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The Goodness of Gossip

The proverbial water cooler may be a proverbial cliche — but it's still a powerful place to catch some of the most recent workplace pass-along, hearsay, and gossip. And for the most part, gossip is usually consider to be, well, just that. Something many value, but many discount out of hand.

According to clinical psychologist Offra Gerstein, gossip might be more valuable than we think — particularly good gossip.

Research has found that, at its base, gossip is good. "Exchanging information between people is beneficial for creating a healthy connection, building social norms for acceptable and unacceptable behavior and improving society," Gerstein writes.

Especially in the corporate setting, gossip can offer value: If someone is being praised, others will want to emulate their behavior, practices, and processes. Even negative gossip can be useful: "When a company faces bad times, gossip about the future of the employees offers a reduction of fear and uncertainty and creates camaraderie."

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  • Chris Corrigan

    When I am working with organizations who complain that they have communication problems, I always ask about gossip. I ask how long it takes for a juicy rumour to propagate through the organization. People usually respond with some lightning fast time.

    I always point out that there is no communication problem, the problem is that people are just not passionate enough about issues that are "communication problems." This always leads into nice discussions about working with more passion, rather than devising some useless set of easily broken communication commitments.

  • Rob

    That's pretty interesting research. I bet if you wanted you could start a whole new fad around the idea, and make lots of money by writing a book like "Managing Gossip."

    Seriously though, I think companies should provide activities that allow coworkers time to gossip. I've come across some good ideas while at work-sponsored luncheons and parties. It is a rare chance to "talk shop" with people I know but don't see too often.