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Why you should keep gossiping at work

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Office gossip has a bad reputation. But should it?

Gossip is something we do. A lot. A new study says that 90 percent of our daily conversations are gossip. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports:

Gossip is used to warn co-workers about colleagues that are not pulling their weight. And even the risk of gossip can help to pressure underperformers to contribute, the study suggested.

"Gossip is often seen as exclusively self-serving behaviour aimed at manipulating others and influencing them in some malicious way’ said lead author Dr. Bianca Beersma, of Amsterdam University which carried out the research.

"The results of our studies show that gossip may not always be as negative as one might believe at first."

Of course, negative gossip is still harmful in any work environment (and you should stop doing it), but that's only one of the many forms of gossip that the study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, has identified. The other reasons people gossip, according to Beersma, are "to gather and validate information, to enjoy themselves with others, and to protect their group."

The study was broken into three separate studies. In the first, students were asked about the last time they talked about someone behind their back. In this case, the motivation for doing so was mostly for gathering or checking information.

In the second study, the same group was asked if they would gossip about someone not doing their fair share of work with a friend or colleague. In this case, most people said they would gossip with a colleague in the same group as the person not doing their share of work in order to "protect the group." And finally, in the third study -- people viewed this type of gossip -- about someone not doing their work in order to protect the group -- as more social and less immoral.

In this light, do you think gossip in your office is mostly helpful or harmful?

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Gchat gossip session.

Psst... gossip is good for the office: It makes for a more efficient workplace [Daily Mail]

Photo: Flickr/Victor1558

— By on December 12, 2012, 12:57 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure