Photo Courtesy of Mordant Orange
The one commonality I unfortunately bear witness to from office to office, is the painfully awkward water cooler conversation. It’s forced. It’s unnatural. it’s an obligation. It’s typically the only authorized escape from the mundane dredges of “cube” life - besides a trip to Starbucks.
On one particular project, my cube was right next to the cooler. After the thoughts of banging my head repeatedly against my desk as I was subjected to being a unknown third wheel to all cooler convos, I learned that there are 5 generally accepted cooler topics (GACT...my accounting prof would be proud): weather, past weekend events, upcoming weekend events, healthy snacks, and the game.
At which point I wonder, is this really socializing? There are GACTs and there are GSCRs (generally accepted cooler responses). They’re predominately predetermined conversations that are more of a social obligation than actually socializing. Is it socialization when you already know the answer you’ll receive?
However, my water cooler is bigger...better...has 1000 people around it.
The Millennial’s water cooler is Facebook, with a splash of Twitter, and a twist of GChat. I can use that same 5mins you spent at your cooler to have meaningful conversations over GChat in my Gmail, or post a comment/question/reply to a friend’s wall, or even give a quick update to my friends as to what I’m up to.
I would even argue that my cooler is better for business. The time I spend on social media is time spent growing my network outside of the office. The more people I have strong connections with, the more 2nd degree contacts the company I work for has.
So, if both coolers eat 5 minutes of break time, and both are forms of socialization, why do companies allow cooler talk and block employees from accessing social media sites? Let’s face it, Gen-Y and Gen-X communicate differently. Why should one generation be allowed to converse one way, and a different generation be denied the ability to converse another way?