“Watercooler” Conversation Is NOT Chit Chat

Small Talk Counts     

water colorReading business magazines, social research and trade journals gives clarity to many issues. One fairly recent finding may have surprised a few efficiency experts, but not smart and savvy executives.

According to an article in Psychology Today on The Watercooler Effect,  cohesion contributes to both productivity and job satisfaction. It reflects how connected our work friends are to us and with each other.

  • You see… it has been discovered that ‘water cooler’ conversation that was so despised and denigrated by some…benefits the company! Yes, you read that right. The small talk that too many people dismiss has a positive impact.

People who gather around the water cooler (or today’s Cappuccino machine) establish social connections, ties and bonds among those who are casually chatting with each other.

Did You Hear What Dowager Countess Grantham Said About …?

Those informal exchanges are effective because they precede the business conversations that must take place.  Here you have people who work together chatting about their favorite movie, video game, book, baseball or basketball team or the lastest episode of Downton Abbey or Episodes. They find a common interest, they bond and that that bond blooms. People then naturally segue and start to talk about the project at hand, difficulties encountered with a customer  and – voila–someone offers the solution that worked for their team.

Ergo, informal communication leads to effective brainstorming and collaboration; be it around the water cooler, latte machine or scanner. People often share information more easily and more comfortably  in these non-judgemental, relaxed settings as opposed to the department meeting they HAVE attend.




 Coffee Breaks Increase Productivity

There have been attempts to formalize the informal conversation structure. Some may work. Because these attempts at formalizing the informal provide some enterprising consultants with additional revenue, someone does benefit monetarily. But for the most part, the formalization puts the kibosh on the freedom of flow. The old flowcharts just plain stop the flow!

Smart companies recognize that conversation is the crux of the communication and that it contributes to discoveries, solutions and the ambiance in the workplace.

The solution may be to add more water to the coolers and a hill of beans to the coffee machines and latte makers!


About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915