Death of the Watercooler


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Ten years ago, when I was thinking of being new at my future job, I was thinking about how I was going to win over my coworkers with chatter about the latest TV shows (Are you all caught up on Scandal?) or our local sports teams (Go Blazers!) in the only place that made sense –  next to the water cooler.

That familiar trope I saw time and time again where you casually run into someone and everyday conversations ensues. Fast forward to today, and my reality is pretty different. If you see someone near the water cooler, they are generally hurrying off to their next project before you can even say “Did you catch the game last night?”

So if we are not going to bond next to the water cooler, where are we supposed to bond?

I suppose the answer depends on where you end up, but my suspicion is that for most of us, this bonding now takes place behind a computer screen. Whether it be email or IM services, much of our communication with each other, even in a non-professional capacity, happens by never actually seeing one another.

Before you become defensive of the status quo, I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing – in fact, I believe that it can be beneficial. The key is though, eventually, you have to step out from behind that computer screen and actually spend time together in person.

For instance, the agency I work with has a group message via Slack called #boozylunching that people write in to ask if coworkers want to join them for lunch or for a drink during happy hour.

As the intern, my gut reaction is always that these invitations are not meant for me but I have started to learn that if I am going to bond over TV shows or sports with my coworkers and really feel like a part of this agency community, this is my chance because it is not going to happen next to the water cooler any more.

Mack Smith

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5 Responses to Death of the Watercooler

  1. pdxsx says:

    Yes! I highly encourage you to pursue social opportunities with your professional colleagues – it will go a very long way in building relationships. Good post, Mack!

  2. horsttyler says:

    As much as I think it’s sad that it’s no longer acceptable to chat over by the water cooler anymore, I agree that it’s important that we go and do things with our co-workers outside of the workplace. Also I love the fact that your group chat is called #”boozylunching,” you must have a pretty cool work environment. The workplace is for work, the bar is for fun.

  3. sydneyandree says:

    Great post, Mack! With so many forms of communication in the workplace (email, IM, desk phones, cell phones), it’s so hard to figure out what medium is best for fostering friendly relationships with co-workers. I think it’s great that you’re going to happy hour with your co-workers, keep it up!

  4. Ryan Delaney says:

    I completely agree! It seems like the only real conversations happening are the ones through the company’s IM or through email. I too have felt like social gatherings by coworkers are not meant for the intern, but it always helps to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Everybody knows you are an intern. For most of them, they were interns at once too. If you want to reach out to get to know your coworkers, be confident and join in on their fun! Loved this post. Nice job!

  5. clairecolby says:

    I wholeheartedly agree! We use Slack in my office as well and the majority of our communication is done via Slack. There are multiple channels – some work related, some not – and I noticed that if I’m not current on what has been posted on the social channels, I have no idea what’s going on with or what to chat about in person with my coworkers. But I really like the #boozylunching channel… I should suggest it in my office!

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