5 top tips for making the most of water cooler gossip

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Timing your visit to the water cooler could be compared to timing an SAS raid on a combat zone – while providing one of nature’s greatest ways to prevent dehydration, the water cooler can also become the most dangerous place in your office.

The potentially hazardous zone of the water cooler is risky because most people don’t realise that they are entering the world of office gossip.

It’s nice to move away from your everyday tasks and clear your mind by getting up and walking around – as advised in office life. When you collect water from the cooler you will often be placed in a situation where other employees will join you and involve you in not-so-idle chatter.

Agreeing by implication

Even when you don’t agree with what is being said by the gossipers around the water cooler, if you don’t disagree your silence will be taken as consent by all present when the issue is raised at your employee review or during an exit interview.

Here are five simple tips to ensure that your visits to the water cooler are less adventurous:

  1. Think before you speak. Joining in the conversation can put you in a difficult position, especially if you disagree with the general gossip.
  2. Leave the battle zone early. As soon as the gossipers stray into areas of difficult conversation, turn and leave so you are out of the way as soon as possible. But don’t forget your water!
  3. Time your visits better. Ensure, with military precision, that your visits to the water cooler can be conducted when no one else is there.
  4. Only visit when your boss is there. When your boss is at the water cooler there is less chance that unfortunate gossip will take place.
  5. You could even casually put your comments in writing. Rather than being judged by your verbal comments, send an email to the people that were talking around the water cooler stating your exact point of view.

Gossip can be good for you

Some people suggest that office gossip around the water cooler is an essential ingredient for social interaction between employees. It can be argued that humans need face-to-face social communication with other employees during the course of the day’s work to break up the monotony of being stuck behind a desk or a cog in a factory’s machinery.

People are going to talk anyway and it is perhaps better that employees have relatively short conversations around the water cooler, as opposed to sitting down for 15 or 30 minutes with a group of people where the discussions can become markedly worse over a longer period.

Office gossip is going to happen whether you like it or not. Learning how to deal with it is an essential part of office politics and applying the five tips to make sure that you are not deeply involved with any damaging reports finding the ears and the email of high management, is a skill that is best learned quickly.