Conventional wisdom says that gossiping about coworkers can lead to strife and friction between members of a team. One study, however, shows that a little gossip might actually help improve the workplace.
The finding showed that allowing small amounts of gossip allowed groups to identify problem coworkers. If one particular member was excessively selfish, they would be singled-out fairly quickly:
Groups that allow their members to gossip sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't. And groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracize untrustworthy members. While both of these behaviours can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society.
It's often difficult to be yourself completely in an office and people often wear a mask in their workplace to maintain a level of professionalism. That's not a bad thing, but some of these people may be wearing a mask to hide the fact that they're pathological gossipers. How can you pick them out when they're hiding in plain sight? There are some ways to identify them.
Obviously, trash-talking people just because you want to pick a fight won't do much to help morale. However, talking with your coworkers (or bosses) about problems in the workplace not only helps keep the lines of communication open, but it can strengthen the bond between the other members of the group. The only downside is that it sucks for the subject of the office gossip, but the talk will ideally lead to constructive solutions.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
We know that gossip can be about as real and credible as the fairy tales you were told as a kid, but this knowledge doesn't deter some people from engaging in it. Here's why people gossip (or participate in it) and what to do if you become the subject of gossip.