Gossip In The Workplace Essay

1865 words - 7 pages

Gossip accounts for sixty-five percent of speaking time in our everyday conversations (Grosser et al., 2010). Not surprisingly, gossip is a common form of communication that is highly prevalent in our social lives, especially within the workplace. While gossip tends to hold negative connotations, research suggests that gossip may serve as a healthy social activity, creating unity and bringing people together. Gossip may have the power to strengthen group bonds, create stronger group identification, and foster greater interpersonal ties (Mills, 2010). Gossip, therefore, may serve as a beneficial organizational behavior within the workplace. However, the prevailing research links gossip to negative outcomes in the workplace, such as decreased productivity, misrepresentation of employees, or crushed morale (Mills, 2010). If gossip is seen as a destructive organizational activity, why is it so prevalent in the workplace? This question has fueled current research in workplace gossip, providing empirical evidence to broaden our understanding of gossip’s role within the workplace.
Gossip in the workplace is described as a type of “storytelling discourse” that exists in the “unmanaged spaces” of organizations (Michelson et al., 2010, p. 373). Gossip allows employees to express their opinions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes about workplace life. As a result, gossip is usually expressed in small, trusted groups, which ultimately plays a significant role in the maintenance of relationships within the organization (Michelson et al., 2010). Social norms usually influence whether gossip is accepted as a type of organizational communication, as well as establishing the expectations of who gossips to whom and about what subject (Michelson et al., 2010). In defining workplace gossip, differentiating gossip from rumors is an important distinction to make. Research suggests that rumors typically occur when individuals are in conditions of environmental ambiguity (Michelson et al., 2010). For example, situations of organizational change may cause environmental uncertainty, and rumors occur to fill in the discrepancies. Therefore, rumors seem to be motivated by a need for sense making, whereas gossip seems to be motivated by relationship needs (Michelson et al., 2010).
To gain a better understanding of gossip’s role in the workplace, some research has focused on the influence of workplace relationships on the spread of both positive and negative gossip. In particular, Grosser, Kidwell, & Labianca (2010) examined the social network of organizations to understand the types of relationships through which positive and negative gossip are transmitted. Grosser et al. (2010) argue that an employee will engage in positive and/or negative gossip depending on an employee’s dyadic relationship ties with coworkers. More specifically, the extent to which an employee will engage in positive and/or negative gossip relies on the level of interpersonal trust in a relationship...

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