Workplace gossip has its benefits

23 Jan 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

Chatting positively about colleagues can boost wellbeing and commitment, research reveals 

While many HR managers might be keen to curb gossiping in the workplace, research by a University of Salford academic has discovered it can actually be good for staff wellbeing and commitment. 

The study by Kirk Chang, professor of HR management, which surveyed 304 employees in 24 companies across a range of industries in Taiwan, defines ‘gossip’ as discussion of a person who is not present at the time. 

The research found the majority (61 per cent) of workplace gossip is positive – people were discussing their colleagues in a pleasant way. As a result, the researchers conclude that a chat by the water cooler, rather than a time waster, should be viewed as an important means of building team relationships. 

However, the study notes the effects of negative gossip, finding (perhaps unsurprisingly) that it causes employees to feel cynical, frustrated and even contemptuous towards their workplace, and as a result undermines organisational management. 

During a presentation last year, Chang said: “Gossip is a term that carries some negative connotations, but our research suggests that managers who gossip in positive terms with the team members are likely to maintain a more committed workforce.”

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