I was recently "fired" from a job because I asked "Did anyone watch American idol/Dancing with the stars last night". Apparently they considered that "idol chit-chat annoyance" and "too much personal conversation". It seems that having a conversation period was considered a "distraction". However, every time I turned around one of my co-workers was always getting the "inside scoop" on another co-worker and giving the information to my boss in a "low tone".
I wish I had seen the "warning signs". They were there but nothing clicked together. My first sign was the fact that I was always hearing about someone quiting, asked to turn in their resignation, or was fired EVERY WEEK! This was a small company with less than 100 employees.
My second clue was hearing about an upper management person being asked to turn his resignation in because of a comment he said in front of a customer. The comment was NOT sexual in nature, did NOT contain swear words, and was NOT an offense comment. The owner of the our company didn't like him speaking to the customer.
The third sign was when I was counselled on my "personal conversations" they mentioned that a joking comment I had said would have gotten me "fired" if the owner had heard it. They said "they understood it was a joke, but the owner wouldn't have liked it". I found that a bit strange. The comment had nothing to do with the company and was considered an industry "inside joke".
The final nail in the coffin was already put in the day I got there. I was hired with 14 other people. Those 14 other people were required to go through 2 weeks of intense training. Instead of the company putting me through the same training, they pulled me out after 2 hours. I never got a chance to "Bond" with the group. That group was angry at me for getting out of the training. (I had the same training somewhere else prior to hire). I was later told that I would be receiving the same training but I would be taking it on my own and fitting it into my workload. Which didn't make alot of sense since I would be working directly with the 14 new people.
The place was a communications nightmare. My department didn't even care enough to learn the new 14 worker's names. If I was caught talking to anyone, the convesation I had was reported. At one point, I even made sure that I limited my response to 2 comments at the most. I was caught between being "stuck-up" by one group and "Distracting" on the other.
This experience has made me miss the "Water-cooler" conversations. Those conversations may be considered "Extra" but without them, you don't have communication in your company. Companies can't survive without communications. So I say, keep watching your "American Idol's" and "Survivors". They may be the secret to making your company succeed.