Friday, 18 April 2014

Attention Employees! Let's Gossip

When I was working for an elearning firm, we were quite a tight knit group of 7 girls. We spent considerable time together which gave us an insight on each others' strengths and weaknesses and all of us made some effort on our part to improve the team's overall performance. We always made it a point to lunch together whenever possible and discussed almost everything from work to personal life. I was a new comer so mostly sat listening. We weren't malicious gossipers but after a while I was well aware of the informal hierarchy of authority in the office which would have taken me months to figure out on my own.

Later, at an interview, one of the questions was whether I was immune to office gossips? To which I responded rather pedantically while holding a slightly opposing view. Who wants to put off an interviewer???...

Gossip has always been considered a taboo. We are often warned against its destructive nature in personal and professional life. Proverbs 16:28 and many other Biblical verses warn about the havoc that gossip wreaks and the ulterior motives, personal issues, the backstabbing nature of gossipers. Organisations discourage such practices openly and exhort employees to exercise caution against rumours and telltales for obvious reasons: it hampers productivity.

But just how many organisations can claim to be free of gossip circles? None!!! The truth is gossip rules organisational cultures. About 70% of all conversations that take place at work involves gossip. Recent researches say that it might not be such a bad thing after all. 

  1. One of the many advantages of gossiping is that it helps employees to bond easily. 
  2. It makes newcomers feel accepted and involved.
  3. Most companies are not 100% transparent regarding company policies or management decisions. Since gossip is informal dissemination of information, it gives employees a chance to discuss situations, brainstorm possibilities and come up with possible consequences.
  4. Gossip reduces stress as it gives a platform to employees to vent out their dissatisfaction and anger in the office premises instead of taking it home seething.
  5. Gossips are good way to understand workplace dynamics.
  6. Gossip helps in people management to an extent.
  7. It maintains power balance, which means it keeps prima donna bosses in check.
  8. Helps to identify non-performers.
But as the old adage goes, too much of anything is bad, gossip also has its downsides.
  1. Gossip is a double edged sword. If it's used against someone else, it can be used against you.
  2. It transfers preconceived notions about people to people who may have different perspectives.
  3. Gossip makes it difficult to distinguish between facts and rumours.
  4. It may slightly bring about an imbalance of power in the group involved in gossip; the one who has more information will be deemed more powerful.
  5. Gossip breaks down trust levels between two groups and makes working together difficult.
  6. May give rise to conflicts.
  7. Malicious gossip can reduce productivity as employees/supervisors spend a lot of time figuring out who said what which often results in animosity.
  8. It may make introverts feel culturally isolated. 

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