Work gossip can actually be a good thing — if it’s done this way

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Psst… gossiping at work is actually beneficial. Researchers from Binghamton University’s School of Management (SOM) suggest that positive gossip among colleagues can reduce the likelihood of employees leaving their jobs, thus potentially enhancing an organization’s overall effectiveness.

The study, which builds on previous research into the social dynamics of gossip in the workplace, surveyed 338 health workers in South Korea, focusing on both positive and negative forms of workplace gossip, particularly in relation to their organizations and management. The study’s findings challenge the common perception of gossip. While negative gossip might seem powerful or controlling, the research found no evidence supporting this.

In fact, negative gossip was not valued as useful information by participants but was rather seen as mere complaining.

“Organizations should be aware of the impact of positive gossip because turnover can be a very important factor in dictating an organization’s success,” says study lead author Jinhee Moon, a SOM doctoral student, in a university release. “To make employees participate in positive gossip, the organization should do the right things by treating their employees well, and being aware their behaviors can show they care about their employees.”

Two women having conversation at the office
(Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash)

On the other hand, positive gossip, such as praising the organization or discussing favorable management actions, was seen as more valuable. Participants indicated a greater interest in positive information that could enhance or maintain their status within the organization.

“We expected that if you participate in negative gossip, maybe you’re trying to appear powerful or controlling or want to ‘beat someone up,’ but we couldn’t find any supportive results,” notes Moon. “If anything, we found that people didn’t value that type of gossip as information and just saw it as someone who wants to complain. So, if you’re thinking about negative workplace gossip, you might want to save your time because there’s no positive impact for you.”

One significant outcome of the study is the potential impact of positive gossip on reducing voluntary employee turnover.

“It can be very hard just to quit your job, and if you’re experiencing difficulty where you work, maybe you want to participate in positive gossip with your colleagues and talk about some of the more bearable aspects of the organization,” explains Moon. “Eventually, that can help you gain some personal power. It’s a very convenient way to reduce negative feelings toward your own workplace, which can help you more in the long run.”

The study emphasizes the importance of organizations being aware of the impact of gossip, particularly positive gossip, as it can play a crucial role in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. Encouraging a positive work environment where employees feel valued and treated well can lead to more positive discussions among staff, enhancing the overall organizational culture.

The study is published in the journal Group & Organization Management.

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