Office gossips beware – chitchat could choke your career chances

Study of workplace blabbermouths reveals the consequences

If you're the type of office blabbermouth who loves to stand at the water cooler and tell anyone who'll listen that Pete in accounts has bad breath, or John and Jill in tech are sleeping together, don't expect a promotion anytime soon.

Gossiping at work is really bad for your career, or so say boffins at Durham University Business School (DUBS) and NEOMA Business School (NBS), which took views from hundreds of participants on the tattletales they've encountered.

The study found that gossipers are "frowned upon" by fellow colleagues, they can become "socially excluded" at work, and can find their promotion prospects dented. It also discovered that women had more negative views of indiscreet people than men.

Dr Maria Kakarike, associate professor of organizational behavior and leadership at DUBS, and Dr Shiva Taghavi and Dr Helena González-Gómez, associate professors of organizational behavior, considered employees' responses to workplace gossip, how the talebearer was perceived afterwards, and if this had implications for career progression or social standing.

Three studies were created. In the first, nearly 200 people from different organizations were given a workplace scenario that involved a colleague who was either blabbing about rumors or not. The group were then asked to give their view on the morality of it.

In the second study, the researcher manipulated the gender of the gossiper and conducted the same experiment with 500 people, also measuring behavioral reactions to the person spreading the muck. The final part saw another 200 quizzed about gossip that they'd experienced in the workplace. They were asked to describe the events and disclose their feelings about the gossiper.

The three associate professors found the respondents had negative sentiments toward rumor mongers, and would remove them from social media groups, share less information, and in some instances not talk to them again. The participants were also far more likely to rate gossipers' performance at work more lowly, recommend bonus reductions, or "even impede their potential promotions."

"Gossiping is pretty commonplace in all workplaces," said Dr Kakarika. "Whether it's a small comment about someone's work, or something more personal and less work-related, we've all engaged in it either through gossiping ourselves or hearing someone gossip.

"But it is highly likely that gossiping can be reduced in the workplace if people were aware that it says much about the gossiper too rather than only about the person they are gossiping about. This workplace gossiping can have real negative impacts on their career progression."

The Reg relies on chatty people in the industry opening up to give us the inside track on things, and we promise not to judge you. Yet with fewer people working in offices, we can't help but wonder how the gossips get their fix these days. Oh, of course, social media! ®

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