Moving Beyond the Boys' Club - Getting the Most out of the Water Cooler

Suzanne Doyle-Morris writes:

My book, Beyond the Boys’ Club: Strategies for Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male Dominated Field focuses on the techniques senior women who work primarily with men have taken to get ahead in their careers.

For the next six weeks we will be looking at just a few of the strategies they used – strategies that will help you negotiate the labyrinth of office politics without feeling like you have to be ‘one of the boys’.

As Lis Astall, European Managing Director of Accenture said of her early working years: “I worked longer hours than anyone else before I realised it was not accomplishing anything I wanted – just more work. Instead I became better skilled at realising which projects were worth the hard work – and which were not.”

One way to figure out which projects have the most potential is to spend time on ‘water-cooler talk’.

Some of my coaching clients initially lament they are so harried just doing their day job, there is little time for getting lunch or coffee with colleagues.

While a job well done should be enough in a truly meritocratic system, the reality is that we don’t live, and we certainly don’t work, in a true meritocracy. Deals are informally agreed and relationships strengthened by the dozens of small interactions people have in shared ‘down time’ with their colleagues.

It’s the banter at the water cooler that greases the wheels of communication, and can save you time in the long run, by giving you the alliances and information you may need.

The paradox is that these interactions may seem meaningless but are in fact all-important. They can be banal in content but without them you will not be seen as a team player and will be left without allies, both factors that could sidetrack a promotion.


Suzanne Doyle-Morris is the author of Beyond the Boys’ Club: Strategies for Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male-dominated Field.

Suzanne’s next virtual career development ‘bootcamps’ run in January and March.

See also: 

Beyond the Boys’ Club:

Suzanne Doyle-Morris’ blog:

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