Gossip can be very malicious at times, leading to nasty rumors and tarnished reputations but it also is the oldest means of sharing information, whether true or false. While many believe gossip can distract one from his or her daily tasks, new research suggests gossip strengthens workplace friendships.
A study led by Lea Ellwardt found that gossip can not only strengthens friendships, but also cooperation among employees and helps control bad or negative behavior in the office. The study focused on how gossip can create or affect friendships in a Dutch healthcare setting.
For the study Dr. Ellwardt and colleagues questioned employees from the University of Groningen about how much they gossiped and what they gossiped about. Gossip was defined as talking about someone who was not present at that moment. Gossip can also be seen as positive or negative.
The study revealed that for those who felt comfortable sharing positive gossip it was viewed as less sensitive topic whereas those who shared negative gossip only felt comfortable sharing that information with trustworthy people.
According to Dr. Ellwardt when one spreads negative gossip, there is an element of risk. An individual must be able to trust that the person receiving the information will be discrete and not spread the information any further. The study demonstrates coworkers who gossip, over time build a friendship.
Prior research suggested gossip is also an effective way to deal with stressful environments at work such as negative behavior and the overall mood of the office. However, gossiping can have adverse effects as well. Those who gossip too often are viewed as untrustworthy are less popular in the office.
While unpopular employees were more likely to be discussed negatively, for supervisors it is the exact opposite. Most supervisors who were popular were not discussed positively. Additionally other studies have revealed gossip can also make us deaf or blind to our surroundings.