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New York Times: Not so small talk

11 Jun 2020
Water-cooler chatter has an “uplifting yet distracting” effect on workers, with the good mostly outweighing the bad.
Mundane, idle chitchat between co-workers — in the hallway, at the coffee machine, before a meeting — is more important than you may think. Jessica Methot of Rutgers University co-authored a coming paper in the Academy of Management Journal about small talk at the office. Based on surveys over a period of time, she found that water-cooler chatter had an “uplifting yet distracting” effect on workers, with the good mostly outweighing the bad.

She spoke with Jason — after exchanging pleasantries, of course — about the research and the prospects for small talk during the pandemic. The conversation has been condensed for space.

How do you define “small talk”?

It’s polite, lighthearted and superficial, with no depth whatsoever. It’s expected that you greet someone at the copier or say hello in the hallway. It’s greetings, it’s farewells, it’s chitchat in common areas.

What’s so good about it?

What we found was that the employees who engaged in more small talk — it didn’t matter with whom — ended up feeling more positive emotions. It made them feel more recognized, more acknowledged and gave them a sense of connection with people. It made them more willing to go out of their way to help co-workers.

Continue reading the original article at New York Times


Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal


Learn more about the AOM Scholars and explore their work:

Jessica R. Methot

Emily H Rosado-Solomon

Patrick Downes

Allison S Gabriel