Why do we, as people, gossip? Moreover, why do we love it?
Samia got a raise in her salary. “I am not astonished about that because of the way she flirts with the manager”, complains a colleague who would like to have herself a pay rise. “She is very thin. She should be surely anorexic,” adds her other colleague and friend. These few malicious words shared between friends or colleagues or family comfort us and make us feel good.
We all have been raised up knowing that talking about people behind their backs could be very harmful. But sometimes we can’t help ourselves…. And we take pleasure in doing so everywhere and with our family, at work or with friends. So, what lies behind those oh-so-enjoyable little betrayals?
Office gossip is alive, and it flows freely between casual conversations to very harmful ones. Adding to this, women are its most vulnerable targets and it can be a very special problem for them…
Gossip is a standard currency of human network. Being in the gossip loop is very attractive but one cannot easily step out of it. According to a research from the University of Amsterdam, 90 percent of the total office conversation is qualified as gossip. Another research at the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that 15 percent of office e-mail are about gossiping.
According to anthropologists, throughout human history, gossip has been a tool for people to connect and link with others and on another hand a way to isolate those who aren’t part of the group.
Dr. Jack Levin, author of Gossip: The Inside Scoop, and professor at Northeastern University, states that gossip “can actually be good for our emotional health”
(Except the ones that can destroy reputations and could be very harmful). He sees that gossip is “a force that ties together social and business networks”. However, other researches and experiences of those who have been the targets of gossip, say that gossip can hurt relationships and create a climate of anxiety, bitterness and stress. And this could be very dangerous in the workplace, because it can cause decline in productivity and absenteeism.
Gossiping is also a business. Take for example the magazines and the television programs that host celebrities and/or talk about their lives. It is more than $3 billion industry.
Furthermore, who gossip more? Men or women? Gossip between them is uneven especially that women tend to connect over feelings while men tend to link over activities with little intimacy.
The majority of the employers know about the trouble workplace gossip can cause, but they can do nothing except engage an open communication. They understand that where there are groups, there will be gossip and in the workplace this is a very natural fact which can also be dangerous to morale, productivity, and careers.
The best way to go beyond gossiping is to assume that anything you say can will be used against you.