Monday, November 17, 2014

Bonding at the Office

It’s not so much the schmoozing, but what people are schmoozing about.

Research has shown that employees who socialize effectively are more likely to keep their jobs than employees who do not socialize.

If you are such a serious individual that you refrain from small talk you will be putting your job and perhaps your career at risk.

The Wall Street Journal has the story:

Whether you care about the Royals or not, email a co-worker about the World Series today. It may save your career.

Employees who message colleagues about idle topics like sports or meals were significantly more likely to keep their jobs during firm layoffs, according to recent researchfrom the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wharton assistant professor Lynn Wu studied two years of electronic communications, such as emails, instant messages and calendar scheduling, of 8,037 anonymized workers at a global information-technology consulting firm. Using a language analysis, she classified the communications into various categories, including a social one, characterized by terms about meals, sports and other topics of work chatter.

Crunching the data, she found that workers who used terms such as “lunch,” “coffee,” or “baseball” were more likely to keep their jobs. Such schmoozing was found to be a better indicator of job retention than how much money workers brought in to the company.

Chit-chatters did not necessarily bring in the greatest amounts of revenue, Wu found, but their bosses found them valuable nevertheless.

Wherein lies the value in schmoozing?

Surely, it lies in the fact that people who rattle on about baseball or football or lunch are more firmly grounded in reality. By my theories—in The Last Psychoanalyst-- they are more likely to find common ground with their colleagues and thus to produce a more congenial work environment.

Note the terms that are not on the list. Nothing about feelings or emotions; nothing about your superior capacity to connect through empathy; nothing about opinions or beliefs or convictions; nothing about office gossip.

People connect most effectively when they exchange factual information.

Connection involves finding common ground; not sharing feelings or ranting about opinions.

By all appearances, the most used terms are more congenial to men. Even coffee, which we would assume to be gender-neutral, turns out to have more salience to the male of the species.

This might suggest that men want to bond with other men, because in doing so they do not risk romance or a harassment charge. It tells us that male bonding still matters in a coed workplace.

Evidently, men who discuss sports are showing off their abilities to evaluate a situation in the marketplace, critique past performance and drawing up a future game plan.

In other words, conversations about sports are ways to hone one’s skills at business.

But, what’s a woman to do? Should she spend her weekends watching football games, the better to act like one of the guys?  

If that is the way she likes to spend her leisure time, she is free to do so. The risk is that she will look like she is pretending to be something she is not. This will not often work in her favor.

On the other hand, there are other ways to find common ground. 

People can always bond by talking about the weather or the markets or the economy.

I suspect that a woman would do better to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, thus arming herself with facts about business and finance. In that way she will have relevant information to contribute to any conversation. 

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

Remembering reading Deborah Tannen 20 years ago, analyzing conversation, and differences between men and women, she talked about rapport vs report talk, the first being more associated with women's style. Rapport describes a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well.

It seems like rapport described on wikipedia sounds like it contains both femininine and masculine styles, but the different is men prefer to talk about ideas/facts and women about people and relations, so it could be the different perspectives mean different understanding.

I admit I'm often surprised when I can have a long conversation with a coworker for instance, and tell my girlfriend about it, and she'll ask a question of personal information of the other person, and I have no idea what the answer is.

Anyway, yes, in Minnesota, talking about the weather for men or women is always a guaranteed ice-breaker! What's up with this early snow? Do you think it'll really get above freezing by the end of the week?!