Added: Gloria Getty - Date: 24.05.2022 04:05 - Views: 45889 - Clicks: 838
Work chatter is what we do while we wait for the lift, eat lunch together, go to the pub, wait for the kettle to boil, wait for others to be ready to start the meeting. It feels pretty aimless, and it happens by chance and by nature in a colocated team. One of the things many people cherish about working at home, rather than the office, is the lack of distractions and interruptions. But we really need to treat idle chatter as the important organisational tool that it is. These small, off-task encounters and conversations do a lot of heavy lifting in making a company function well.
We ought to collectively carve out time to invest in chatter. Collaborative behaviour thrives given a few conditions: a sense of shared identity and belonging; collective goals; assumption of future opportunities to collaborate; empathy; trust; and strong communication.
By virtue of working together, the foundations for a shared sense of identity are in places, as hopefully! Taking time to chatter helps us build trust and empathy, and sets the Just looking forsome idle chatter for strong communication, which can unlock creativity. With the people that we work with, we believe in their competence when we see the outcomes of their work. Especially within our own teams and in smaller companies, we can see what our coworkers are achieving.
We can see the quality of their work, we see that they meet deadlines, and that when we ask for something or they commit to doing something, they deliver on it reliably. In group form - presentations to the whole company, sharing finished work, demonstrating product features when they launch - we emphasise competence.
But this is only half of the foundations needed for trust. We can set aside our objective to seem competent and instead share things about ourselves. The desire to emphasise our competence is strong, especially when appearing competent means staying employed and able to, you know, pay bills and eat. By taking time to talk off-task, we develop a sense of connection with someone else.
Through conversation, we understand what people are interested in, what motivates them, and what they care about. And we build empathy for them, which is key to respecting others. By learning more about someone, we build empathy for them. Through these off-task chats, we tease out similarities between ourselves and others. We learn about our differences, too. In the world of work, we typically take different perspectives on a problem based on our role and our background.
For instance, in a strategy session, your commercial team and your development team will be thinking about success and feasibility from different points of view.
This empathy that we build, through getting to know each other by chatter, makes it more natural for us to remember that their role exists, to think about problems through that lens, and to involve them in work that might affect them even tangentially. Much of communication is non-verbal. When we switch to text-based communication - like or slack or comments on a shared document - we lose body language, pacing, tone and gesture. A lot of us are using emoji to add a layer of gesture to text that, plus overenthusiastic punctuation!
Have you ever sent someone a paragraph asking for something or explaining a decision? Has your boss ever dropped you a message asking if you have five minutes to chat? We find it easier to infer what is unsaid, which helps us understand better what the other person means. Much like teaching, sharing helps the listener learn something new and the sharer to reinforce what they already know.
Like a much more productive form of gossip, once that information is seeded with someone who has high social contacts, it spre and connects. Information then radiates in a low-effort way. This kind of pseudo-gossip is nowhere near as effective by itself as, say, a culture of documentation; but it can help shortcut and it provides an extra dimension. And if our company operates on a need-to-know basis, fruitful connections can be made through this kind of high-level sharing.
Casual conversation is where a lot of cultural norms surface and are transmitted. These high frequency turns of phrase are super telling about cultural norms, and they mostly spread in informal contexts, like a company-specific meme. Strong communication is hampered by friction. Chatter breeds familiarity, which in turn breaks down the barrier to reaching out to someone. We need to curb this disconnectedness if we want to have organisations that operate effectively.
Just looking forsome idle chatter chatter helps us bond on a human level, and reduces the barrier to reaching out to someone in another part of the organisation. Once Just looking forsome idle chatter was chattering with a product engineer about the annoyances of the logistical parts of my onboarding process, and they found a solution for me.
Together we built the basic skeleton of a small webapp I could use for scheduling things automatically. Chatter also helps us build additional layers of community. In a company, typically we have community within our team; community within our office; and perhaps community within the cohort of us that ed around the same time. It creates more connections between different nodes of the company. This builds on the sense of shared identity that we need for optimal collaboration. Diverse teams are better at idea generation than homogenous teams. By pulling in perspectives from outside each team, we can maximise the benefits of diversity within our organisation.
So much of idea generation is about crossover and analogy, taking a solution from one problem space and applying it to another. By idly chattering about our fields, our work, our interests and our passions, we can unlock new ideas and reach more fruitful solutions. Where so many businesses are now staffed by knowledge workers, creating space for that knowledge to flow freely is almost guaranteed to help us all become smarter, more knowledgeable and more creative. Taking breaks increases our productivity, and if we can combine those breaks with idle chatter with our teammates, the tradeoff of short-term productivity for longer-term success makes even more sense.
An investment in chatter is a strategic decision that needs the right conditions in place to flourish. There are some tactics we can put in place, keeping focus on the desired outcome, which will help us build more connections across the whole organisation, and to make the most of chatter as an organisational tool. As with most behavioural shifts, we need to set the tone and expectation from a place of power.
There are tools we can use to reinforce this expectation. I like donut. All require that people take it seriously, though! Internal communications and meetings have a role to play here, too. Dedicating a few minutes at the start of cross-functional meetings to a quick icebreaker exercise helps. There are also rituals in your organisational communications cadence that can be leant on to support chatter and bonding.
For example, shifting the emphasis of show and tell sessions to half-finished projects or exploring a challenge is really helpful for inculcating the habit of vulnerability, which, as discussed, lends itself to trust and collaboration. We can de-emphasise strictly work-related topics, and open up to a broad range of diverse topics like photography, gardening, art history, economic theory. These build personal connections by demonstrating who we are as whole people, opening up paths to new communities; they also provide fuel for creativity by bringing in new knowledge that can spark analogies and new perspectives.
We touched on layers of community earlier. We can build these through carefully orchestrated groups deed to seed new relationships. The same goes for lunch roulette groups, tables at dinners, cohorts on training courses, and more. Idle chatter can do so much work to build trust, empathy, collaboration, community and creativity.
The foundation for collaborative ways of working Collaborative behaviour thrives given a few conditions: a sense of shared identity and belonging; collective goals; assumption of future opportunities to collaborate; empathy; trust; and strong communication. Chatter builds trust Trust is built on the combination of competence and vulnerability. Chatter builds empathy By taking time to talk off-task, we develop a sense of connection with someone else. Chatter makes task-based communication easier Much of communication is non-verbal. Chatter breaks down barriers Strong communication is hampered by friction.
Chatter feeds creativity Diverse teams are better at idea generation than homogenous teams. Set the stage for chatter As with most behavioural shifts, we need to set the tone and expectation from a place of power. Share off-task knowledge to spark creativity and connections Internal communications and meetings have a role to play here, too.
Orchestrate events to contrive new connections We touched on layers of community earlier. Share with Share with Share with. Let's play more.Just looking forsome idle chatter
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