I’ve always viewed workplace gossip as both a strength and a weakness because there is good gossip and bad gossip. Scientists from the University of Pavia have found that gossiping is good for you. They discovered that the brain releases significantly greater proportions of oxytocin when engaged in gossip than any other form of conversation. Oxytocin is known as the pleasure hormone. It is typically released during and after sex, parent-child bonding, or touching one another.
In a study conducted by Harris Interactive where more than 2500 employed adults were asked to name their biggest issue in the workplace, gossip topped the list by 60 percent of the responders. Relationship experts estimate 65-80 percent of our daily conversations are about other people. Wow. Think about that, 80 percent of a 12 hour day (assuming you sleep for 8) would be nearly 12.8 hours of that time. Insane if it is true.
There are three types of gossip, good, bad, and bad that turns good. Knowing that gossiping is good for our brain and that we spend between 60-80 percent of our time doing it, there needs to be a greater focus on good gossip.
The positives of gossip include things like relieving stress, fostering self-improvement, cooperation, and lifting others up. Another positive of gossip is that it helps you vent what is bothering you. Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found hearing about good things people were doing motivated others to work on self-improvement.
For me, good workplace gossip is spreading the joy that other people bring out in you. It is sharing with others the good work they are doing on something specific. Good gossip is talking about how someone else is exceeding their goals when you are behind. Good gossip, backed up by actions, can change the perception people have about others.
For me, bad gossip includes things like creating division among the team by putting people against one another. It is trying to damage the credibility of others to deflect from your own lack of confidence in the contributions you are making. Spreading bad gossip is sharing confidential information in an attempt to seem important.
Bad workplace gossip kills careers, damages relationships. It stops good people from being great. It slows down business and erodes productivity. Bad gossip creates exclusion which stops people from giving their best, therefore, your team can’t be the best. When gossip isn’t true or is based on half-truths it becomes worse.
Bad Gossip Turns Good
Believe it or not, sometimes bad gossip can turn out positively. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that a fear of being gossiped about caused people to be more likely to align their behavior to the expected norm. This is done in an effort to avoid being the focus of gossip. This is only positive, of course, if the expected norm is positive!
You can’t prevent workplace gossip. Everyone does it, and have since the beginning of time. Know the different types of gossip and focus on good workplace gossip. Spreading good gossip will improve your mood and relationships. Spreading good gossip is just as contagious as spreading the bad. Be different, be better, and set a higher standard by spreading good gossip.
One of my favorite movies is Doubt with Meryl Streep who plays a nun that accuses a priest of molesting a boy through gossip. The priest finds out that she is spreading the gossip and has a sermon on the topic. The story he tells paints such a beautiful picture of gossip. Even though the gossip was bad. The image the speech sends on gossip is strong and memorable. The speech has been in my mind for ten years now. And now it can spread to you.