Workplace Gossip Can Help You Make Friends, But It Can Also Make You a Dick


Last night I had a dream—nay, a NIGHTMARE—in which I approached my inner circle with our usual refrain, “Any gossip?” and was met with icy stink-eyes. “You know, Lindy, gossiping is actually really mean. We all got together and decided that you’re out of the group and we’re not going to gossip anymore. Also, FYI, you just grew a second head that looks like Nick Nolte.” Then I woke up and my pillow was gone!!! (Nick Nolte-Head ate it.) Thankfully, that dream was not real, and I hope to gossip with my galz for many decades to come. Because, as long as you are not personally a huge dick, gossiping is great! It’s just talking about stuff! Specifically, it’s talking about people, and since people do way more interesting stuff than, say, chairs, people-talk is the most interesting talk of all. Does gossip really have any downsides?

A new study out of the Netherlands explored some of the social pros and cons of gossiping, particularly in the workplace. They sought to figure out whether close friendships facilitate gossiping, or whether gossiping about shared experience (like work) brings strangers closer. The conclusion leans more toward the latter—gossip brings people together. Gossip (defined as discussion of factual information, as opposed to false rumors) is actually good. Up to a point:

Ellwardt found that “gossiping helps people strengthen their ties with others”. And although a person who gossips tends to become less popular and less trusted, no gossip at all within an organisation can mean that colleagues “don’t find each other interesting”.


Her research suggested that co-workers who gossip regularly become friends over time – but those who talked too much did not become more popular.
Also, those who gossiped with a variety of people became thought of as ‘untrustworthy’, making them less popular within the office.
When it comes to the bosses, while those who are unpopular are discussed negatively more often, the reverse was not shown to be true – popular bosses were not positively discussed more often.

As for those gossips who talk “too much” and become unpopular, well, those people are probably just dicks, and dicks will be dicks. Gossip is just trying to help. In my experience, gossip definitely facilitates workplace friendships. Because the people you work with are not people you choose—you’re just a buncha semi-random yahoos thrown together into a weird shirt-folding marathon that never ends. What are you going to talk about besides each other? I can think of several jobs where I felt so close to my coworkers—when I couldn’t wait to talk to them about this shitty customer or that crazy boss or how that cashier had sex with the guy from receiving—only to find that, once we didn’t work together anymore, we could hardly maintain a conversation. (Aside from the people with whom I became actual friends, which is a different thing.) Because what would we talk about? Our lives? Nah. There’s something kind of beautiful about that. I love having had that little window of connection with people, and GOSSIP MADE IT POSSIBLE. Gossible. Anything’s Gossible™. (New slogan, gossip lobby!!! You’re welcome!)

Gossip politics… is telling tales in the office good for us? [EveningStandard]
Gossip isn’t always bad: Idle talk brings employees close together and makes them more co-operative, study finds [DailyMail]

Photo credit: pressmaster / Stockfresh.

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