Article: Workplace gossip: Why it’s good for you?

Employee Engagement

Workplace gossip: Why it’s good for you?

Gossip is merely a piece of social knowledge, and when we engage in gossip, we learn a lot about the social environment in which we live.
Workplace gossip: Why it’s good for you?

The famous quote states, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is just putting on its shoes."

What is gossip?

The word gossip usually carries negative connotations. A person, who indulges in gossip, is often frowned upon or otherwise seen in a negative manner. Gossip-hearing is the word that leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouths. It's frequently described in the dictionary as "casual or unrestrained conversation or reports about other people, usually involving details that are not confirmed as being true." Humans are genetically designed and inclined to be curious to know about other people, which leads to the tendency to gossip. Research has proved that almost everyone takes part in gossiping – be it the information provider or the listener. This is indeed true for all genders. Gossip is always seen with negative connotations. In this article, let’s explore the positive impact of gossiping behaviour.

Why do people gossip?

For gossip to propagate, no actual proof or evidence is required; Just speculating is sufficient. Some of the potential causes of gossip are as follows:

  • Individual’s desire to prove their superiority. 
  • Sometimes, the skill and abilities of their coworkers could make them feel intimidated. 
  • Some people struggle to overcome their anxiety when things go wrong and overcome the stress they gossip about.

 Gossip is not a derogatory term – information shared can be positive or negative or neutral. It can also be personal or professional as well. Since gossiping cannot be avoided, organisations can think of channelling the spread of information appropriately. Organisations can facilitate interactions by providing a positive prosocial environment. Gossiping is an example of prosocial conduct that improves group cooperation. You can never completely escape from office gossip and not every piece of gossip has to be unfavourable. There may be neutral people. It is merely a piece of social knowledge, and when we engage in gossip, we learn a lot about the social environment in which we live. As a result of gossip, the team could become more united. It promotes informal relationships in addition to official ones.

Some interesting psychological facts about gossip

Gossip increases oxytocin levels compared to emotional non-gossip conversation.

Megan Robbins, Assistant Professor in Psychology, from the University of California-Riverside, explained her few findings about the psychological facts about gossip.

  • Younger individuals are more likely to spread unfavourable rumours than their elder counterparts.
  • People gossip 52 minutes a day an average in 16 waking hours.
  • People from lower socioeconomic status don't gossip as much as those from higher socioeconomic status.
  • Extroverts gossip much more frequently than introverts.
  • Women gossip more than men—but only when they're exchanging neutral, factual information.


Gossip and trust

Trust is an important factor in gossip. The sharing of gossip necessitates a higher degree of trust. Office gossips aren't the only way to foster trust at work, but if they're improving the atmosphere there, it might be worth tolerating. Employees who have each other's trust are more likely to be forthright, sympathetic, and cooperative. Mutual trust is especially important in collaborative relationships.

Spread optimism

Gossip isn’t just about information-gathering. Hearing gossip about colleagues can also make us more self-reflective while being the subject of it can cause people to change their behaviour. Generally, people gossip about those who are selfish and immoral. Because of this, those who heard the gossip were frequently ignored. Those who were ignored started to change their behaviour to be re-accepted into the group, and in general, people became more cooperative with one another. 

It is obvious that if someone is the subject of gossip and only their flaws or faults are highlighted, they may feel mistreated and offended. Thus, malicious gossip has the potential to endanger people's lives. However, unfavourable reports about others can motivate a person to put in more effort to avoid becoming the target of gossip.

Ethical checklist 

Before engaging in or spreading gossip, one should keep in mind the basic factors.

  • We need to be confident in the information we disseminate. Just forwarding something without checking the facts could compromise our morals.
  • Anyone should find the information valuable. We risk losing credibility if we promote baseless gossip.
  • We should constantly make sure to spread optimism.
  • If enlightening anything or anyone is not possible, never deceive.

We can conclude that gossiping is a crucial component of any workplace environment. When employers sense malicious gossip in the work environment, they can promote group activities like everyone participating in a common work or a celebration of a holiday. The staff can get to know one another better by doing this. The more they communicate, the more transparency will emerge contributing to their productivity.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, #GuestArticle, #reimagineHR

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