Broker Check

Why the Water Cooler is Good

from Will Crossan, February 2023  

            Global Gallup workplace research has found that the two most important factors for employee retention, productivity, and profitability are relationship based.  An employee who indicates they have a “best friend” at work and report a positive relationship with their direct supervisor stay longer, work harder and more efficiently by huge factors.  In our modern work culture the water-cooler has been seen as a barrier to productivity.  Often people can be heard commenting on those who are just “hanging around talking”  when they should be “working.”  This old theory of management which was born out of the MBA programs of the 80’s still haunts the hallways of the modern workplace.  Like horses, we were born for work.  There is a deep meta drive in us to be purposeful in our days.  To be useful.  However we are also built for relationship in a way that horses are not.  We have the blessing and curse of metacognition-the ability to think about thinking.  This ability is the source of our mental problems and the source of our greatest gifts.  When we share information with each other we open ourselves to new ways of thinking and seeing the world around us.  This is known as cognitive distribution and is vital to the flourishing of both the individual and the community.  As a species we have been able to thrive not just on the back of individual efforts but on harmonized, purposeful partnering with other humans.  Man alone in the jungle is not the King of the Jungle.  Man in community in the Jungle is. 

            Each of us carries unconscious bias in our view of reality.  The family, town, state, country and generation we are born into shapes our beliefs and reality more than most people realize.  Our brains have what is called the Reticular Activating System or RAS.  This is the filter on our mind and shapes how we see the world.  It acts like a screen door that lets some things in and keeps some things out.  If you have ever bought a new car and then noticed that new car everywhere that is your RAS at work.  When you can’t find your keys and then they are right in front of you…that’s your RAS.  What we believe to be true is kept true by the RAS because it only lets information pass that confirm the beliefs.  So that person in FGP that you think is, smart, funny, annoying, stupid, rude…the RAS is only going to let information in that confirms that belief. 

            Today we live in an age of confirmation porn.  Social media has created echo chambers that mirror back to us the world we WANT to see.  It is an onslaught of confirmation that becomes extreme and unhealthy.  More than ever we need the water-cooler of the workplace to help us see other perspectives to open the aperture on reality in order to give us a better grip on what is really real. 

            One of the blessings of our firm is that we cover both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and cover diverse cultures in 6 states.  This blessing can also be a challenge because of the numerous perspectives that sometimes FEEL like a conflict.  If we as a community can build cultural bridges at the water-cooler we will grow individually and collectively.  This will translate in the ability to listen to clients who don’t agree with our philosophy and engage with them instead of explain to them.  We will also be facilitating the relational nutrients that have been shown time and time again to lead to peak performance and peak productivity. 

            To help facilitate this we are spending time each month to bring us together collectively and prioritize time breaking bread at the Collective meeting.  By showing up and engaging you can practice opening the aperture on your RAS and tightening the grip on reality which will empower you to operate more effectively and efficiently which will benefit all.  In doing this we will be Advancing Human Capital by redefining the intersection of people and money toward financial security.  So take a moment this week at the water-cooler.  Go deeper in your interactions in the office and out.  Maybe be as bold as to prioritize the relationship in the office by scheduling a couple of coffee meetings outside the office to practice deeply listening to your teammates and explore where there are commonalities and differences in experiences and engage to find what is most true. 


In motion.  Actually different.  Highlighters.  Independent and Collective.