How to Avoid “Water Cooler” Issues
Author: Rosemarie Eccleston – Senior Vice President, Nursing Services
It is a known fact that many a reputation is repudiated or upheld at the proverbial water cooler. Small companies, large companies, it doesn’t seem to matter, word gets around like lightening, especially if the issue up for discussion is of great interest or controversial.
Many years ago, I worked for a fairly small company that actually did have a water cooler in the office. The cooler was positioned in such a way that anyone entering or leaving the office had to pass by. Needless to say on such trips, if folks were congregated around the water cooler, that seemed reason enough to pause and join the group discussion.
Therein lay the hazard. Regardless of whether the conversation was pro or con about someone or an issue, anyone seen in the water cooler vicinity during this discussion was fair game for blame. Inevitably, I became the target for just such blame one Friday afternoon. Though I was not the central speaker, I did offer a passing comment about a company policy of which I was not particularly in favor. Before the day ended, one of the owners appeared in my office. Though his demeanor was casual, I knew something was on his mind.
When he asked about my opinion and how it was voiced, I realized that one of the water cooler denizens had felt free to pass along what I had said. In the translation (according to my office “visitor”), my opinion came across not quite in the way intended. I was fortunate that my visitor was more than happy to hear (and believe) my version of the conversation. However, this situation could have gone the opposite way.
The moral of the story is to not engage in office gossip either around the “water cooler” or in any other office space. Such gossip is sure to eventually work against you, regardless of your innocence.