Blogs & Vlogs

What we're talking about

Mar 16, 2015

Office Gossip - Good & Bad

Healthy gossip can be the glue that builds trust, keeps teams bonded and projects on track.
Professor Frank McAndrew at Knox College in Galesburg suggests that:

"Asking people to stop gossiping is like asking people to stop breathing. Gossip is a social skill. There are people who are good gossipers and people who aren’t."

His study revealed that healthy gossip can relieve stress by offering a way to assess your own job performance and help you bond with coworkers. Prof McAndrew also believes that gossipers create a culture that ensures people at work keep up their standards of performance because they know others will talk about them if they’re “a bad worker”. The threat of losing their reputation can keep people alert and engaged in their work.

Scientists have actually found that almost 90% of the conversations we have each day are gossip. And according to research by a team of Dutch psychologists, gossip is not necessarily malicious. Dr Bianca Beersma, of Amsterdam University said:

"Gossip allows people to gather and validate information, to enjoy themselves with others, and to protect their group."

Add to this the results of a study by Professor Joe Labianca at University of Kentucky who examined the social interactions of 30 employees in a company who found out that:

"Gossip can be very helpful to people in organizations, especially when the flow of information from the top gets choked off, as often happens when companies are in crisis or undergoing change. If a few people know what’s really going on, gossip becomes the means of spreading that information to everyone else. What’s more, research shows that gossip often reduces individuals’ anxiety and helps them cope with uncertainty."

Whether gossiping is healthy or unhealthy is dependent on the state of mind we are in when we start a conversation. So, next time you find yourself by the water cooler, check in with yourself using these three ‘states of mind’ as a guide before you begin talking.

In an ORDINARY (physical & emotional) state of mind - we will tend to gossip about other people. While this might feel quite intriguing it really serves no one very well. Particularly as the person you’re talking to will wonder if and when you’ll be gossiping about them to someone else later.

In a CONSCIOUS (intellectual) state of mind - we will mostly avoid 'people gossip' and just talk about events. This could be a better conversation. But there is still the potential for the gossip to turn unhealthy in the form of cynicism and down right criticism when discussing things that are happening in and around the office. The danger being that you'll spiral down into gossiping about people.

In a HIGHER AWARENESS (Intentional) state of mind - we will gossip about IDEAS. Sharing ideas can be really healthy gossip, providing that you keep it professional and everyone is focused on serving a shared commitment to do their best for a collective goal. This kind of gossip can lead to sharing useful and helpful information that benefits everyone and harms no one.

The key is to consciously choose to only indulge in the HIGHER, healthy kind of gossip. That way you’l