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It is not only at the watercooler! Yes! It isn’t!

And that is the simple truth –

So hear me out!
To start with, the growing aspect of global economy and universalism, everyday a
t your workplace must count for something. It never really makes sense to wake u
p each day to go office, warm your behind on that cushion for what seems like et
ernity and streaming off brilliant ideas in the interest of the shareholders tha
t be, only to get paid with a simple paycheck – you might as well go solo, start
your own chickens, volunteer to charity or whatever suits your grey matter - ma
ny people have started out on their own and made it with evident success. What t
hen is office supposed to be about?
In “The People Manager’s Pocketbook", Ian Fleming mentions that one of the great
est possible influences of motivation within the workplace environment could be
the nature of one’s relationships with others. He also indicated that this kind
of motivation could be responsible for the difference between staff that are ris
k takers and those that are not.
So, where does the magic at the workplace come in for things to seem better and
go on smoother? From a increased benefits? May be! A better pay check? Perhaps!
Evident promotion? Quite close!
But that ain’t it, my dear friend. Current trend clearly shows that relationship
and interpersonal comfort is creating more employee stability and retention. Ea
rly corporate culture of 1990s and early 2000s shows that the “watercooler cultu
re” was gaining popularity. This is because every once in a while, 2 or 3 employ
ees of the same company especially from different departments would meet coincid
entally at the “watercooler” for a glass of water. These few minutes were a grea
t and perfect opportunity for employees to interact and exchange ideas. It also
helped create and strengthen the interpersonal relationships that are barely exi
stent between operational level employees of different departments. And while th
e culture of the “watercooler” is yet to die out, there are more opportunities t
o utilise this mechanism to build more and better interpersonal relationships. S
everal companies, even in Uganda, hold themed social gatherings to foster intera
ction and tolerance within the workplace. Barry, a procurement manager at a repu
table firm once intimated to me that when they were looking for a new and bigger
office to move to, the design and layout for the office area was specific to cr
eating an atmosphere where interaction and interpersonal communication would be
increased. “There were no cubicles and closed offices – except for top managemen
t!” Many marketing and sales staff have mastered this skill and used it even in
business acquisition and retention situations. One particular exception and almo
st universally agreed is that “offer to open up to others first, and they will n
urture the relationship in return.”
Richard, a finance staff agrees that he is keener to assist and work with someon
e that he is more familiar with. This like many other situations identifies how
offering to help others is an evident tactic to improve interpersonal relationsh
ips. "Our research shows that people are much more likely to call if someone is
not just an expert but also has initiated some sort of social exchange to make o
thers comfortable," says Noshir Contractor, professor of behavioral sciences at
Northwestern University s Kellogg School of Management, who has done research on
social and knowledge networks. Ariana Green in her article “How to Make Your Ne
twork Work for You” also points out that While Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and
other online networking sites can become time drains, online networking is usefu
l for strengthening connections. Such interest groups and networks are also a gr
eat opportunity to meet other people and exchange great ideas and interactions.
And with the advent of globalization and communication technology, what started
as a watercooler thing now spans various levels, vertical and horizontal, interr
acially and cross-culturally.
So, as you go about mixing that cup during the coffee-break, use the chance to g
et to know that colleague better, chat up the finance guy and say hello to the H
R manager. That few minutes of valuable chit-chat might weigh in several weeks o
f valuable and fulfilling office work and perhaps create the kind of atmosphere
you have always dreamt about in your workplace. Just remember to avoid gossiping
altogether – leave that outside your office.