Do you think that a bunch of colleagues chirping away at the water cooler are merely gossipers wiling their time away? You’d rather focus on the memo you have to turn in by the end of the day, wouldn’t you? Perhaps you should think again. By avoiding gossip, you could be missing out on crucial news. What if your company’s CEO is having a nervous breakdown? Maybe there’s hush-hush talk about imminent layoffs? Truth is, gossip isn’t all-bad. In fact, it’s necessary for our survival. At least, that’s what research over the last decade has concluded.
Good vs. Bad Gossip
It’s important to understand what researchers consider gossip. In the 2004 paper Research on Gossip: Taxonomy, Methods, and Future Directions, social psychologist Eric Foster wrote that, “In a context of congeniality, gossip is the exchange of personal information (positive or negative) in an evaluative way (or negative) about absent third parties.” Most researchers agree that much of gossip involves talking about “free riders” – individuals who are bad for the society.