How’s the Weather? (The Importance of Small Talk at Work)

It’s 7am in Phoenix. I’m still a bit worn out from my commute to work. Today, I got delayed on my way to the office when I stepped on the dog’s chew toy. A bit more time got added when I had to detour to turn off the bathroom light my daughters habitual forget. Finally, I made it the 63 steps to my home office.

Ah, the challenges of remote working [sarcasm]!

However, even with the great non-commute and plenty of studies that show remote workers enjoy greater productivity and job satisfaction, there is one huge challenge: building relationships with my colleagues.

In a recent conversation with a friend that is an expert on generations in the workplace, we discussed how Gen Y folks (like me) sometimes take longer to form personal connections at work. We were taught that your personal life didn’t belong at work. Stick to the facts, nothing but the facts!

Now add a remote location. Conversations are almost always happening in scheduled meetings with little extra room for chit chat and they are often conference calls without the benefit of nonverbal queues. Plus, some of my conference calls happen on “international hours” where I am barely awake, probably in pajamas and certainly feeling less than chatty.

But the value of small talk must supersede these challenges!

Connecting with your colleagues grows companies into communities.

Small talk doesn’t “take up time”, it uses the time to create new friendships. Think it doesn’t matter if you are friends with your colleagues? Think again!

Studies have shown that even the perceived POSSIBILITY of a friendship of work have a direct correlation between job satisfaction and involvement. When friends work together they are routinely shown to be more committed and have higher levels of cooperation that result in superior performance.

Having friendships in the office make work much more enjoyable!

If it doesn’t feel like your small talk efforts (or lack thereof) are satisfying, you aren’t alone. One survey showed that 6 out of 10 Brits would rather hide in the toilet than be subjected to chit chat in the office.

What to do?!

  1. Recognize that ALL friendships started with small talk!
  2. Acknowledge (particularly if you are a manager) that small talk is beneficial to your team and your company.
  3. Create and take advantage of opportunities to get to know your fellow work colleagues.
  4. One conversation leads to another and each one gets easier and more rewarding. I might share that I do trick dog training (true story) so that you can ask me next time, “What new tricks has Seven learned tricks?”.
  5. If you have remote co-workers (like me!), go out of your way to build a relationship. It is harder, I know, but its important and ultimately powerful. For me, that means doing more video chats and making pilgrimages to the main office as often as possible. I’ve also tried to connect more with my fellow “remoters” — after all, we already have one big thing in common!

Research has also shown that the topics and questions you use in small talk also impact how quickly common interests and compatibility are identified. I’ll be sharing some of these buddy-building questions in my next article!

Until then — I hope you have a nice day and that your in-law visit during your home improvement project goes smoothly so you can enjoy your charity ball this weekend.

COMING SOON: “Questions That Build Friendships at Work” is soon to be published. FOLLOW me to be notified when it gets published. (Bonus: these questions will work even when you aren’t in the office!)

p.s. If you enjoyed this article, click the HEART. I am on a mission for M.A.D.ness (Make a Difference-ness) and would love others to join me.