Workplace Conversations Are 90 Percent Gossip, And That’s A Good Thing [Study]

Gossiping at the office water cooler or in the break room is not just about time wasting but can be a positive force for workplace productivity, according to a new study from the University of Amsterdam.

Even though 90 percent of office chit-chat is made up of gossip according to the research findings, gossip can influence layabouts and slackers to get with the program, the authors claim.

In discussing the study, the London Telegraph explains how idle conversation can be good rather than always about trash talking and rumor-mongering:

“Gossip is used to warn colleagues about workmates who are not pulling their weight and even the threat of gossip can be enough to force lazy employees to contribute.”

Putting it in a more formal way, study authors Bianca Beersma and Gerben Van Kleef wrote that “speech makes it possible for group members to warn each other against those who do not behave in accordance with the group’s norms.”

According to the Telegraph, the study authors traced “gossip back thousands of years, suggesting humans used it as soon as they were able to speak as a technique to curb ‘free riders’ who would eat mammoth meat without helping to catch the animal.”

Dr. Beersma, as quoted by London’s Daily Mail, insisted that gossip is not just about putting someone down:

” ‘Gossip is often seen as exclusively self-serving behavior aimed at manipulating others and influencing them in some malicious way…

” ‘The results of our studies show that gossip may not always be as negative as one might believe at first.

” ‘Gossip allows people to gather and validate information, to enjoy themselves with others, and to protect their group.’ “

The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, was derived from information from several hundred students about their attitudes/motives concerning gossiping in three different scenarios.

AOL Jobs adds that “researchers found that if the gossip protected the group from someone shirking their duties, students viewed the act as less immoral and more social than in other situations.”

Do you think gossip can have a positive impact on efficiency where you work? What happens in the event that the slackers are the ones doing all the gossiping?

[Image by Shutterstock]