Water Cooler Talk – What’s Really Going on Between Your Employees


Every employer knows that employees talk amongst themselves in ways they likely wouldn’t talk with their manager. While it’s ok to acknowledge those interactions happen, it’s also important to manage relationships in such a way that any office gossip or chatter doesn’t distract from the daily work. Here’s a glimpse into what’s really going on around the water cooler.

Dealing with Office Drama

It’s important to keep your ear to the ground as a manager to understand what’s a hot topic among your employees. So-called “office drama” can have a powerfully negative impact in morale or even performance. Make sure your employees can focus on the task at hand. Are they getting distracted by interoffice relations? Are managers feeling the strain of disgruntled employees stirring up trouble with others on their teams? It might seem like there’s nothing to be done, a few thoughtfully planned conversations with team members can reveal a lot about what’s at the source of any discontent. Remember to stay open to feedback, and really listen to hear what all the fuss is about.

Changing the Conversation

An important management skill is one where you manage the conversation going on within your organizations and help your team refocus on their work and reduce unnecessary distractions. This is about more than telling them to get back to it. There’s an element of motivation involved, and understanding where the source of discontent or gossip is stemming from. You might not be able to solve everyone’s problems all the time, but you can listen with an open mind, provide support where it is needed and even change the conversation. Make sure you are available and approachable enough to help your teams focus on the work and improving the situation together.

Enabling Team Building

The bulk of office drama stems from a natural sense of competition that many employees feel with each other. There’s a time and a place for this competitive nature, but it can create a very toxic work culture if it’s taken too far. The question becomes, how can you focus on them developing a sense of family? Culture is something everyone contributes to, so make sure it starts with you making it a priority. It’s one thing to pay lip service to team building without taking the time to provide the opportunities. You might be surprised how helpful morale events, lunches, and treats can boost your team’s positivity and goodwill for you and for each other.

Speak with the Team Openly

If it’s clear that one disgruntled employee is riling up the others, it is often best to address the issue directly, with other team members openly and honestly while retaining any personally or professionally sensitive information. Silence from leadership on such issues can lead to gossip and hearsay that adds to the impact on team morale. Speaking with the team quickly after the departure is an effective way to reassure team members know that they are not at risk of losing their jobs, answer any questions they might have, and encourage the group to look ahead to more successes and positive outcomes.

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