Office Chitchat Isn’t Necessarily a Time Waster

When Employees are Happy, They Work Better

Office Chitchat Isn't Necessarily a Time Waster Managers who disapprove and clamp down on impromptu encounters that people have at their desks, in the hallways, by the elevators, in the lunchroom, or by the water coolers can create a work environment that’s unpleasant, even repressive.

If truth be told, what may seems like idle chitchat actually forges links between people and encourages a culture of openness that can help people work toward common goals.

Informal, spontaneous conversations between coworkers, especially between colleagues from different departments, will not only give people a chance to know each other better, but also create a feeling of collaboration. The camaraderie that grows from employees sharing a little fun can go a long way toward fostering a feeling that they’re part of a team.

Chitchat is About Building Relationships

During those inconsequential “idle moments” of office conversations, important information is being exchanged. You’re learning much about others and offering details about yourself.

  • Whom can you trust? Who possesses strong convictions? Who has a broad experience or in-depth knowledge?
  • Who is a stimulating brainstormer? Who has the wherewithal for workarounds to problems?
  • Who can open doors for you? Who can facilitate otherwise hard-to-get connections?
  • Who can influence the leadership decisions? Who can evangelize your project to the right people? Who can bend the leadership’s ear? Who can be your cheerleader?
  • Who can lend a consoling ear in moments of problems or crisis? Who sees the bright side of problems?
  • Who can help you with questions on software, help you decide health insurance plans, or fix the printer?

Casual Conversations are About Networking and Leaving Positive Impressions

Small talk and casual conversations are an important element of collegial workplaces. People like talking about themselves, so if you can remember a nugget of information from the last time you met (kids, pets, and travels are great topics) bring it up.

To be respectful of others’ time, remember this two-minute rule: unless you’re discussing a topic of some importance, try to wrap up your small talk and casual chats in two minutes. Pay attention to your listener’s non-verbal cues and adjust the extent of your conversation. You can always arrange to convene later, “I’d love to hear more, but I’m in a rush. Why don’t I call you afterhours? How about we meet up for coffee this weekend?”

Nevertheless, don’t let chatter go too far and negatively impact your productivity or those of others. If you’re considered as too chatty, others may to resent bumping into you. If you tend to talk too much about yourself, you’ll be judged self-absorbed and interpersonally clueless.

Likeability is Important in How You Will Be Perceived in Your Workplace

Likeability is Important in How You Will Be Perceived in Your Workplace Cordiality is a significant persuasive technique because people are much more likely to feel warmly towards those they like. They’ll do things for you if you earnestly show interest in them, chat with them on a regular basis, and make them feel good about themselves.

Colleagues who don’t chat can come across as arrogant or abrupt. Highly competent but unpopular professionals don’t thrive as well as their moderately competent, but popular counterparts.

Small Talk is a Critical Tool for Creating a Personal Bond with Your Coworkers

Even though an office is primarily a place of business, chatting about non-work topics and establishing rapport with coworkers is important. People who know and like each other tend to have each other’s backs and help out when necessary.

Even if, eventually, you’ll be accepted or rejected based on the more tangible aspects of your work, the fact of the matter is that these interpersonal impressions matter a great deal along the way and can even shape how people judge your more actual work.

Idea for Impact: Balance your dedication to your workload with a cooperative nature, you will gain needed allies to get things done and to help your career progression in the company.

What to Do When You Forget a Person’s Name

The Art of Remembering Names: When You Forget a Person's Name

Remembering names is an important social skill — mastering this skill can offer a distinct advantage in your professional and personal lives. Previous blog articles discussed a 5R (Resolve, Review, Relate, Repeat, Record) technique to help remember names and a technique to remember names around tables in meetings.

Apologize and Ask

Despite your best efforts, on occasion you may not be able recollect the name of another person, even if you were introduced minutes earlier. In such cases, simply ask, “I am sorry, I forgot your name.” Do not elaborate or try to qualify. Alternately, ask for the person’s business card if appropriate

Another familiar situation is when you run into someone you know–you can remember several details of the person and your prior interactions,–but cannot recall the person’s name. This person may assume that you know his/her name and hence may not self-introduce. You may go through an entire conversation trying to call to mind this person’s name. Simply say, “Forgive me. I remember we met at last year’s sales conference. I can remember everything about you, but, I can’t recall your name. Could you please repeat it for me?”

Introduce a Third Person

Yet another technique is to introduce a third person. Say, at an office holiday party, you fail to remember the name of a colleague. Turn to your colleague and say, “I don’t think you have met my husband, Frank.” Frank and your colleague exchange greetings: “Hi, I am Frank. Nice to meet you.” Your colleague reveals her name: “Hi, I am Isabella David.”

At any rate, avoid embarrassing yourself by using an assumed or a wrong name. Apologize and ask the person to state or confirm his/names.

Judging People: Talent is more than Skin-Deep

Judging People: Talent is more than Skin-Deep

Perception and Reality are Often Poles Apart

At a non-profit organization, I work with two members of the support staff. Sally and Diane (names and context changed for anonymity) joined the organization five months ago and report to the branch manager.

Sally is young, energetic and talks loudly; however, she lacks initiative, has difficulty following-up on assignments and needs constant reminders. Diane is experienced, thorough at work and gets her assignments done promptly; she is quiet and has an introverted personality.

Sally recently had an opportunity to coordinate the visit of the Executive Director of the non-profit organization. The executive was impressed with Sally’s abilities and asked the branch manager to give Sally a raise with a promotion. The branch manager, who had not spent a lot of time with Sally, shared this initial assessment on Sally and agreed.

Having interacted with Sally and Diane extensively, I considered Sally’s promotion unfortunate. Diane was more deserving of promotion for her hard work, initiative and promise for advancement.

Learn to Look Beyond the Surface

Judging People: Talent is more than Skin-DeepOur first impressions are usually deceptive and incomplete. We tend to judge people based on their appearance, their mannerisms (smile, handshake, liveliness, etc.) and their tone. However, reality runs deeper than what is visible at the surface.

  • Know what you are looking for. Develop evaluation criteria and write them down. For instance, assume you are looking for a project manager to lead a new product development. Write down what skills and attributes a good project manager should possess. What should be the ideal background? Would you like the candidate to have had experience leading projects of similar size and scope? Did the projects complete on-time and within assigned budgets?
  • Do not judge people because you share common characteristics. An example: A hiring manager I worked with sometime ago brought a candidate onsite just because the candidate’s resume listed membership in the manager’s favorite charitable group. None of the other interviewers was impressed with the candidate’s leadership skills (among other attributes). The hiring manager realized his mistake and remarked, “I thought everybody that participated in [activity] with [charitable group’s name] was a natural leader.”
  • Check the opinions of others who may have had different perspectives in other contexts. For instance, in job interviewing, talk to all the references that a candidate provided and ask specific questions about the candidate. Talk to independent references wherever available. In particular, seek objective people who have long experience working with the candidate.


As professionals, we are often required to judge job candidates based on an hour of interviewing or induct team members based on minimal acquaintances. Hence, judging people for their talent and personality is a vital skill for managers. To discover others, we need to go beyond perceptions and learn more about their experiences, thoughts and actions to understand them better.

Question: Do you have interesting stories about judging people from perceptions? Please share them in the comments section.