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 behaviors can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society.
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 ideally the talk will lead to constructive solutions.
Photo by Kinderhotel Lärchenwald.