Is "office gossip" really necessary or rather the symptom of an inefficient meeting culture? Where and when meetings take place doesn't really matter. The decisive question is what sense and purpose they serve.
An Editorial of the FOM Magazine
Both employees and managers complain that digital work has led to a loss of "hallway chatter. Hallway chatter refers to spontaneous conversations in the coffee corner or, as the name suggests, in the hallway. But how important is this exchange really?
"Floor talk" basically describes unplanned, informal meetings. The fundamental question with all types of meetings is always what purpose they serve. Depending on this, one can deduce whether they actually fulfill their objective and whether there might not be a better way to achieve these objectives. So what are the goals of floor talk?
The purpose of corridor radio is often justified by the fact that insider information is passed on that is not learned in formal meetings. While this may be true, it primarily raises the question of meeting efficiency in the organization. Meetings are there to exchange essential information. If this requires a hallway radio, HR managers should strive to improve the formal communication processes in the company.
There is also the danger that the grapevine quickly becomes a rumor mill. This is detrimental to the corporate culture. Some information is not shared with the entire workforce for good reason, for example individual personnel decisions or strategic considerations. However, it is often precisely this kind of information that spreads via the grapevine.
Exchange of experience
Flurfunk offers inexperienced employees the opportunity to benefit from the experience of their colleagues. You can "ask a quick question." In formal meetings, on the other hand, people often don't dare reveal their ignorance.
But here again, the question arises as to whether this exchange of experience could not also be stimulated specifically through formal meetings. For example, inexperienced employees could be brought together with experienced employees in a regular Q&A FOM to exchange ideas for an hour every Friday afternoon.
The advantage of an FOM compared to a hallway meeting is that all participants can prepare themselves in a dedicated manner - both the questioners and the answerers. In advance, an agenda for the meeting can be created in the FOM tool, based on a ready-made template. During the meeting, participants can use the question tool in the FOM software to ask questions - possibly anonymously - which are then answered by the experienced staff.
Other goals of floor talk are to maintain relationships and personal contact. For example, in conversation one notices that an employee is not feeling well at the moment, or one exchanges information about the past weekend. This type of exchange does not take place in formal meetings and should not take place there. This means that the grapevine also helps managers to better assess morale in the company.
In this case, the office gossip really does serve a purpose that cannot be replaced so easily by formal meetings. But informal meetings to foster relationships can also be organized digitally. During the pandemic, for example, many organizations organized an online after-work beer or an online coffee break. While this can't completely replace face-to-face contact, it can at least partially replace it.
Physical offsites have now become established in many digital organizations. All employees meet for a weekend or a few days for workshops or leisure activities. Such offsites are an excellent way to facilitate personal exchange. After all, do you really need to see your colleagues every day to create a good working atmosphere?
Meeting efficiency is crucial
For the corporate culture, it doesn't matter in principle how and where meetings take place. Regardless of whether meetings are informal or formal, what matters is the fulfillment of the objective. Managers should therefore ask themselves how they can make the communication processes in their organization as efficient as possible. In most cases, office gossip is not the best choice.
The clear advantage of formal meetings is that you can better define and communicate goals and then measure the success of the meeting. This is especially true when meeting management software is used to measure meeting data and make it available to decision makers.
If floor talk is really necessary for internal communication, it's primarily a symptom of an inefficient meeting culture. Instead of relying on coffee-corner conversations, executives would do better to look at their organization's meeting efficiency.