Why We Should Gossip at Work – But Not Too Much

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Gossip at work. We all do it and it turns out that we do it a lot. Constantly in fact. Research shows that 90% of all office talk consists out of gossip, and 15% percent of all emails does. This is a staggering amount and this seems overstated. However, when you talk about the nice Tesla another colleague bought when that colleague is not there, this also already qualifies as gossip.

The question is: should we gossip at work or should we avoid this at all costs?

Bonding with colleagues

There are a lot of articles online that argue we should stop gossiping at work. I disagree with that. Gossip serves multiple purposes. In that sense, it is an amoral communication tool: it can be used for well-intended goals, but it also can be weaponized to bring down that nasty colleague you have a beef with. The latter obviously being the reason that a lot of people argue we should stop gossiping altogether.

There are some good reasons for us to gossip, however. First of all, we use it to bond with our team mates and create cohesion within a group. By listening to one another and understanding what he or she is going through, we can create an atmosphere of trust. Besides, a lot of gossip is positive. When we say something like: “Oh I’m so jealous of her that she will go on vacation to Cuba, I wish I could do the same”, then it’s not really creating a negative atmosphere. I feel we actually do the opposite, as we show our interest in other colleagues in this way.

We also gossip to gather information about colleagues and the social structure at work. This information is vital if we want to navigate all the office politics. By sharing information about who will get a promotion, who talks negatively behind our backs, who to trust and who not to trust etcetera, we help other team mates and ourselves to be more successful.

Lastly, we gossip because to diffuse negative emotions. When somebody gets angry with us and does not treat us in a respectful manner, it helps to blow of some steam with a colleague. That’s better than keeping it all in your system.

How gossip at work can be toxic

We should be careful with gossip as well. When we gossip too much, we may run into the problem that we start isolating certain colleagues from the group. Overall this will weaken the group or team, because we often tend to isolate people who are different. However, divergent thinking is essential for a team to function at its best. Only when we allow everyone to share their ideas in a safe environment, will the team as a whole come up with the best solutions.

Negative talk about other colleagues also quickly becomes addictive. This is because when we are validated by someone else, dopamine is released in our brains. Dopamine is our internal reward system and we feel good when this happens. Therefore, the more we gossip and our negativity gets validated, this will work addictive.

Lastly, by diffusing all of our negative energy with other colleagues, we will not face those difficult discussions with the people who are actually causing these negative emotions. Hence, we miss opportunities to better understand that person we are allergic to, and potentially miss out on some great opportunities to bond with those people and improve the cooperation.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to hit the like button and to share the post on social media, and see you back here next week!

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