How “all business” can hurt business: Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

Water cooler talk and the foundation of trust

The term “water cooler talk” has become so derogatory that I fear people are not maintaining proper hydration at work. But can water cooler talk be a boon for business?

Yes, it can. Creating a foundation of trust within a work team is a huge advantage. Team members who know and trust each other have each other’s backs. They are willing to jump in and help where one member is weak and they are strong. They are able to apologize quicker and more sincerely and then get back to business. They admit mistakes sooner, preventing an issue from growing and becoming even more costly for the team and the organization.

Creating more trust saves the time that team members might otherwise spend in gossiping, alliance building, and even creating work-arounds to avoid their workplace nemesis. Those work-arounds, I guarantee you, cost more in time and money than water cooler chats about the kids or weekend activities.

An example in King County

We have worked with a team within King County, Washington, the 13th most populous county in the nation, to develop a stronger team using The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. One of their leaders recently shared that the “all business” approach used to be their norm. But by focusing on creating more trust within the team by getting to know each other’s working styles and preferences better, there was a significant improvement in how work was accomplished.

“People just jumped at the opportunity to help each other out,” said Chauntelle Hellner of King County’s Office of Risk Management Services. “That had never happened before but now when work is disproportionately distributed people are willing to jump in and help without question and they feel like they add value to the team.”

The lesson of water cooler talk

The personal connections that are built around the water cooler or in the workplace kitchen should not be undervalued. Those genuine human connections create a shared interest in team success that is a force multiplier.

Stay hydrated, build trust, and achieve more team results!


Gwen Voelpel

Gwen Voelpel has 20 years of experience in coaching and mentoring leaders at all levels of organizations. She has an undergraduate degree in communications, a graduate degree in public administration, and has served as an executive leader in several organizations. Gwen is an accredited Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC Workplace Facilitator and a Certified Master in Training for The Leadership Challenge.
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