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3 Reasons Office Gossip Might Not Be All Bad

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When we think of office gossip, a lot of bad associations come to mind. The popular idea is that this kind of chatter is counter-productive, harmful, hurtful, and just plain bad. But, there is another side to office chit-chat. It turns out that gossip might not actually be entirely, innately, negative. Here are a few reasons why office gossip might be not only impossible to eliminate but also potentially beneficial.

whispering secrets

(Photo Credit: ishaip/Flickr)

1. It’s natural for people to gossip.

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Attempting to disallow gossip in the office might be futile – the tendency to share secrets is a natural part of being human. A study out of the University of Amsterdam found that nearly 90 percent of workplace conversations could be classified as gossip. The fascination with knowing things you don’t need to know might not be something that can be countered. So, maybe we should work toward directing and managing this kind of talk constructively, rather than trying to eliminate it all together, which would likely be impossible.

“We can’t stop ineffective behavior simply by saying ‘stop it,'” says Leslie Ungar, author and communication and leadership coach, “It does not work for a child, a dog, or an employee. We need to replace ineffective behavior with effective behavior. Give real news a place where it can be directed and appreciated. Isn’t that why we have office parties for birthdays and company newsletters?”

2. It’s bonding.

Part of the reason that gossip comes so naturally is that sharing secrets tends to bond people together. Gossip is a social bonding system, according to a wealth of research. It unites people in a shared understanding, and it makes them feel closer. Gossip comes so naturally to us that, without it, teams won’t bond as well as they could. Bonding with others at work inspires engagement and collaboration, and talking in this way helps to strengthen ties. If you want your team to be close with one another, they kind of have to gossip.

3. It encourages the spread of institutional knowledge.

Everything you need to know about working for an organization isn’t likely to arrive on your desk, day one, in written form. Office gossip helps to spread important institutional knowledge that wouldn’t likely distribute in any other way.

However, it is critical to keep in mind that not all rumors are actually true, so these tales can spin a less-than-accurate knowledge web if we let them. It’s important to separate fact from fiction, and not take the rumor-mill talk to heart too much. Additionally, constructive gossip is positive and uplifting. If a co-worker is concerned that lay-offs are coming, and you’ve heard they are not, share away. Good gossip! But, if the news that’s being spread hurts rather than helps? Bad gossip.

It’s important to note that gossip, in general, can be a very negative and destructive thing in any setting. Talk should not be cruel or targeted specifically at any one individual in particular. That kind of talk isn’t just gossip – it’s bullying, and nothing good will come of it.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think of office gossip? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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JillV
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JillV

This “argument for gossip” seems to be written by a simple minded person. In working with clients and co-workers for 15 years, I have not witnessed productive outcomes as a result of gossip. These conversations often become a whirlwind of injustices as people become progressively “amped” about whatever the topic may be. Coworkers get hurt, departments are less productive, workplace cultures become strained…gossip hinders an individual’s personal growth as they focus on others rather than what they may need to adjust within themselves. I would suggest that a close bond is able to be developed by people discussing their thoughts… Read more »

annie101
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annie101

*P Gillman, I think I could have written your comment! I know what it’s like to be (intentionally) outside of the gossip pool/nonsense. I was let go a couple of months ago, and had the highest revenue on the team, and produced quite a bit of work daily. But someone else wanted my job (I don’t blame her for wanting mine, because hers would have been mind-numbing, to me anyway) so I’d say her destructive gossip re: me was a great career move on her part. But it turned my world upside down. I really loved my job, but didn’t… Read more »

P Gilman
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P Gilman

I was the target of office gossip for almost 5 years, and it was the most hurtful period of my life. I knew that the person talking about me wasn’t going to stop but I never knew what she actually said because everyone knew I hated gossip, and wouldn’t listen to anyone talking bad about anyone else. So they knew not to tell me anything. I have mixed feelings about gossip now. I hate it more than anything because I’ve been a target, and I know how much it hurts. But I was laid off in June, and I believe… Read more »

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