Gossip in the workplace: more positive effects than you think

Chatting could take up 52 minutes per day. And experts have established that some gossip could be healthy or even increase productivity, according to several studies reported by the BBC.

 Talking about Simon’s baby, Julie’s lunch hanging out in the fridge or Mylène’s overdue assignments piling up, is just one of the guilty little pleasures of office life. In fact, gossip can also be very useful in deciphering what is and is not acceptable at work, in addition to being a valuable decision-making tool, reports the British broadcaster.

True, discussing colleagues in a malicious way does not bring anything good and can even be toxic. But talking about others when they’re not around isn’t always negative, a 2019 study from the University of California’s Department of Psychology shows. Scientists recorded and analyzed the conversations of more than 500 participants and learned that the vast majority of these end-of-corridor discussions were neither negative nor positive, but rather neutral.

In three-quarters of the cases, this gossip was rather mundane, and touched on topics like the engineering studies of a colleague’s daughter, the return of another from Italy, or the problematic renovations to someone’s kitchen. In short, there is a lot of discussion about others — up to 52 minutes a day, the study also showed — but rarely in as negative a way as the term “gossip” suggests.

A better understanding of your colleagues

By talking with others – and about others! – we learn to collaborate better and to determine who to stay away from and who to trust. Other research conducted by the Vrije Universitetit Amsterdam shows that gossip can also become an opportunity to make social connections and to get the emotional support you may need.

Even when it involves criticism, discussing Sylvain’s constant latenesses or Suzanne’s attitude also validates your feelings with others. In this case, the “gossipers” who bring this kind of subject to the table are trying to assess the reaction of their colleagues to this situation, to check whether they think it is acceptable or not. Hearing your colleagues’ complaints can make you check your own behaviour and adjust it accordingly.

Gossip can ultimately help us understand how others act and guide us in our decisions, which could increase the productivity of the troops. In short, gossip is an essential part of office life. Spread the word!

 By: Anne-Marie Tremblay — 37e AVENUE

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