much needed stress relief at the workplace.

As workers share the latest news and gossip with each other, they inadvertently bring up the latest troubles they are facing with work related issues. The participants in the social circle then present their opinion, and possible solutions to the issues, and before you know it, there is a growth in knowledge for everyone involved.

In this way, the water cooler fulfills the social needs of the office workers, and helps develop a friendly environment for knowledge sharing and learning. For managers, it might appear that the time a worker spends away from their workstation and at the water cooler is time lost in productivity. But that time is actually invested in relationship building, learning, and socializing. As a result it has a positive effect on the overall performance of the employee.

That being said, not all gossip is productive, or even socially healthy. Try to recall your time in high school. The gossips spread about a student, or even a teacher, could ruin that person’s life. To avoid such a thing at the office, try to nurture a positive environment where workers treat each other with respect.

Try to lead by example, and join the water cooler gossip circle every once in a while. Follow the basic etiquettes of social interaction, and your sub-ordinates will follow your lead. If you are a manager, or a team leader, you do not have to have complete control on what goes on at the water cooler.

By nurturing a fun environment where workers share mutual respect, you can ensure that the negative aspects of the water cooler gossip are being avoided while the positive aspects are being maximized. If you treat others with respect behind their back, they would do the same for you, and you will not have to worry about what is being said at the water cooler.

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